365 Days Without Alcohol
Today is 365 days without alcohol. August 26th: The date I’ve had starred in my brain as the finish line of this experiment and that I’ve recited countless times when being asked, “so when is it over?”
This week has been weird. Always one to welcome a chance to celebrate, I can’t seem to get myself on board with the small party I planned to have to welcome wine back into my life. Every day I have found myself wanting to just call it off and not even have anything to drink that day. Wine doesn’t sound good, I can’t wrap my head around what actually does sound good – drink-wise or celebration-wise, and I’ve spent a good chunk of today (August 25th) turning over melancholy thoughts in my brain, trying to get to the bottom of what it is I actually am feeling and why.
I realized a few things. For starters, time markers have a funny way of quickly transporting you back to events and feelings that happened in that very moment, no matter how many years ago it was. The circumstances surrounding this choice to take a year off from alcohol were not neutral, I’ll just say that. The feelings, the people, the places involved in that window of time have felt more front of mind and with that comes its own set of processing and forgiveness that I’m having to re-live.
Second of all, I have chosen to make this very personal journey public. On purpose and for good reason I believe, but with that comes more eyeballs, more opinions, more questions, more praise, etc. Balancing outside voices and my internal voice is an art for sure. I know my journey is mine and mine alone, but I also am not fully immune to the ways in which other peoples’ perceptions of me and this decision are contributing to how I feel in this very moment. Which leads me to number 3:
Even as I allow myself to feel the pride for what I’ve accomplished, I can’t help but be aware of the sadness that has been creeping in this week. And as I dug into what could be causing that, I discovered that I’m sad to give up “Sober Sara.” There’s a certain amount of positive attention this role has afforded me, and roles that give us purpose or meaning or fulfillment can begin to turn into an identity, and when a loss of that identity is threatened, it can feel like death. And death = sad. Being known as the girl that doesn’t drink and who did something brave and who is different and interesting for a choice not everyone is willing to make felt good. I admittedly enjoyed the reactions from strangers and the affirmations from friends and the questions and the being set apart from everyone out at the bars. I most definitely did not make this decision for the attention, but it’s been an enjoyable byproduct nonetheless and if I’m being honest it feels a little hard to finally be giving that up. A perfect example of ego vs. true self and even just the awareness that this is my ego creeping in has been helpful in countering and breaking any hold those thoughts might have on me.
Another thing that is ending is the certainty of a black and white decision like “no more alcohol.” Being completely alcohol-free simplifies a lot of things in life. Sure it sucks at times but it’s also pretty easy when you only allow yourself one choice: just don’t drink. There’s no weighing the options or thinking about the outcome or wondering who will drive. It’s all erased with a simple, “I’m not drinking right now” internal decision. For one entire year I took the question of whether I was going to drink or not in any given moment off of the table. And today that black and white will melt to gray. I now have the freedom, and simultaneous complexity, to decide at any given moment if I want to drink or not. In reality I’ve actually always had that freedom, even this last year. I could have changed my mind at any point of course. On the one hand I think freedom is vital to living a full life, recognizing that we are the ones in charge of our actions and our destiny. But we give ourselves boundaries with the hopes that those things will add to that fullness. We decide who we want to share or not share our bodies with physically, how much food and what kinds we want to consume, the amount of sleep we try to get every night, how much water we drink, etc.
This was an intentional choice of adding more fullness to my life. And it worked. I loved not drinking. I loved the outcomes that came from it. Allowing the re-entry of alcohol confuses that a bit. Will the occasional glass of wine or cocktail or nights out with friends add to that happiness? Dull it? Take it away? I don’t know. I get to try it and see. The year long experiment is over, yes. But now begins a new experiment. One where I weigh what wholeness and pleasure looks and feels like to me, and the substances I allow or don’t allow to get me there.
I needed to write all this out in order to process what was happening in my heart for myself. But I’m sharing it because I have shared the other parts of this journey and so this part belongs as well. I know I don’t have to wrap every post up with a pretty bow and a takeaway because just like life, sometimes we don’t always have the lesson ready to go at the end of a chapter. So I feel fine leaving these words as they are. But if I had to share the most beneficial wisdom I’m allowing myself to draw from today it’s this:
Your life is yours and yours alone.
There is a higher power looking out for your very best interest and your most full life, step boldly into where that inner voice of wisdom is leading you.
You can change your mind about any given thing in your life one million times a day.
Every moment is a chance to start again.
Love you friends. Thank you for being here. It is an honor to all be on this journey together.