Updated: Jul 3, 2019
So now that I'm not drinking, a lot of questions are coming up, for me: from me and to me. When you give up something that's a regular part of your life and culture, there's a fear of emptiness. Or at least there was for me. But after pondering these questions I've decided that what I have in my life sans-alcohol is not emptiness, but space. Here's a list of my findings.
1. What am I going to do with all these glasses? I did a cabinet inventory and I had no less than four sets of wine glasses (I had a big wedding. I registered.). Plus, the shelves were crammed with mismatched tasting glasses, stemless glasses, champagne glasses, and martini glasses I found in a thrift store and used maybe once. So I down-sized. I kept all the crystal I got for my wedding, one set of stemless glasses which are nice for sparkling water, and my husband's favorite beer glasses. I will continue to serve it in my house for friends who want it. My decision isn't a condemnation of others who drink. Proof of this attitude? I donated the glasses to my church's thrift store. The result? Space in my kitchen cabinets.
2. What am I going to do with all these calories? Now there's a fun question. I never drink juice, or lemonade, or soda because I always said I didn't want to drink my calories. And yet, wine has at least the same, or more calories. Lemonade: 88. Wine: 75-120. Beer: at least 150. So now, I can order an Arnold Palmer at lunch and enjoy it guilt free. Space in my diet!
3. What am I going to do with all this money? Friends, it's not like I was buying Cakebread when I was drinking. But take a bottle of wine out of my grocery cart at Trader Joe's and suddenly there's room for another bag of salted cashews, four bars of organic 80% cocoa dark chocolate, or two pints of blueberries. On a date night, a glass of wine is at least $10, which is also the price of a roasted beet salad with goat cheese at my favorite restaurant's happy hour. At an organic juice bar, I can get my favorite green juice with ginger for less than $10, and the best small batch kombucha (I love local maker Fermensch) is on tap at the farmers market for $5 and the local deli for $7.
This led me to a profound personal revelation. I would easily regularly spend $10 on something that wasn't particularly good for me, but would feel guilty and rarely spend the same amount on something that is good for me. Alcohol felt good for me, but it wasn't. It's now actually really fun to splurge on a Nektar Juice Bar Greenie and then feel great for the rest of the day.
I talked to one of my dear friends in recovery about this, who used to struggle with an eating disorder. She said she would spend lots of money on food when she was bingeing, but she would never have gotten a massage or a manicure. Now that she is healed from this, she makes room in the budget to splurge on things that help her feel good. Space for self care!
4. How am I going to celebrate and what is my excuse to sit down? The hardest moment I've had since I quit drinking was on my recent vacation with my family. We were staying at a beautiful lake-front hotel, and I saw two friends sitting on the deck having a martini together. I felt sad thinking I would never sit down with a friend like that again. And then I realized, I don't need a martini to enjoy a beautiful view or have a beautiful drink in front of me (can anyone else relate to just loving the gorgeous ritual of a shiny drink in a long-stemmed glass?). I'm just going to have to get a little bit creative, both at home and on the road. I think there are some homemade simple syrups in my future, and a lot of fruit-and-mint-infused pitchers of water. And again, self-care, baby. I don't need an excuse to sit down, which a glass of wine has always been for me. (See my previous blog on this here: An Excuse to Sit Down.) So, space for creativity. And you know I love creativity.
5. What am I going to say when people ask me if I'm an alcoholic? They have, lots. Here's the answer: No, I don't think so. Did I have a less-than-healthy relationship with alcohol? Yes. Was I addicted? No. Not that this is really an important distinction. I pause to make it not because I would be ashamed to say I'm an alcoholic, but rather in admiration of the bad-ass sober alcoholics I know, for whom I have mad respect. I gave up alcohol with a bit of struggle and tears, but I was not chemically addicted. I know people who daily fight a real battle with alcohol and win. Part of why I quit drinking was out of respect for my brothers and sisters in 12-step recovery who I get to speak to regularly. I want to understand what life is like for them, when they are barred for life from doing something that seems okay for everyone else. It's crazy hard.
So the result of pondering this question: Space in my perceptions, space for giving grace, and space to define people and terms differently than I ever have before.
I hope this series has been meaningful to you, friends. Thanks to the many of you who have messaged me privately to say it has. Hear me clearly: I believe each of us has the freedom (in Christ and otherwise) to make our own decisions about drinking, and many people can make the connections I made in my life between stress-management and alcohol, and find a way to change their behaviors without going cold turkey. Great for them! Frankly, for me, cold turkey was easier. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories. And also as always, you can expect to hear more on this subject in the future.
If your moms' group or women's group would like to broach the topic of finding healthy ways to find comfort and stress relief -- without alcohol if possible -- check out my speaking topic "A High Performance Machine: Self Care as a Spiritual Discipline." I cover many aspects of self care in this talk, including ways to create a life that you don't feel you regularly need to escape from.