Bubbly water, weed tinctures and everything that happened when I lost the desire for alchohol
Until one morning last month, I was 100 percent sure I had nothing to say about my upcoming anniversary of Not Drinking. In fact, to even call it an anniversary embarrasses me.
And frankly, I am sick of even thinking about it.
Could there be anything less cool than droning on endlessly about Not Drinking?
But there I stood one month ago, in the shower and slightly stoned on a THC/CBD tincture, with a new thought — the latest in a year of too many thoughts. Not all of them profound.
Over-intellectualizing must be the punishment for all my under-intellectualizing.
And yet, feeling is believing. And so on this morning, once again, I was feeling new about Not Drinking. Very different, in fact, from my original feeling, which was: “I’m just not drinking right now — I’ll know when it’s time to drink again.”
A few months into that, when I was feeling self conscious, I would say, “It’s not like I’m in recovery or something…”
Then, for a time, I wondered hard about a another new feeling:
“Is ‘Not Drinking’ just the latest victim of my need to control everything.”
My back stiffened with that possibility.
I can be cool with always Not Drinking, I told myself, but Jesus Christ, if I’m not sharing a rosé with John — on a quiet night on our deck awash with a New Mexican sunset — purely because I’m too uptight, I’m going to fucking lose it.
I kept that in mind and gave it my attention.
With the newness and novelty and righteousness of Not Drinking behind me, I realized I needed new dopamine hits, new ways to tease out the joyful part of me. The essential me who dances while washing dishes and is obnoxious and animated, even on a Tuesday, even without a big invitation from a bold Cabernet.
I can give up alcohol, but I will never give up being obnoxious.
Life without alcohol is freedom. Not control.
At four months sans vino my feeling distilled into three words.
“I don’t drink.”
But oof, it was then I finally saw how shaming my previous language around recovery was. And how recovery truly is the most accurate word for this forging for myself.
After six months on mocktails and weed tinctures, I wrote this essay, reckoning how much previously unrecognized and incessant chatter was running in the background of my mind.
Do we have wine at home? Do we have enough? Did I drink more than I needed last night? Should I drink less tonight?
I work from home and spend most of life within 15 feet from a refrigerator. Day after day I never cease to remember how oppressed I am by the fridge’s incessant humming until the motor kicks off for a break, which it does every hour or so. Each time a pleasant and unpredicted surprise.
Yes. Now this is peace!
It was like that with alcohol.
When the motor for it finally switched off, I relaxed into my body. I let go of the impression of peace I was doing, and started building actual peace.
Free from the hustle to stay ahead of an imagined alcohol scarcity situation, I found I had free attention to spend however I liked.
Suddenly I started to see my kids and their needs more clearly — now that they weren’t an obstacle to overcome, or two noisy somethings standing in the way of my enjoyment (which I deserved damn it!) of a glass of wine.
Early on in my experience, I found myself sleepless in a cottage, on a pull-out couch, next to these children, with almost nothing to dull the anxiety, fear and feelings of inadequacy my visit home to Pennsylvania harkened. Except the esteem I could wring out from actually feeling my difficult feelings.
There is so much more to feel now.
I think people call this mindfulness. It feels like driving to me.
Sometimes it feels like ceding the lane — pulling back on the acceleration, to let others go ahead of me.
Here’s another one …
People Navigate Alcohol in Three Ways:
- Intuitively, which is to say, having a drink with friends, over meals, possibly with indifference and most definitely with moderation.
- With discipline, which looks the same from the outside as someone drinking intuitively, only it takes private intention and effort.
In other words, the drinking is managed internally by some hardass in your mind who has been assigned to the task.
- With abandon, which is to drink with friends, or without friends, at meals, before meals, after meals, or instead of meals, at the movies, in an overt flask, in a discreet flask, gleefully in a mug that says Wine-Thirty, in a hurry, with a fear there won’t be enough.
For my part, I mostly drank with discipline, sometimes with abandon, and never with indifference.
So it was with all this in my mind, that I said, to no one at all, in the shower last month: My name is Beth and I am an alcoholic.
And for an hour I totally believed this — it was a heavy and wild experiment in identity. I started to write this very essay, only the title was “I’m Beth and I’m an alcoholic.”
But as the headiness of the tincture faded, I started to wonder:
“Or am I just a non-drinker?”
And then,(thank you over-intellectualizing!):
“Oh fuck, maybe I am an alcoholic and I can’t even admit it!”
Eventually I referred to the dictionary:
1: continued excessive or compulsive use of alcoholic drinks
2a: a chronic, a progressive, potentially fatal disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction
And then I made a list of the many things I prefer over alcohol.
Music. Exercise. Weed. Writing. Food. Dancing. Truly beholding my children. Psychedelics. Friends. Any moment spent near John Kelly. Reading. Petitioning the universe. Singing. Standing in a field yelling at the top of my lungs to get the sadness out of my throat. Crying. Cbd. Therapy. Tarot. Talking. Thinking. Alone time. F-U-C-K-I-N-G tea.
Some of these compulsions are new, some have just come back to me — with gusto — from the Land Before Alcohol. Like in the way I can lose myself entirely in music, or in the mirror spending a stupid amount of time trying to get my hair right, or in the way I can talk to a friend on the phone and never ever ever think to end the call.
It is important for me to use the right words.
I set out to find the right words and ended up taking a quiz (this one) only I pretended I was answering the survey in May of 2021. And this is how I came to find myself on the Alcohol Use Disorder spectrum.
I took the quiz again, only this time pretending it was May of 2019. This was a more uncomfortable exercise.
My break up with alcohol is really the story of a long goodbye.
I am still working it out — still unsure what my responsibility is, as a candid person, to peel back some stereotypes and shame around alcohol.
How much do I want to say about where I land on the sweep of experience, or where I think an intervention can come from? Or the space I hold for altered states?
Also who even cares? (Which is really less a question about drinking and more a question about writing essays in general.)
Am I ready to own all my weirdness? Will I write more about my decision to break up with alcohol? Or how the idea came from a quiet mind, some amount of mdma, my dead grandparents, and — honest to god! — owls?
Will I tell the more complicated story about how this break up was built on the endless grace of my husband, and also nearly two years of tracking not only alcohol use, but also what I ate, how I slept, my moods, exercise, whether or not I flossed!
Is it helpful to share how my recovery has been joyful?
Is it meaningful that all that self-reporting fell away the moment I stopped drinking ?— having become instantly superfluous, like training wheels on the bike, the very moment after a child has mastered balancing on two wheels.
I know my relationship with alcohol is relatable, there’s nothing unique about it at all, really. But it’s my year of not drinking feels different.
Can I tell my story of Alcohol Use Disorder, even if it lacks a dramatic rock bottom or a hard slog to dry land without perpetuating shame around other kinds of recovery?
My loudest statement on alcohol is what can be felt, and not what can be said.
But still, after one year, and now at the end of this essay, perhaps the over-intellectualizing may finally be exhausted.
Which itself is a triumph.
This peace is real, it can be felt, but mostly only by me.
So yeah, this is basically everything I’ve learned in a year without alcohol.