“‘ My mother was a drunk’ is one of the harshest, saddest sentences in any language .” Anna Quindlen ,
That chapter in her book changed my life. She wrote that she never got along well with moderation. Me neither. Moderation and I have yet to become good friends. Im all-or-nothing, which is my virtue and my vice.
The signs have been coming steadily this year: the advice from people I admire to keep clear minded and validation delivered in an interview I listened to with David Sedaris; he mentioned that hes really good at discontinuing things( in context of his sobriety ). Me too.
Im an excellent quitter and a miserable moderation-ist.
My rock bottom came in the form of my four-foot tall, curly blonde haired, blue-eyed daughter, as I poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc before sitting down at the dinner table:
I shrunk to the size of a raisin. Id never felt more ashamed.
Childhood memories dont ripen into adult view, they remain ominous and palpable: the impressions, the images and the smells.
Although most people looking in would tell me, No, it was bigger than that. It was like an observation from G-d, passed through the lips of my innocent child.
I immediately acknowledged her terms:
I knew the question to ask:
Phew, ok. I didnt drink in front of her that night and I apologized that Id constructed her feel unsafe. And, I did what any person with a habit theyre not willing to break would do: I waited to drink until after they went to sleep. Id sit here with a long necked, voluptuous bellied glass of wine and Id dull out.
Two glass of wine might seem like nothing to some, but for me it was far too much. Yet, Id still wake up early and write, albeit in a fuzz. Id make a healthy breakfast for the girls, check my calendar for the working day schedule, knowing that one thing I didnt “re going to have to” put a reminder for, was the couple glasses of wine Id have at the end of the day.
Id go a few nights without it, only to prove to myself I could. How did this happen? I was the girl who lived in San Francisco and didnt step foot in Napa. When did drinking become my pastime? Even my social calendar became saturated with a glass of wine here and a glass of wine there.
So, a month subsequently, when I read that line in Anna Quindlens book, I knew I had to quit. And, just like David Sedaris, quitting was the easy part.
My friends and family look at me skeptically when I tell them Im no longer drinking, because, to all of them, I dont have a problem , not like the ones who bash their automobiles into light poles and stumble into work smell from a night of partying.
Im not like that , no. An overt display of sloppy drunkenness may not be my M.O ., but I share something in common with; I craved the numbing, the distraction, the tenancy of my hour, with something that could take me away from what I was genuinely feeling: loneliness . And that is not a reason to drinking; its the worst reason.
I heard this line in a movie and it stuck with me. Thats how my culture, Judaism insures drinking. It is celebratory, in community, a ritual, in moderation. Thats how I was created. My mother could barely finish a beer; I rarely recollect her drinking except on Shabbat when wed say the Kiddush( the bles over the wine ).
Fast forward to 2017, I was not drinking to feel even better; I was drinking to feel better.
Most of what we do during the day is a result of repetition. Our actions become ingrained and expected by our psyche and our body; drinking had become that, just like my morning writing sessions.
Ive gone to a few AA sessions over the years, to observe for local schools project and to support a friend.
They go around in a circle and introduce themselves: their first name and their last name, which is the same for everyone:
Ive merely had a first name in there. I braced myself for the awkward pause. I imagine thats what theyre all reasoning. If I went to a meeting today, I wouldnt say Im an alcoholic, because, alcoholism is the symptom of the deeper cancer: loneliness.
Thats what Id say. Even though thats not how I feel right now, in this moment. However, I know that Im always on the precipice of jumping back into loneliness. Thats what Ive learned in my abstinence: I have the ability to switch my loneliness on and off.
Theres a 6-month-old bottle of Prosecco sitting behind the carton of fortified orange juice, unsweetened almond milk and the Brita filter in the fridge. I keep it there on purpose, to remind myself that I have a option. I have a choice to accompany my loneliness with an escape, or I can sit beside it and recycle it into a different feeling, connection .
And thats what Ive done; Ive turned away from escaping and towards connecting with myself. Im aware Im only one heartbeat away from feeling lonely, just like an alcoholic would say theyre always an alcoholic, because, they can pick up that drink at any time.
Since Ive stopped drinking, really great things are happening. My legs have gotten strong again; Im strolling a lot. My sleep has deepened; the nervousnes that I feel has weakened significantly; Im less reactive; I smile more; my grocery bills have decreased and so have my eatery bills. Im rendering more and more each day, and that dull fuzz that surrounded me has evaporated. Most importantly, I rarely feel lonely even though I spend the majority of members of my period alone these days.
I dont know if not drinking will be a lifelong thing. Perhaps Ill share a glass of wine with my girlfriend to toast to her good news, or Ill lift a glass of champagne as my cousin and his new wife cut their cake, but for now, Ill stick with this, because, ceasing has helped me feel more alive than Ive felt in a very long time .
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