I have a love/fear relationship with alcohol. Both of those things, in writing, sound…well, not promising. Growing up, I don’t remember my parents ever sitting me down and talking to me about my father’s alcoholism but it was not something that was ever hidden. It was just a fact plain and simple. He’d given up drinking sometime after I was born. When I was young I always drew a sense of pride from the fact that my father had given up drinking for my mother and I, that he’d done it to be better for us. As I got older and alcohol became something I was being confronted with, however, I was met with fear. I didn’t really know what would happen when I started drinking. Would I have one sip and never be able to stop? As it turns out that wasn’t the case but ever since I started drinking, that initial fear has never been far from my mind. I’ve always wondered if alcoholism would come screaming out of me like a monster one day, if I was harboring a ticking time bomb.
Recently, after a weekend that included multiple brewery visits followed by a 6am-6pm hungover shift at work Monday, I thought it might be time to take a little step back and take note of my drinking habits and mostly, just take a break. It wasn’t that I thought I might have a problem (it was not a typical weekend I had just taken part in) but that I felt like it might be enlightening after all these years of wondering, to take a step back for the first time since I was 19 or so, and really take a look at myself and my drinking habits. I felt like I learned a lot almost right away, about how much alcohol factors into my life in a subtle way. A beer, much like a cookie or some other treat, can be a relief when you’re sad or you’ve had a really hard day. It can be a reward for accomplishing something great or a way to celebrate. I don’t drink mindlessly – just because. I don’t have or even want a drink with every meal, but it was fascinating to see where it fits into my life, and honestly, how much I enjoy it.
Ok so blah blah blah, that’s a lot of rambling set up. What did you learn Lola? Well, to be frank, April sucked. It was a shitty month. My husband and I nearly had nervous breakdowns trying to buy a house and in the middle of it my aunt passed away. Everything was made of stress and tears and exhaustion. And still, I never seriously considered having a drink to blow off some steam. I can’t avoid a cookie when I really want one so that was certainly surprising to me; that I had the willpower to stay committed to what I was doing in the midst of utter chaos. I learned that most of the time, drinking for me, is just about trying something new or having a good time with my friends. I actually like beer. I like trying different kinds and learning about them. I like tasting new cocktails. I particularly like sitting around listening to the stories behind classic cocktails told by my friend Greg. I learned a lot about when a beer or cocktail seems appealing to me (in no particular order):
- When cooking a Blue Apron meal after a long day on my feet at work
- When tackling a large unwieldy project like cleaning out our walk-in closet
- When having a sit down dinner out
- After a really stressful day
- Pretty much any moment of buying a house – take your pick
- Friday night when you’re just so happy the week is over and it’s time to have fun
- To try a new, interesting sounding beer – usually something from New Belgium
- When I see the same dang commerical over and over again on Hulu
- I could continue but I think you get the point
It was fascinating to me to see how often the thought, “I could go for a beer,” popped in my mind. I learned that while there may be a myriad of situations in which I may want a drink, 99% of the time I’m not having more than 1 or 2 beers or cocktails. When I returned to drinking on a camping weekend with my friends, I confirmed that I do have a little bit of that compulsive gene in me. It usually comes out when I don’t want something wonderful to end. My brain, impaired by alcohol, makes the incorrect assumption that if we all keep drinking the good times will continue. Everyone knows they will not. And in fact, if you’re not careful, the good times will actually become the bad times. But I was aware of that impulse in me this past weekend and actually curbed it a bit.
Last month I learned that alcohol is not essential to my life (duh) but that it’s something I enjoy having as a part of it. Saying you enjoy or love drinking feels slightly shameful –or at least it does for me. Alcohol is something to be enjoyed sensibly and in moderation. It’s social and casual, not something you love. But maybe that perception is changing slightly. My generation has come of legal age with the rise of craft beer and cocktails. In 2017 America I would bet that virtually anywhere you visited in the country would have a brewery to visit within 20 minutes of where you’re staying. Where I live in central New Jersey, for example, I can get to no less than six breweries within 15 minutes. For better or worse beer has become a pastime. It’s not a part of your social experience, it is the experience. And so, with that in mind, it becomes perhaps a little murkier to evaluate the presence of alcohol in my life. It’s naturally more present in someone of my generation’s life than it may have been for past generations. The point of all this is, I don’t think of myself as hiding a bomb waiting to explode my life anymore. But still, I wonder if maybe having that seed in my mind is what has kept me in a place of moderation with occasional over-indulgence. Being self-aware is a great tool and my dry(ish) month is an experience that I definitely see myself repeating periodically. Instead of wondering and ignoring, it’s refreshing to look yourself in the mirror and evaluate yourself – whatever answers you may find.
*In the interest of complete honesty, this blog is called My Dry(ish) Month for a reason. I did have a few drinks to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We went to a great restaurant with incredible cocktails to celebrate and I had been dying to try them. We probably won’t be spending so much on a night out again anytime soon so I took a night off. I still learned a lot.