I don’t know if this decision has been months or years, or even decades in the making, but I do know that there has been a definite shift in my thinking.
To stop drinking that is.
I don’t pretend that this will be an easy thing, because the fact is, I like drinking alcohol. I love the complexities and subtleties of a good glass of red wine, as well as in a good bourbon or rye. I also enjoy the euphoric qualities that I get from alcohol…until the enjoyment stops.
In high school I smoked weed regularly, and for my last couple of years, was a regular wake-and-baker. It never interfered with my studies or ability to get good grades, but for most of that time I felt conflicted because I never really liked how it made me feel. And yet, I continued to smoke for many years.
I moved to Seattle a month or two before my twentieth birthday, and it was shortly after that, that I quit. Pot and I were never friends, and yet I spent years of my life trying to make it work. I have no explanation as to why. I just did, and when I finally arrived at the decision to stop, it was clear to me that it was what I needed to do in my life.
This feels similar.
In general, regardless of how much I am enjoying drinking in the moment, invariably at some point I find myself not enjoying it, and yet I often keep drinking. Other times, I drink half a glass of wine and start feeling a headache, or just physically off and I’ll dump the remainder of my glass into Patty’s glass and call it a night.
These are inconsistent behaviors, and it bugs me that sometimes it appears that I have will-power to respect my own boundaries, and other times I don’t stop even when I know I should. Does this mean that I’m an alcoholic or do I have “alcoholic tendencies?” Is that even a thing? Am I a part-time alcoholic? Is there any such thing as that? Maybe it doesn’t matter.
What does matter however is the recognition that my body has begun to protest in different ways pretty much every time I drink. I get preemptive hangover headaches; I feel fatigue; my digestive system gets upset; I can’t sleep. More than that, I don’t believe it’s good for my general mental state of mind, and it definitely is not good for me emotionally. I am a depressive by nature, and drinking does not improve that particular tendency. More often than not, I experience a general depressive state the day after I’ve been drinking, and I have spent too many years trying to keep my dark passenger at bay to find this acceptable.
What also matters is the fact that I am a child of addicts. My father has spent the majority of his life as a fairly severe alcoholic, and my mother got strung out on heroin when I was seven. She spent a chunk of her life doing dope, and even after stopping, spent the remainder of her life being sustained by methadone. If that’s not the perfect stage for a kid hardwired for substance abuse, then I don’t know what is. With that in mind, I’ve been damned lucky. I have many friends who are thankfully in AA, because in their earlier life, their drinking had taken them to the brink of implosion. I have never experienced that particular downward spiral, and for that, I am truly grateful. But as mentioned, it seems that I might have “alcoholic tendencies,” and considering everything, perhaps that’s enough. If I drink too much with any sort of frequency, then I probably shouldn’t drink at all. And, by my estimation, I do.
So. I’ve decided to stop.
Initially, I started telling people that it was maybe just for this month, or that maybe it was just for the duration of the year, but I realize that is just a chicken shit way of leaving myself an out in case I slip. And I very well might, but if I am serious about this decision, I need to make it with absolute clarity and intention. Without that it’s just a flavor-of-the-week, and I want this to be more than that. No self-righteousness or judgment towards others. I will need to teach myself how to be with friends who are drinking and be centered in my decision to abstain. That’s really why I decided to write this — to state this publically so that I can hold myself to my own words and my own intention.
Originally published at danielhouse.com.