HashTag ‘Not Drinking’
At 6:30 on a Saturday morning, my husband and I pulled up to the gym. The sun was slowly climbing up the backwards side of the western hills, our children were at home, sound asleep, and the coffee was dancing a jig on my nerves. We were ready to work out, our new thing.
The parking lot was empty except for one other car. When my husband tried the front door and found it locked, a guy popped out to say they didn’t open until 7. Right, of course, what kind of crazy person would want to be at the gym before 7 on a Saturday morning anyway?
Sober people, that’s who. People who are reveling in the early morning energy boost from having a decent night’s sleep. People who are used to waking up with some form of a hangover, whether it be full-scale body trembling dehydration or just latent alcohol-induced lethargy. People who are wide-eyed with glee and wonder at this newfound time of productivity. Basically, my husband and I. He walked back to the car and climbed in where we had a good chuckle at this new ‘us’ — the us that gets to the gym before they are even open. This is when our personal hashtag, “not drinking”, was born.
Now I’m sure this hashtag has been used a million times over. I’m not hip enough or young enough to really grasp the concept of hashtags and social media — a disadvantage for a self-published author. But for my husband and I, this hashtag has been a way to laugh at ourselves. A code word to acknowledge the novel experiences of having an adult body that isn’t, at least some part of the day or week, fueled by alcohol.
I should clarify, lest anyone think I am on a long road of recovery. I am 5 weeks in. But, other than pregnancy, this is probably the longest I’ve gone in the last decade without having at least a few beers or a cocktail. I was even able to personally justify having a few glasses of wine while following a Whole 30 (that crazy diet/cleanse that helps you feel amazing but makes it nearly impossible for you to share a meal with anyone not following it). For the record, in case any of you reading this are trying Whole 30 and just felt a spark of hope, there is no possible way to justify drinking wine on a Whole 30.
So again, I am 5 weeks into alcohol sobriety. I have no goals, no expectations, no dates set or planned. I know that as soon I put anything like that on this, it will get hard. I will chew my nails at parties or while making dinner after a long day, broiling with internal conflict about whether or not it’s ok to have a drink. The few times I have broached that subject with myself, I have felt the anxiety creep in on little cat feet. So I’m keeping it open. In all likelihood, I will drink again, someday. Possibly someday soon. But for now, I have no desire to drink, and I like it this way.
I did not intend to start a period of sobriety, but it was a long time coming. When a person can drink several glasses of wine punctuated by shots of whiskey and a few beers, and still be standing, well, that’s a good sign its time to take a break. And thankfully the last time I did drink was not one in which I was a crumbling disaster, but actually taking care of someone else who was.
How It Began
After an event, I went out for a drink with a friend. A friend who, of her own admittance, does not usually go out for drinks. By the end of the night (a night in which I thought I would be home by 10 all tucked into my bed), I was driving around the dark back roads of a local town. In the back seat of my car sat a random married couple, (I knew the woman from a local open mic but had never hung out with her before my friend picked them up at the bar). They were trying to help me get my friend home. My friend, in what I assume was a blackout, angrily refused to tell me where she lived and kept trying to get out of the car every time I pulled over to make sense of what was happening. She wanted to go back to her car, sleep it off for a few hours and then drive herself home. It was 1 am.
I did not have a drink the next night, partially unnerved by the events from the night before but also preparing for my bi-annual drive to UCSF for our daughter. While I would have loved a beer that next night, after a 12-hour round trip to the city and back, I decided instead to crawl into bed and sleep it off. The night after that, I decided to keep up the momentum. I had not had a drink in two days, why not try three. Plus, I also had a 10K to run in a week. (A phenomena to those who know me, one that began with whiskey and will be saved for another story.)
I feel I should not go any further without mentioning that some very dear friends are on various routes to sobriety. There seems to be something in the collective unconscious as I keep running into people who have decided to take a break from alcohol. One close friend, and yes, former heavy drinker, simply decided it was time to take a year off. She is farther down the road than I, and it is inspiring to witness her process. I have not stepped onto this path alone. My husband has now joined me, so I have an ally at home as well.
What will the future hold?
As I said before, I will not put a date on this sobriety. I will not place a pile of expectations on a very wobbly table with questionable legs. I am building backwards, shoving rocks and sticks underneath to build a foundation. We have a trip to Mexico in a few months, and there’s not much I love more than a hammock in the sun, a good book and a beer. Plus summer, BBQs, river days, campfires, music festivals…my descent is on the horizon. But perhaps, if I can build strong enough legs before then, I might just slip off periodically and not totally crumble.