It’s been a full year since I’ve touched booze. Yup, twelve entire months. It started out innocently. Last year I was training for the Bluenose half-marathon and whenever I train for a race I tend to shy away from alcohol. When I’m running regularly, even one beer or a glass of wine can affect how I feel the next day running. So I often avoid alcohol during these times, but on race day, I get super excited about finishing the race, and starting the drinking party. Usually, after the race, I get drunk.
Last year was different. I thought I was going to drink like usual. I really did. We went out for a post race celebration, and when I went to order that cold cocktail, I paused. I looked around the table at the faces looking back at me, waiting to order a drink, and then I heard the words come out of my mouth, “I’ll just have some water, please.”
No one was more surprised then me! What? Why didn’t I want to drink? I was so deserving of a drink, right? I couldn’t explain it to my friends, and I couldn’t even explain it to myself. I certainly didn’t miss what it felt like to have alcohol in my system, so I wondered if it was that. Maybe I had gotten used to feeling so great that I didn’t want to spoil it?
Then summer arrived. Now this is the time of year when I like to step it up a notch. Summer is all about the beach, the cottage, lazing in the sun, and definitely having some drinks. There’s nothing that says summer to me than having a beer on the dock, and dozing off in the hot sun. I mean that is it. That is me!
And yet, still, I didn’t have a drink. Not a single one. People kept asking me: “Why aren’t you drinking? Don’t you want just one?” But I didn’t really. The only reason I could see to drink would have been to shut them up.
I began to notice all of the situations where a drink would have taken the edge off. In social situations where a drink would have made it easier for me to talk with people and to interact. It would have settled my nerves and made it easier to mingle. Even with friends, the booze always takes the edge off, and we’d find ourselves laughing and giggling harder as we knock back the beers.
Without the booze in these situations, I began to notice something else. I began to hear a little voice inside my head. I began to hear her words coming out of my mouth, instead of the words of the slightly tipsy girl who would have been there before. And that little voice, although quiet at first, had something to say that was different than the other girl.
And I kind of liked her. She reminded me of someone I met a long time ago. This little eight year old girl, who was so happy and adventurous and talkative. This girl who would run naked through the woods just because she wanted to and because it made her free. This little girl who did things without stopping herself. This little girl was so amazing – she didn’t care what others thought, she didn’t change her tune based on what others said. She would get a feeling inside of her, have a thought, and then she would go. Free will, free thinking, uninhibited movement. She was amazing and brave and courageous and she was nobody but herself.
She was me!
I began, over the summer months, to recognize myself. I started to see a person who was genuinely happy. Not for any other reason than that. She was born happy, and that’s just how she lived.
Then in September, there was the car accident (How Listening Can Be a Path to Healing). And in the weeks afterwards, I couldn’t even touch food. And I’m an eater; I love to eat. I can find any reason to eat, even if I’m stuffed. But I had no interest in food. I didn’t even feel hunger.
But oh, I wanted a drink. At 8 am in the morning, after John went to work and the kids went to school, I would stand staring at the alcohol in our liquor cabinet and fantasize about how I would feel if I started doing shots. I kept thinking, if I get drunk right now, I’ll start to feel really good, and I won’t have to feel this black cloud that inhabits my body right now.
FEEL. And there is it. I realized why I hadn’t been drinking. It stopped me from feeling. It stopped me from feeling something. And even if it’s only tiny, even if it only halts some smidgen of emotion, I realized that’s what booze does for me. It inhibits feeling.
And I’m a feeler. I have fucking feelings! Ahem, a lot of them! Alcohol over the years has really been there for me when I didn’t want to feel quite so much.
In the last year, I’ve wanted to feel it all. I have wanted to feel every single inch of my skin and the emotion that lies beneath it. I’ve wanted to feel and unearth every drop of buried trauma, shame, guilt, and so on. And I’ve also wanted to feel every emotion from my day-to-day. Do I feel good around that person? Do I feel good doing this work? Am I happy? Am I sad? What the fuck am I feeling?
I WANT TO FEEL. I want to know all about myself and know exactly who I am, and in order for that to happen, I have to know how I feel. I want to show up for who I am.
Was I an alcoholic? No, definitely not. Will I ever drink again? I have no idea. Do I have any urges to drink? No, not really. I have so much in my life right now and I want to feel what that feels like as much as I can.
I have myself and that’s enough.