surprise yourself

Okay, I think I’ve gotten all the trip-planning out of my system. Just in time too, since I’m leaving soon! There will likely be a several-weeks break in posting here, unless I find myself floundering in immoderate waters, in which case I may use this blog to throw myself a rescue line. I feel cautiously confident though. And wildly excited to have the privilege of traveling at all.

Here’s a story from last Friday. I had the evening free (a rarity for me on Fridays), and detoured on my way home to pick my partner up from his office. It started snowing as I drove, and by the time we got home, a real storm was developing. Bumping elbows companionably in the kitchen, fat snowflakes out the window, nosy dog underfoot…it was starting to feel like a seriously cozy night. Perfect for some unwinding, wrapping up loose ends, cuddling on the couch. Also a perfect night for a glass of wine, and as the thought entered my mind, my partner produced a surprise bottle, salvaged from a work event.

Surprise bottles of wine were once a sore subject around here. I could write pages about them. One chapter would be about the challenges I experience when trying to moderate at home (nearly all my problematic drinking happened at home, so it’s not really a surprise that this is my trickiest area). Another would have to do with the challenges of any alcohol-based surprise, which are unsettling and triggering. The longest portion of this complex backstory would no-doubt be the difficulties of clear communication around an issue that often makes me feel defensive, or ashamed — it’s not always easy to explain to my partner that even though I appear to be doing much better, some of this still takes an awful lot of effort, for me. And, quite frankly, hard not to be irritated with him when he presumes that I’m “fixed,” or otherwise pushes my drinking buttons, or demonstrates that he’s got some problematic drinking behaviors too.

On this beautiful, snowy Friday night, I said I’d love a glass of surprise wine, but not until after dinner. We ate, my partner poured two glasses, and we sat down at our computers. I got busy trying to finish a writing project, silence fell. An hour or so later, he stood up and asked if I’d like a refill, and I glanced to my right. There sat my glass of white wine, untouched, in its little 5oz glass. Whoops.

I did drink the glass a bit later, and had a second after that. I enjoyed them both, and between them, they were enough for me. We watched an episode of something, and tried to persuade the dog to go outside to pee, even though she was adamant that it was much too cold. We didn’t finish the bottle. Before bed, we stuck a cork in it, and the last third is still sitting in our fridge. Maybe I’ll have it tonight. Maybe I won’t.

This take-it-or-leave-it feeling is new for me. I don’t know how solid it is yet, so I’m not counting on it continuing. My continued healthy habits certainly don’t depend on it. But even so, it made me feel really proud and happy. I’m not even sure I can remember the last time the two of us shared a bottle of wine without finishing it. I’m sure it wasn’t on a snow-bound evening at the end of a long week.

I say this not because I think moderation is easy (it isn’t), or that it always feels uncomplicated (it doesn’t), but because after nearly an entire year of working hard at this, I find that I am still surprising myself. I remember how it felt when my drinking was out of control, when the first pour at the end of a long day had become the biggest reward I knew, when I did embarrassing things to make sure I always had “enough” to drink. And I remember the long, long months at the beginning of this moderation thing, when I constantly felt like I was just going through the motions, and lived in fear of my inevitable backslide.

And now, some 10-11 months into this, there’s a third of a bottle in my fridge and it doesn’t worry me. There’s actually another whole bottle of wine in one of my kitchen cupboards, for that matter. I bought it for an event that was cancelled at the last minute, so I stuck it into the cupboard, thinking I might bring it to the next dinner party (or whatever) that we get invited to. It’s a nice bottle, a pinot noir that I like a lot. Most of the time, I forget it’s there, even though it’s been in the house for a month or so. The primary thing I feel when I remember this bottle is surprise, because this ‘keeping alcohol around’ thing is still very new to me. Plus some pride, and another little surge of the thing that got me here in the first place: hope.

For all of you who read along here, I hope you have a great winter solstice, or any other winter holiday(s) you celebrate, and a tremendous New Year.

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