January 27th, 2016 was the day I decided — tentatively, fearfully, not quite letting myself think about it too much — to take concrete steps toward changing my drinking habits. Twelve months later, and I can’t say I’ve figured everything out yet. But I’m not so tentative, I’m not so afraid, and I find myself free to think about any number of things now.
The past year has been enormous in terms of self-confidence, self-control, personal growth, and all that good stuff. Personal shrinkage too — my body continues to change and become healthier as I continue to use it for things other than soaking up liter upon liter of wine. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars. I’ve enjoyed dozens of well-chosen drinks, and a couple hundred comfortably alcohol-free evenings. I feel normal, for lack of a better word…or as much like normal as I really want to be anyway.
It’s been a good year for me in ways that have no obvious connection to alcohol too. That’s not a coincidence. The fact that things in general was going better was one reason I found the courage to try (again) to change my drinking, but also, of course, drinking substantially less does have a way of opening up other opportunities. It is both cause and effect, all in one, and creates a cycle of a whole new sort. I’ve traveled more this year than any year in recent memory. I’ve been involved in some good projects here in my own community too. I’ve felt more like my favorite self than I have in years. I’ve felt more free than I can remember.
Adding up all my numbers over the past twelve months, I find I have consumed an average of less than one drink per day. That’s a huge reduction from the many years before, and comes close to being within healthy drinking limits. I intend to do a little more trimming and pruning, so the number for the next twelve months will be somewhat lower…but it’s a comparatively small adjustment, when contrasted with the changes I’ve already made. When I was drinking problematically, or even in the early stages of attempting moderation, I simply could not form a mental picture of what “moderate drinking” actually looked like. Now that I’m closer, it’s coming into much better focus.
I also don’t have as much to say about it as I thought I would. That’s okay. For awhile, thinking about (not) drinking took up a huge amount of my attention, but as more and more of my new habits became ingrained, I’ve found myself free to think about all kinds of other things as well. Which is one of those things you hope for, isn’t it? I did, anyway, wishing desperately that I could get to a point where alcohol had moved so far out of the center of my life that I just didn’t find myself preoccupied with things related to it. It’s a good thing, but also means that I am probably going to post infrequently, if at all, to this blog in the future.
Having tipped my terrified self onto the path of moderation, and then determined to fake my way through a lifestyle change until it felt more real, I feel that I’ve emerged out the other side with a better understanding of how I want to live my life. I have a better understanding of why choice, freedom, and control are important to me, and how to work toward those things in various areas of my life. Instead of feeling desperately broken, I have started to figure out how to move my lifestyle into closer alignment with my values, and it’s a pretty cool thing. So as the next year unfolds, I am working toward some other changes. Feeling like I actually have the power to make those changes is a strange, wonderful thing, and one I can trace directly back to moderation.
It’s been a great year.