I’ve spent the last six weeks working on a project that threatened to overwhelm me. Tuesday night was the day of the big decision — would our hard work make a difference, or would we lose this thing in a big way? Two hours before midnight, the decision finally came down: we won.
Along with the relief and exhaustion, I wanted to celebrate. Not with the big group, just with my co-organizer — the one person who actually understood all the agonizing, the late nights, and the hard work that actually made this happen. We went over to her house, canvased her fridge, found just one beer, and split it happily into two small glasses. A few other people came over, we hung out exuberantly until my yawns became too obvious, and then I wandered off home.
Deciding to moderate means I get to decide which drinks I want to keep in my life. Of those I’ve chosen to hang onto, my favorite are those I share with others, especially the celebratory sort.
It has nothing to do with the contents of the glass, of course. It’s the celebration, and the sharing. It’s sitting down at a battered kitchen table, raising the glasses, and meeting the eyes of the person who was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me in this particular struggle. We could have toasted with water, with corn chips, with a fist bump.
When given the choice, I like being able to toast with something alcoholic, because I like the way the slight buzz amplifies my feelings of relief, release, and jubilation. And I like the ritual of it, the social moment of recognizing a shared joy and enjoying a shared treat. But the drink is the smallest part of that, and that’s good too. It means I’m not losing my sense of elation to that nagging desire for more buzz, more beer, more numbing intoxication. There was a time, not that long ago, when the fact that it was only half a beer would have frustrated me. I’m glad that part is past too. It was late, and I was tired: half a beer was plenty!
As things go, this was actually the first (and thus far, only) drink I’ve had all month. The fact that it’s rare helps make the toast feel more special — I can tell you from experience that there is nothing special about a “treat” that I give myself every day. It’s the paradox I keep rediscovering: by drinking only rarely, I end up free to enjoy a drink anytime I really want. The less I drink, the less I need to think about my drinking. It took awhile to get here, but it turns out to be a good place to be.