When I started this blog, I was thinking about drinking (or not drinking) very intensely. As is probably obvious from my total lack of recent posts, it’s just not at the forefront of my mind lately. That’s okay, but every so often, I think I ought to wrap things up here in some way. Not a happily ever after — this is not the end of my story, nor even (I imagine) the end of my efforts to drink within healthy parameters. Just a check-in, really, and an acknowledgement that I don’t really have much left to say on this subject.
Alcohol is no longer central to my life, nor is it entirely out of my life. I have not become a perfectly moderate drinker, but I’m really pretty close. And I have become more comfortable with my lack of perfection, reassured by the fact that an occasional mistake is not actually catastrophic, and that an occasional bad week is only a bad week, and not the beginning of the end. I also recognize that as I continue to grow older, health is something that I’m needing to pay more attention to in a variety of ways, and I will probably continue to need to revisit issues of diet, exercise, drinking, and so forth. Living is a complicated business, and I am far from having it all figured out.
When I started this journey, I just wanted to change my drinking. I didn’t intend to be introspective, or even use terms like “journey.” But, when I first stopped spending every evening drunk, I started discovering some embarrassing truths. Including the simple fact that I didn’t know what to do besides drinking. I’d treated drinking as a real activity — the main event — for so long, I couldn’t remember how else to fill downtime, or how else to fill my mind.
I knew that changing my drinking habits would be hard. I didn’t know that one of the hardest things would be discovering that I had become boring. It shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, I know, since I was perfectly aware of how I was spending all my spare time (and how much time was being converted to “spare” just so I could start drinking). But because I remained fairly functional, and most of my drinking happened in the evenings, I could pretend I was leading a full life…not just to other people, but to myself. It took cutting out the alcohol to realize just how much time I’d been wasting.
For awhile after cutting down, I relied upon new ways of filling time. I tried new hobbies, signed up for evening classes, cleaned the house, volunteered, went to bed early. All good things, but mostly, these were things I engaged with at a fairly superficial level. Like watching a movie, or eating a tasty meal — nice ways to spend time, but not much deeper than that. That seemed fine to me, because going through the motions was better than standing still.
Modern life offers an endless number of distractions, and I’ve been thankful for it. I also think that we (or I, anyway) need things that engage our deeper abilities, that we need interests that go beyond consuming (eating, drinking, buying, browsing, clicking), that we need to be challenged to think critically and creatively, and that we should be actively trying to figure out how to build healthy communities with other human beings. Some of these are things I’ve been working on for awhile, others seemed to involve a lot of trying and discarding new things, and a whole lot of feeling uncomfortable.
Imagine my relief when some of my new explorations eventually led me to things that burrowed down into my brain and wouldn’t let go. Projects, passions…call them what you like, but we all need things that challenge us to use our brains, our abilities, our hands, our empathy, our creativity, and all the other things that make us whole. I’ve found some things that fill me up, right up to the top, and make me stretch, and grow, and struggle to learn more.
That is the simple version, anyway. Real life tends to feel more complicated, and perhaps I will think of things differently tomorrow. For today, I am glad to be where I am. And I am forever grateful to the tools and people who helped me get this far — particularly the Moderation Management resources & tools, and the great MM forum/community (and all the passionate people who work to keep it so fabulous). It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely worth it.
I am not the same person who started this blog, and the magnitude of the difference sometimes staggers me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and think, “I really can’t keep drinking like this.” Then lie awake, terrified and hating myself, because I knew I would. Now, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I have so many things to think about. My brain is humming. My hands are itching for morning, so I can find time to do what I love. I am not always happy, but I have such great joy in my life; I am the same person, and yet, I am completely different.
Not happily ever after, just pretty good right now.