one bad night

Saturday was not a very good day. First, I was tired, because I’d been up late Friday night. Second, it was cold, wet, with a slow-moving winter storm rolling into town, which made me feel confined & restless. Third, my significant other really wanted a drink. Accordingly, around 4pm, we went out and got that drink, or rather, some beer (for me) and bourbon (for him) to take home. I was pretty sure this would lead to me drinking too much. I also kind of wanted to drink too much.

Guess what I did next? Ow, my head hurts this morning.

Worse than the headache is the emotional hangover. I’ve done very well during the month of April, until last night. Last night, I went straight back to old habits: filling down-time with alcohol, because I was bored and irritable. Waking up this morning, I felt terrible. I felt like I had failed.

And yet what, exactly, have I failed? I overdid it one night, just like millions of people sometimes do. If you count up all the drinks between my 30 and now, it comes to less than one week of my previous habits. Even last night, when I really went wild, I had somewhere between six and eight drinks (counting gets tougher when you’re inebriated) over the course of about five hours, which is considerably less than I used to drink every single night of the week. Today, my head hurts, my stomach is delicate, and my mood bleak. But I have the rest of my life to keep figuring this out.

Mistakes are a part of learning. Yesterday, I discovered that long weekends with bad weather are more difficult to navigate than I had anticipated. My partner probably learned something too, as he feels responsible for my glum mood this morning. So, the next time this situation rolls around, perhaps one or both of us will act differently. I am also in the process of learning that one bad night does not derail all progress; it’s a lapse, not a relapse.

At least, these are all the things I am trying to tell myself, in between feeling like a failure. The rational part of me can write things like above, but the rest of me is dealing with the chemical backwash from a large quantity of alcohol. Time for a little self-care.

definitely indefinite

When a person permanently stops drinking, the world divides pretty neatly into a before and after. I realize most of us have to try many times before the decision becomes permanent, and I’m not trying to discount anyone’s struggles (it took me at least two years of trying to “quit,” so I am the last person who wishes to disparage someone else’s efforts).

But I do sometimes envy the clear, dichotomous nature of the final decision, the way it splits the timeline cleanly. Choosing moderation means embracing ambiguity, even in language. I didn’t “quit drinking,” I just “started drinking moderately, or trying to, anyway.” I struggle with it as I write posts, trying to find the right language for before and after.

There’s before, when I was drinking a lot. And now, when I…am drinking less. But before, I was having about 300 standard drinks every month. This month is halfway over, and I’ve had just two drinks so far. It’s not just a small reduction in numbers; to me, it feels like a momentous life change. It sure would be nice to find the right words to use when writing about it.

Or maybe I just need to get more comfortable with gray areas, ambiguity, and messy life journeys.

 

 

Day One

Just kidding, I don’t count days. It’s day one of this blog though, because I want a place to write down my thoughts as I try to figure out healthier habits, especially concerning alcohol.

I used to drink every day, and I used to drink a lot. There is a popular narrative about alcohol abuse and recovery that most people are familiar with, about rock-bottom and 12 steps, which never even came close to fitting my experience. In fact, along with other factors, that narrative helped push me away from seeking help for a long time. Then I read this op-ed piece in the NY Times, telling me that I was far from alone, and realized there were some different options worth exploring.

In late January 2016, I made a change. Using the tools provided by Moderation Management, I embarked on a 30 day abstinent period, hoping to start figuring out some healthier habits. Here’s what I wrote on January 28th:

I’m kicking off a 30 too. Last night was my first alcohol-free night in a while, and I had trouble falling asleep (didn’t help that my dog is a serious bed hog, but mostly, I guess I just need a little time to remember how to fall asleep sober!). For me, the time seems right to make some big changes to my drinking habits, so I am aiming for 100…but starting with a 30, and feeling good.

Things I’m hoping to see change quickly: that pesky falling asleep trick, my perpetually dry eyes (it’s a dry winter, but I think the whole ‘drinking a lot of wine instead of water before bed’ thing isn’t helping), positive feedback from my SO (which I get frequently anyway, but I know we’d both be happier if I was drinking less).

Long term, I’d like to drink substantially less, if at all. I have a lot of weight to lose, and a lot of trails to hike, so I’d kind of like to put my energies that way. It’s hard for me to choose long-term goals over short-term satisfaction, especially during the evening hours. But recently, a lot of things in my life have started going well, and I feel better about myself than I have in a long time, so now seems like a good time to start.

Sending lots of support to everyone else making changes, or even thinking about making changes.

Most of the biggest things in our lives have no real first day. We spend weeks, months, or years laying the foundation. We make decisions and then change out minds. In my 37 years of life, I cannot point to a single moment and say, “right then, that was the moment that I decided to change everything.”

For the sake of narrative convenience though, I can say that my 30 started on January 27, 2016. And it changed everything.