A thunderous clap woke me up shortly after one o'clock in the morning. It sounded like our recycle bin had been hit hard, knocked over, with dozens of empty wine bottles tumbling down the driveway. Except that it wasn't that at all - no recycle bin, no empty wine bottles. It was thunder. Loud, concentrated thunder that let out a BOOM! directly over the roof of our 1950's farmhouse in the middle of the night. I slipped on my bathrobe and quietly shuffled through the house, looking for clues of the commotion that awakened me and gently opened the living room sliding glass door. Fat, warm raindrops hit me on the head and landed on the palm of my upturned left hand, which softened their landing.
Rain in June, again, for the second time this month.
I fell quickly back to sleep and slipped into a nightmare about a good friend dying and I didn't get to say goodbye or tell her how much she meant to me. I woke up sobbing, my pillowcase wet from tears, and continued to cry until I realized it was just a horrible dream. A few minutes after this realization, my friend sent me my first text of the day wishing me a Good morning! and it made my heart smile. She's alive and well. It was just a bad dream and I was so relieved.
I've retreated from many of my friendships over these past few months. I guess I've needed time to wrap my head around a lot of the bad habits I'd formed over the years and I think I've needed time away from the friends I drank with socially. Poor judgment reigned supreme while I was drinking, which seemed to only fuel more bad choices and dangerous social ruts that involved drinking and overstaying my welcome. My character needed a tune-up and abstaining from alcohol and social functions has put a positive kink in my social routines. By slowing down, reading, turning in early for the night, reconnecting with my family and writing - I have been recalibrating myself.
Last week marked my four month anniversary of taking a break from alcohol. I'm not sure if or when I'll go back to partaking in wine or cocktails. As of right now, I feel just fine without the added mood altering beverages. In an effort to be totally honest about this journey, I have to admit that most nights I've been in bed by 8 o'clock. Generally, I'm exhausted from the day and my allergies have been leaving me totally depleted. If I felt better physically, maybe I would be more tempted by alcohol but, as of right now, I'm just not. The only exception to this being Friday nights. Friday nights have been hard for me for some reason. Friday nights were always a reason to celebrate the end of the week and clink glasses with my husband (or friends) and sip a few Manhattans.
Recently, Friday nights have morphed into me making a big bowl of popcorn with loads of butter & salt and watching a movie with my husband and son. I miss my Friday night Manhattans but, as it turns out, not as much as I thought I would. Now, the best part of Friday night is waking up Saturday morning with a clear head, no hangover residue and realizing that I didn't need to break out the silver martini shaker to have a nice evening.
Knowing that my personality is of the all or nothing variety worries me a little bit. By removing my temptation, am I setting up unrealistic expectations for the future? Why can't I achieve balance instead of living as an abstainer? Why does it have to be all or nothing for me? Isn't being all the same as living with nothing? Isn't it the same exact thing?
I just don't know, yet, but I'm getting closer to figuring it out.
My anxiety, which I didn't even realize I had, has been quelled by removing alcohol from my life equation. A good night's sleep has been the perfect remedy for a more balanced view of the world. My daily life has a smoother rhythm, not a perfect rhythm, but a calm cadence that I lacked before. With all of my list-making and to-do lists, I kept myself generally on track, but now I sail through most days with a kind of assuredness that I haven't felt in a long, long time. I feel so capable and present in my daily dealings with people, too. My patience and tolerance levels are high.
While I'm dipping my toes back into the social pool, I'm doing so very cautiously. And sometimes I need my lifeguard (my husband) to be on duty. He's been my main sounding board throughout my experiment with taking a break from alcohol and it's been nice to share this journey, as well as my struggles with it, with him. Always the voice of reason and moderation, I'm finding solace in his wisdom and views in this regard. I would even dare say that it's bringing us closer as a couple and so, you know, that's a bonus.
As I've been socializing more, I've been witness to emotions and temperaments that I didn't pay that close of attention to before. I'm observing body language and participating in conversations that I'm really present for. I'm also privy to the glassy sheen that alcohol pulls over one's eyes during the course of an evening. Everything seems to unfold in slow motion from the start, speed up with the additional glass refills and the evening ends in a completely different place than where it started. That rearranging can be beautiful or ugly. Often times, when I was drinking, it has left me bewildered the next morning, but observing it while stone cold sober just leaves me acutely aware. The beautiful interactions I've had throughout the evening stay with me longer, too. I'm quite aware of how I've participated in the evening and leave feeling sure of myself, with no regrets bubbling up on the drive home.
It's all a mirror for me right now. Sometimes it feels good and sometimes it feels crummy.
I don't want to remain stuck in that voyeuristic role for too long, so I've been taking it as my cue to leave the party, literally. And you know what? It's okay to leave the party before it ends. I don't think I ever knew or practiced that before and it's kind of liberating.
I'm beginning to understand that the recent BOOM! of thunder in my life (not drinking) has just been the precursor to the sweet rainstorm that is coming. Hopefully, it will dampen, rearrange and wash away some of my bad habits and freshen up the ground where I stand.