70 Days, One Glass of Wine and the 'Slippery Slope' that is Alcohol

I don't know exactly how it began, I just started noticing that I wanted a glass of wine. Nothing crazy, just a glass. 

"No", I told myself, and I kept marching along in sobriety.

For a few days it kept popping up. 

"No!", I continued, and on I went.

I was so gung-ho about my decision to enter into a year of sobriety, that the thought of straying from it was jammed full of negative repercussions - guilt, lack of will, shame, fear of disappointing people and on and on and on. 

It never occurred to me that after some time, I might actually want to and be ready for exploration with alcohol and that journeying through these thoughts and emotions might actually be a game changer for me. 

Prior to beginning my year of sobriety I had already reduced my intake of alcohol considerably. For over a year and half I drank a mild amount and never got out of control. So why a whole year sober then?

Because upon learning about it being a 'thing' I felt resistance to it. The resistance was like a lightbulb showing me that even though I had turned my drinking world around, I still had things to learn. 

During the 70 days that I went without a drop of alcohol I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. Beginning during a period of stress involving work and my personal life + the middle of summer (July 8th, 2017) it was the perfect environment for drinking: hot days, family and friend gatherings, pool hangs...literally at every corner was the possibility of drinking. 

However, rather than resort to old habits I was determined to follow through and in doing so, it meant that I truly felt reality. I couldn't doll it up in any way (at least not with alcohol) and though I may have indulged in a few containers of vegan ice cream once in a while, I stayed on course.

Alcohol was literally arms length away and yet I resisted. I began to see myself as someone with an extra human ability to stare awkwardness in the face. When I was frustrated, I was just frustrated! When I was sad, I stayed sad. I experienced it. I gritted my teeth, I breathed, I journaled, I read, I walked - I did whatever I needed to do to deal with the emotions I was experiencing and through it found a way to engage a part of myself that could live with those feelings, process them, and then make a conscious decision about how I would continue by perpetuating the sensation or change by moving through it to something else.

I began to understand that if I didn't like someone or a situation I could leave and/or just be honest. There was no drinking just to cope with the discomfort of a situation or another person's energy. 

I showed up. I showed up for commitments and I followed through on plans with friends, family and work. I entered into conversation with people clearly owning my role and ensuring that if I needed to be expressed, I did so. It was like my honest-o-meter got cranked up - all the little things that I might have doubted in myself before, I wholeheartedly knew. 

Clarity. So accessible. My natural, waking state.

Intuition. Heightened, strong, powerful and real. 

Connection to something bigger than myself. 

Coming out of a relationship this summer I embraced my inner hermit. The relationship - though it taught me some very important lessons - also taught me some tragic ones and though on one hand I was empowered, I also needed to repair my appetite for and ability to enjoy life. To remember my inherent connection to the smells, the sights, the sounds - the decadence of daily existence...

Maybe it had something to do with reading "Like Water for Chocolate"? All that food talk and passionate relation to the senses of simply being alive.

So I did it.

I watched Eat Pray Love. 

Then I watched Under The Tuscan Sun.

Then I watched A Good Year.

Then I read Like Water For Chocolate...

Simultaneously I read "Anatomy of the Spirit" by Caroline Myss. A medical intuitive, Caroline dives into the energy makeup of the body saying that "our biography is our biology" and offers a different view of illnesses and ongoing pain. A remarkable read (in my opinion), I purchased this book already knowing what I was looking for.

I wanted to confirm that the pain in my hips came from issues relating to my power centre. More than confirming my suspicion, Caroline went into detail about how sexuality, personal power, addiction, ethics and more can greatly affect our physical body, that the weight of that which we carry from our experiences and unresolved power issues, can be stored inside and result in pain, depression and sickness.

Here I was yet again waking up. Except this time, to my relation with the passion and fire of life literally from the inside out. It began to feel okay for me to have a glass of wine. It even felt powerful!

Food has always been such a huge place of enjoyment for me. The experience of food in a space that is well lit with a good vibe and with good people, to me, is like gold and as the day of my sister's birthday approached, it dawned on me that we were dining in a nice restaurant. One with great lighting, a killer vibe, apparently amazing food and a lovely wine selection. When I imagined myself sitting there at that table, dreaming of the yummy food that was about to arrive, I desired a glass of wine to complete the picture.

That imagining of the addition of wine freaked me out because I wasn't supposed to want it! It hadn't been a year yet.

People were following my journey and I considered what it might mean that I was even wine-curious. 

But regardless of all these thoughts, nothing changed the fact that I wanted it.

Instead of pushing the thought away I decided to examine what this desire was saying to me and when I envisioned myself indulging in a glass, it didn't feel like I was 'giving in' or being 'weak'...it felt different.

I was viewing the situation like fine art - the wine just a small portion of the overall piece. It wasn't overpowering or unbalanced, it was merely part of the whole. In the end, I knew it was my decision - the answer already deep inside of myself. Fast forward to 8pm last Saturday night:

When asked if I wanted to order a drink I didn't hesitate to say yes. I observed the criticism in my mind, acknowledged the questions, and yet I felt at ease. I knew that I could trust myself. I could trust my intention. I didn't set out to alter myself or to veil my view of reality. In my mind it was a marrying of the senses in a perfectly balanced manner.

So I sipped the six ounce glass for three hours and savoured every sip. The food arrived and the flavours blossomed with each bite, the simple act of spreading butter across the fresh bread so pleasurable. 

Engaged in the moment, I began to notice a strange feeling surface and for a short period of time I was unsure what to make of the buzz. I stopped drinking and let my wine sit for about twenty minutes while I upped my water consumption and contemplated leaving the wine as it were - unfinished. Had I had enough? Once the sensation passed, I returned to a feeling of complete control and picked it up again, finishing just as everyone around me was getting up to leave. 

The night continued for a short while beyond the restaurant and I didn't drink further. I hadn't the desire to be drunk and was so completely content after the smorgasbord of heaven that I had been so lucky to experience. I was done. Any more and I would no longer have been in the drivers seat - not at all a part of my intention.

The next morning I awoke well rested and equally as content as the night before. Recalling the beauty of the evening and reliving the intoxicating picture, I knew I made the right decision. Over the last 70 days I envisioned a sacred relationship with alcohol, I just didn't need to wait a year before bringing it into being.

Prior to my sober decision I had altered my relationship to alcohol. I knew that I had no interest in getting drunk which obviously meant a life without hangovers. I knew that I had a limit but I hadn't quite explored completely extricating booze from all situations. And though I might only have had one glass of wine or a single beer whilst out with a friend or at a family BBQ, having experienced life sober, I now see so much value in not indulging in any booze in most situations. 

No more drinking to change a single thing about reality or myself. I know my worth, I own my intelligence. I am connected, I am creative and I know the answer to everything by feeling into my body, by paying attention to my senses and my surroundings. I put myself first.

I not only want to hang on to my intuition and clarity, I want to continue developing these gifts of connection and in order to do this, I require a sacred relationship with alcohol and with everything else in my life. 

With clearly defined boundaries and permission to change my mind (ever so consciously), I give my power to no one and to nothing. I honour my wants and desires in a truly balanced way, always opting to give awareness the most powerful position in my body, mind and spirit as it helps guide me along this life with clarity, ease and connection.

And with this I return to my original intention - Mindful Drinking. 

Often times, it isn't alcohol that is the problem, it's us. We drink to change who we are and how we show up in the world be it more relaxed or less judgemental and so on. But, what we often miss is that the fog that alcohol generates doesn't up and disappear as soon as the next morning arrives. It lingers, it seeps into the fibre of our beings and it becomes a dense cloud that hangs over us. It affects our ability to see life clearly and leads us to believe that we need IT in order to return to a state of 'normal' or that we need IT in order to have fun, to relax and to unwind. We subscribe to the belief that we need IT in order to be present or to be our best selves when in fact, it's not true.

The idea that alcohol makes us better people is false. 

It doesn't help us to achieve our goals. It doesn't make us like ourselves more. It doesn't help us make decisions. It doesn't provide insight. It doesn't make reality disappear or tough situations better. 

***

Part Two.

You know that saying "it's a slippery slope" when talking about to referring to alcohol?

Well, turns out. There's a reason!

I had a difficult time completing this blog post about my one glass of wine because I wasn't sure how to present it in a way that satisfied me. Turns out, as the week progressed it became obvious that I might not be as clear on my boundaries as I would have liked.

Part of me wishes the blog could end here but that would only be a partial truth. 

Here's my week in alcohol: 

Saturday, September 16th: One 6 oz glass of wine

Thursday, September 21st: Two 8 oz glasses of beer (1/2 pints)

Saturday, September 23rd: Two tall cans of beer + 1 bottle

Sunday, September 24th: 1 tall can of beer

Thursday was an instance where I went out with a friend to catch-up at the same spot we used to. The same spot where I was happy to have a mug of tea or a bottle of Kombucha but for some reason, I allowed myself to enjoy two half pints.

I thought that would be it for the week and I still felt satisfied. Then, an unexpected visit to my sister's place for the weekend popped up and I found myself lounging outside at the pool being offered a cold one. As I lay in the pool on a floaty, I didn't see anything wrong with enjoying a bottle of beer around my friends and family and so, I said yes. A couple hours later I was offered an I.P.A (my fav) and having a second drink didn't seem horrible either. The day extended into an evening bonfire and I opted for a third, sipping it over a long period of time. So, in 8 hours I enjoyed 3 beers. Seems reasonable right?

The next morning I was bothered. It was the first time since having that heavenly glass of wine that I wondered what it would feel like if I had decided to maintain my Year of Sobriety. As I sat there chatting with my sister who was trying to help me see how far I had come on my drinking journey and pointing out the fact that I had not become drunk during even one of these drinking situations, I tried to justify it to myself.  Why was I so keen on delivering a whole lotta guilt regarding my decisions? 

Deciding to stick around one more day as my cousins and aunt were heading over, guess who had one more I.P.A in the pool? ME. Guess who drank a Daiquiri? ME.

Sure I didn't get drunk. But still I am not happy and frankly, not entirely sure how I feel.

How did enjoying one sacred glass of wine become drinking on three occasions thereafter? Why hadn't I actually written down my boundaries on paper? Would I have followed through if I had? What would those boundaries have looked like?

My sacred drinking plan was to only enjoy a beverage in very specific situations - but, when in a few different situations this week, my brain found a way to make those situations all worthy of adding the ingredient of alcohol. 

Did I get drunk? No, but I did feel the buzz.

Is it a big deal? Maybe not for most people but for me, someone who had set out so clearly on a Year of Sobriety for a reason, it is a big ol' pile of confusion topped with more to think about. 

Glass of wine = a decision based on a very clear intention. 

All the others = not so clear.

Where was my intention? What was it? Was my intention simply that it was "ok?". Yes I was with family and friends and I never got out of control, but when I compare being so content with sobriety to this past weekend, it's not sitting so well with me and it has me wondering, "do I begin the year again?" and "why?".

It seems that even though the slippery slope might not look as treacherous as it might have in the past (ie. I may not be getting drunk or making bad decisions) the slippery slope (for me) is the frequency and the justification, it's the foggy intention.

Maybe this is no different than every other aspect of my life in that I expect myself to be perfect right away. When it doesn't happen or when I am confused and don't have all the answers, or when I change my mind, I resort to feeling like a big ol' pile of poop. 

I ask myself these very dramatic questions such as "how could I have ruined my Year of Sobriety when I was so clear? 

I was convinced that the one glass of wine would be my entrance into a sacred relationship with alcohol. It would be my ticket to standing on both feet with a glass of wine in my hands, finally feeling that I conquered confusion by knowing exactly when I wanted to indulge and exactly when I did not and most importantly, following through.

A couple drinks with friends and family may not seem like a big deal, but to me, the difference in intention and clarity between the two situations (a. sacred wine and b. it's okay to drink around family and friends cause it's hot out and nothing is wrong with it) is the key to my hesitation. 

Why wasn't I satisfied with being completely sober on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday? Why didn't I just say no? Was I jealous of everyone else for getting to enjoy alcohol so easily? Had I remembered the buzz and wanted even just a small percentage of it? Was I just tired and looking for an energy kick? What is it about the liquid that so quickly transforms a decision of sobriety or sacredness to one of confusion and justification?

I aim to return to the clarity of the first half of this blog. 

I aim to be in complete control and to no longer question myself or my decisions, be it as wholesome as deciding to enjoy a few drinks with family and friends, but it seems I am not there yet. 

Can I get there and how? Do I try again to be mindful? Do I start the Year of Sobriety over or do I just set boundaries?

I think of the Christmas season and I don't know if I want to be sober while everyone around me is enjoying. There's one night each season (Christmas night) where we gather as a large group and enjoy the finest wines, scotches, ports and more and I'm not sure how I feel about either choice, partaking or not.

In all honesty...I have no idea what I want here. I like the thought of being sober for one year. I like the idea of how I will feel after I complete it, but what is it on the other side of that that I am longing for? I think I like wine a little too much to be sober for the rest of my life, but maybe I just don't have the clarity I need yet to reintroduce it in the sacred, nearly sober way that I envision.

It seems that I have much more to learn.

-carissa, xoxo