Filling My Metaphorical (not red Solo) Cup

Wacky Wednesday around here. And in the craziness of this day another benefit of being alcohol-free rang loud and clear: I can pivot like a boss.

… as opposed to pivoting like a stressed out, anxious, frazzled frump.

After I dropped my son at school, I was looking forward to meeting a friend for manicures when she called me and said that she had slipped and fallen on the sidewalk and needed to go to urgent care. I pivoted instantly from “mom who mani’s” into “superfriendmom” – picking up her son, and then my son, and hosting a play date for them while my friend got the medical care she needed. The boys had the best afternoon ever, and my friend didn’t have to worry about her son. Save for a sprained ankle and some unkempt fingernails, it was a winning afternoon.

I have always considered myself a good friend. I am an only child, and I’ve spent my life funneling all the energy I couldn’t expend on siblings into my friendships. Over the last two decades, many of my friendships have involved – if not revolved around – wine. Removing wine from my relationships has been interesting in so many ways, all of which I am still identifying and processing. One of these ways, I realized today, is my enhanced ability to pivot: to switch gears quickly and smoothly in order to offer my friends the kind of support they need at any given moment.

In an instant, my afternoon changed from a fun and indulgent catch-up session with a close friend to taking full responsibility for her child. I had a clear head to be able to identify and offer appropriate help. I had the energy and wherewithal to wrap my brain around hosting a spontaneous play date for two rambunctious little boys. To Do’s were pushed aside without anxiety, to be tackled tomorrow. The whole situation was smooth and stress-free (at least for me, if not for my poor friend!).

During my Peloton ride the other day, my instructor Ally Love talked about how friendship is all about filling each other’s (metaphorical, not red Solo) cups. And how, if we all spent more time filling each other’s cups, the world would be a better place as all our cups would overflow with love and kindness. (I’m paraphrasing, but this is the gist as I recall from the blur of sweat, lactic acid, and endorphins.)

Today, I filled my friend’s cup. But helping her also filled my own.

Eight Months Alcohol-Free

Eight months. Two hundred and forty-four days. Two-thirds of a year. Any way you slice it, I am at a point in this journey that, for all of my adult life, I never thought would be possible – or desirable.

I thought alcohol was a treat. Now I know it is poison.

I thought alcohol was a rite of passage. Now I know it is a master manipulator.

I thought alcohol was a balm. Now I know it is a grenade.

I thought alcohol was a privilege. Now I know it is a sham.

I thought alcohol was a critical component of a good time. Now I know what a genuinely good time feels like.

I thought alcohol made me better/sexier/funnier/[insert comparative here]. Now I know that being alcohol-free makes me best/sexiest/funniest/[insert superlative here].

Now I know. I know the facts (though there is still more to learn). And I know the feelings (though they are not always warm and fuzzy). Now I know that AF life will never be perfect, but it will always be best.

Now I know. And yet.

And yet I don’t feel comfortable proclaiming myself a “teetotaler.” I feel pretty darn sure that I will drink alcohol again at some point in my life, though that thought makes my gut simmer with anxiety. I feel proud and confident as a non-drinker, and yet.

My relationship with alcohol hangs by a thread these days. What is this last remaining tie between us? It’s the possibility of finding myself in a situation where I still believe alcohol would enhance, rather than detract from, the experience. I can only think of a few instances, but they linger in the hypothetical ether and I can’t – and won’t – ignore them. A fancy steak dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Manhattan: wouldn’t a few sips of a sommelier-recommended red bring out the flavor of my $50 filet? An old, picturesque restaurant in Porto, Portugal (where my husband has ancestral ties): surely it would be rude to not partake in the port, and surely the port would be the best I’ve ever tried? A stunning setting, a scrumptious meal, and my sweet take-it-or-leave-it-drinker husband, holding my hand across a crisp white tablecloth. This is alcohol’s last stand.

I don’t miss drinking. The odd pang strikes every now and then, but is swiftly quashed and dismissed. I can’t recall a single moment in the last eight months where alcohol would have had any positive impact on me. On the contrary, I can recall myriad moments, special occasions, and holidays that were all, without exception, more enjoyable because I was not drinking.

I don’t know what the future holds. As of this moment, there are no fancy steakhouse date nights or fabulous European jaunts on our calendar. I continue to remain steadfast in my commitment to reaching one year alcohol-free and have no desire to start drinking again in July.

But what if I have a glass of wine paired with a spectacular meal when we celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in September? Does that take me back to Day Zero? Does that strip my title of non-drinker? Does that mean all this time was wasted?

I am still figuring out the answers to all of those questions but the last. If and when I take my first sip of alcohol sometime in the future, beyond the comforting confines of my One Year Alcohol-Free, I will do it mindfully and confidently. Secure in my power over alcohol. Power that I gain with each passing day of this year. This year is a gift that will always be mine. This year will keep giving for the rest of my life. That much I know.