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.