A Booze-Free Birthday and Bonus Bootcamp

Last weekend my husband and I managed to flee to NYC for 21 kid-free hours (but who was counting) to celebrate his birthday. We wandered, shopped, ate, talked, and reconnected in a way that is only possible when you are not being bombarded by tiny humans all day long. It was absolutely lovely.

It was also the first milestone of my one year alcohol-free: a sober birthday celebration. At dinner, my husband had a glass of white wine with his salad and a glass of red with his steak. Besides a fleeting pang when he ordered that Sancerre, I felt confident not drinking and grateful to be experiencing an AF birthday dinner for the first time… since I was pregnant? Probably. With my own birthday coming up in a few months, this was a successful test round.

And of course it was way more than that. It was everything the books and blogs and Instas say AF life can be. It was clear, authentic connection and contentment. It was romantic. It was reassuring. “Not only is this person still my best friend, but I love him now more than ever and our relationship is better than ever,” were the cheesy but damn true thoughts going through my head.

We talked about my choice to live a year without alcohol. Though my husband has always had an easy breezy relationship with booze, I can tell that he is really trying to understand where I’m coming from. He also accepts, without judgment, the fact that I view ditching alcohol as critical to the self-exploration I am feeling called to do right now. At one point, he used the word “rebirth” to describe my entrance into this new phase of my life – his word, not mine! It’s a loaded term, but I think I’ll try it on for size.

So: wonderful, romantic dinner followed by a wonderful, romantic walk around downtown Manhattan. A perfect night, and I remember it all, blah blah blah. I’ll pull the plug on the broken record of giddiness here. But it really was that real and good and lovely.

Because this birthday celebration would not be a boozefest, I’d booked a bootcamp class at the new Peloton Tread studio on Sunday morning. My husband exemplifies the saying “boys and their toys” and has already put down a deposit on a Tread, so we had been meaning to get to a class and try it out. And even though we got our asses handed to us, we patted ourselves on the back (interesting visual, that) for actually being those people who included a bootcamp class in a romantic birthday weekend celebration. Good for us!

I cannot remind myself enough of how far I have come. Not to toot my own horn, but to keep me motivated and focused and present and grateful. If I were still drinking, I probably would not have even booked that Peloton Tread class because of the expected hangover.

I used to believe that alcohol was a necessary and integral part of a fun evening out. I believed this wholeheartedly. Because I didn’t know any better. Because my subconscious had been wired that way. And that’s the basis on which I operated personally, socially, romantically.

When I first started this work, committing to Dry January and reading A Happier Hour and then This Naked Mind, I didn’t believe Rebecca and Annie when they told me how much fun an alcohol-free social life can be. I wanted to believe them, but “sober” and “fun” just did not coexist in my book.

Now, I’m a believer. I’ve drunk the un-spiked Kool-Aid and it tastes better than I ever thought possible. It’s not only improving my body and mind; it’s improving my marriage, too. Life is good AF.

A Date with a Liberated Drinker (AKA My Husband)

I inaugurated my OYAF* by going out to dinner with my husband last night (this date brought to you by an exhausted-but-willing-to-babysit grandmother – thanks, MeMe!). My sweet hubby had been surprised when I announced my year off booze a few days ago, and he wanted to know the thought process behind my decision (um, honey, are you not reading your own wife’s blog?!).

What I realized is that, while we both come from families of drinkers (though his parents quit years ago, mine are still at it), we started drinking for different reasons. My husband started drinking because he likes the taste. He usually drinks a hard cider, and he also enjoys a glass of red wine with a good steak. His cocktail order is a gin and tonic, but he never makes them at home. He aspires to whiskey connoisseurship but “it’s too much effort” to figure out the best way to drink it (preferred glass? rocks or straight?) so the bottles of local artisanal whiskey he buys continue to sit unopened in our liquor cabinet.

He likes the taste of all of these types of alcohol, and he drinks in the moment, as a situation arises. I have never seen him have more than two drinks. He claims he has never been drunk. I am not sure if I believe anyone can truly be a “take it or leave it” imbiber of booze, but if that person does exist, I married him.

As for me, I went the more standard route. I tried alcohol my senior year of high school. I drank to fit in and to feel less inhibited. I drank because that’s what I thought cool and sophisticated and grown-up people do. I drank for the buzz, for how good it made me feel. I hated the taste of that first rum and Coke, mixed for me at a graduation party by a friend’s older brother. But I drank it. And on I went from there.

My husband drinks for the taste. He has a very simple and straightforward relationship with alcohol. He does not experience willpower-zapping, soul-bruising cognitive dissonance. He does not play date night whack-a-monologue. He has no beef with booze. And so, while he supports my decision to spend a year off the sauce, he can’t fully understand why I feel such a bone-deep need to do this.

But he will support me through and through, on the basis of his love for me. And that is what I need from him. He hasn’t been to my side of the liberation-fixation scale, and that’s ok. I am building my own network, both personal and virtual, of people who have been there. I have a stack of books to read; dozens of Instagram accounts to follow; and the incredible #sobersisters community on Connect. I even have a few IRL friends and family members to talk to. And maybe, as this year progresses, there will be more.

For now, I am securely steeped in the honeymoon phase of my year of sobriety. Day two, baby! I feel gleeful, free, inspired. And I’m basking in the glow of my lovely date last night, a nice meal made memorable by a breakthrough conversation.

*One Year Alcohol-Free, obv. Is the abbreviation catching on yet?

Dry January Day 18

My husband and I are going to the movies tonight!

Confession: before Dry January, when my husband I would go to the movies together, I would always pour some wine into a small glass bottle (full confession: it was a baby bottle leftover from when my kids were infants) to sneak into the theater. I thought it was a funny thing to do. A small little rebellion for someone who is normally a staunch rule follower. I’m beginning to see it differently. I’m beginning to see someone who was too reliant on alcohol to have a good time. I’m beginning to see someone who was more focused on seeing a movie buzzed than enjoying a date with my husband. That makes me sad. But at the same time I’m also so proud to be growing apart from that person.

Tonight’s timing couldn’t be better since I had such a tough day with my kids yesterday, so I will deeply appreciate every moment of this date night. And every kernel of movie theater popcorn for which I hoarded smart points today.

 

Dry January Day Eight

I didn’t post last night. I didn’t post last night because, for several hours, I did not look at my phone. I did not look at my phone because, for the first time in recent memory, my husband and I sat down to eat a yummy meal at an actual table and talked for several hours. We talked about a lot of big stuff that we have needed to talk about for several weeks but that has gotten pushed aside with the craziness of the holidays. It was a big talk. A necessary talk. And a good talk. And it occurs to me that before Dry January, when I was drinking six or seven nights a week, I wouldn’t have been capable of a talk like this because I would have been too tired and/or irritable and/or distracted. I have thought a lot about how Dry January is improving my life and making me a better mom to my kids, but I realize it’s also making me a better wife and partner to my husband. Long-simmering tension is lifting, I can see issues with greater clarity and discuss them with greater compassion. And my gratitude continues to grow.