Social Media Invincibility, Real Life Vulnerability

My One Year Alcohol-Free is over. I am still taking it all in (and going strong – 371 days and counting!). The simple fact that I did not drink alcohol for one full year is still settling itself contentedly into my brain. At the same time, I am emerging into the world as a non-drinker. My legs are a bit wobbly but I can feel that they are strong. I’m ready to stand, to walk, to run into this new life I’ve created for myself. What I’m finding, though, is that toggling between social media and real life is raising my vulnerability to a simmer.

After I posted on July 4, I celebrated Independence Day (both the national one and my own) with my clan and our extended family in New Hampshire. I took a couple of days to read and respond to the comments that were left on my Connect and Instagram posts, both of which had trended for a hot second. Thousands of strangers (and a handful of IRL friends) took the time to read my words and hundreds wrote messages of support and celebration. I was just chuffed. Weeeee! I did this amazing thing and all these people are so excited for me!!!

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When we got back to New York on Sunday, I went to the grocery store and ran into two friends, each of whom congratulated me on reaching my one-year milestone. These congratulations felt different from what I’d received online. I may have blushed. I stifled the urge to downplay my achievement or dismiss their compliments, instead blurting out “Thank you so much!” Inside, I was not doing the happy dance brought about by strangers’ praise on social media. Inside, I was flailing, trying to hold onto my pride and confidence as these face-to-face interactions kicked up a gnarly dust cloud of insecurity.

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Yesterday, the social media maven from my kickboxing gym messaged me on Instagram to ask if she could repost my photos from days 364 and 365. I replied, without hesitation, “Yes of course!! I’m proud of it! Thank you for asking!!” Once again I felt the chuffed butterflies in my stomach. I was being recognized and celebrated for accomplishing an awesome goal. Good for me!

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When I arrived at my kickboxing class today, my first class since before the 4th of July, my instructor came over to give me a hug. “I’m not much of a social media person,” she said, “so I had no idea what you were doing. But I saw your post on our Instagram. Huge congrats to you, girl! That is amazing!” A few minutes later, after our warm-up, one of my classmates also complimented me, having seen the Instagram post as well. Fluster, flail. “Thank you so much!” was again my canned reply. Before I could stop myself, I added something like, “You know, my son is getting on the school bus in September and so I just felt like I wanted to achieve something big, something for me, before both my kids are in school full-time.”

I’m not sure what babble came out of my mouth. What I really wanted to say – to her, and to my instructor, and to my two friends I saw in the grocery store, and to my extended family with whom we spent the 4th of July – is “I SWEAR I’M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC! I DID NOT HAVE A SERIOUS DRINKING PROBLEM WITH A CAPITAL ‘P’! I WAS JUST A WINE MOM! NO BIGGIE! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!”

Except: it is a biggie. And I do want people to see me and know about my accomplishment. It’s just easier to put myself out there in front of strangers instead of family and friends. It’s easier to throw a selfie and some deep thoughts into the void of social media, where I can ignore or delete comments that I don’t like and bask in the glow of the ones I do, than it is to explain to a table full of my family members why I decided to embark on a year without booze and how I benefitted from it. No matter how proud I feel, talking about my journey in real life to friends and family is still hard. Alcohol is a fickle fiend that ingratiates itself with everyone differently. Alcohol is a loaded topic, and I feel a lot less in control and a lot more vulnerable when I talk about it in real time to real people.

Quick! Somebody call Brené Brown! I need to feel good about being so damn vulnerable!

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
-Brené Brown

Phew. Ok. That’s better.

People, whether online or IRL, are going to think what they are going to think. I cannot control what others will infer from or project onto me. All I can do is own my truth and share it.

I have chosen to share my story because it keeps me accountable and because I want to help others. I never want another mom to feel as broken and shame-swamped as I did. If reading my words gives one person the nudge he or she needs to commit to making a positive change, that is well worth putting myself out there – both online and in real life.

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.

Schmoozing Without Boozing

Eureka! A fitted jacket still looks nice at the end of a night out when you haven’t consumed a margarita and bottle of wine!

On Saturday night my husband and I attended an annual party with our circle of preschool parent friends.

Long story short:

I stayed sober, enjoyed authentic conversation, and even felt (relatively) comfortable and (mostly) confident. Booze-less schmoozing with peers: achievement unlocked!

Short story long:

I don’t know if it was the cooler weather or what, but the party was not as boozy as I remembered it being last year. The alcohol was certainly plentiful. My hostess friend has exquisite taste in everything, from fashion to interior design to tequila, so the bar was stocked with an all-star line-up that included Whispering Angel and Casamigos. But the overall vibe was surprisingly mellow.

I was 100% resolute in my decision to not drink of course, but I still felt a pang for that Casamigos: FOMOOT (fear of missing out on tequila). I stepped up to the bar and ordered a club soda with lime for myself and a gin and tonic for my husband (his only drink of the night). And that was that. Once I had a drink in my hand, I got over my momentary FOMOOT. Boozy thoughts fizzled fast, evaporating from my brain for the rest of the night.

It was a lovely party. Dinner was a little higher in SmartPoints than I would have liked but I’ve made up for that. My husband and I caught up with some good friends and we even spent some of the time NOT talking about our kids!

I fielded a couple of comments about not drinking, but it really was just not a thing. Just as I’d hoped. I didn’t feel judged or outcast. My choice was taken in stride, as it should be.

Everyone who was drinking seemed to be in control. Which is a good thing of course. But I definitely felt like a bit of a loser for needing to take a prolonged (maybe forever) booze break, when everyone around me was handling their rosé and margaritas just fine. As I teetered on the edge of a pity party, I reminded myself of the following:

1) You never know what is really going on behind the closed doors of someone else’s mind. A relationship that may seem perfectly functional on the outside may be painful on the inside. Or not –

2) Either way, it doesn’t matter. And I can’t spend precious time and brain power creating stories about other people’s drinking. The only story that should matter to me is mine.

3) I am not weaker than my friends because I took a break from booze. I chose to do something healthy for myself and, if anything, I should feel stronger – not weaker – for making that choice.

We left the party when we got tired, around 9:15. Again, the “L”-word popped into my head. “What, we can’t even stay out past 10 now that I’m not drinking anymore?! We are such losers!” But when I said goodbye to my hostess friend, I apologized for the fact that we were leaving so early and she said, “Are you kidding me? That’s why the party started at 6!”

We are all parents of young kids. So we are all tired. I am sober and therefore acutely aware of my fatigue; whereas I used to attempt to power through it by pounding glass after glass of wine to keep the dopamine and sugar flowing and keep me awake. And for what? To have sloppy conversations I can’t remember the next day? To waste another 20 or so SmartPoints? To feel “cool” because I can stay out late? Did that ever actually feel cool? The crappy night of sleep and next morning’s hangover certainly never did.

On Sunday morning, I woke clear-headed. I took my dog for a long walk and did a Peloton ride, scoring one of my highest outputs of the week. Then I took my kids to their swim lessons and made it through the day with consistent energy and zero regrets.

I shudder to think of where I would have been physically and mentally if I had been nursing a crushing hangover.

It’s just not worth it. Not to me, not anymore.