a dance with sobriety.

Hi, my name is Liz, and I am not an alcoholic.

Or maybe I am.

(But seriously, I’m not.)

Nevertheless, I’m having a hard time determining whether it makes no difference, or all the difference.

I should begin by stating that I have a complicated history with alcohol.  My mother was an alcoholic — 28 years sober, thank you very much — and she met my stepfather at an AA meeting when I was four.  And if I hadn’t pointed my chubby finger at the guy across the room sporting Johnny Depp’s hairstyle from Blow and said, “Mommy, Mommy, hug that man!,” they never would have met.  Or gotten married.  Or gifted me with my two wonderful younger brothers (one of whom has his own issues with alcoholism and is now nearly two years sober).

I spent most of my time growing up in my mother and stepfather’s house, where there was, understandably, no liquor to be found.  When I would go to my father’s house and spot a bottle of beer lurking in the back of the refrigerator, I felt strangely ashamed and confused.  My young mind reeled with questions: Did the mere presence of alcohol in my father’s fridge mean that he was an alcoholic?  Did the fact that my mother and stepfather were X-number of years sober make them somehow better or stronger than my father?

And then I grew older and started my own relationship with alcohol.  I was the last of my friends to try drinking, and somewhere at the back of my closet there’s an embarrassing camcorder tape with footage from my first drunken night.  My best friend and boyfriend teamed up to rent a hotel room to honor the occasion (I’ve never looked at a Motel 6 in the same way since).

After that, I embraced drinking like it was a long-lost friend.  There was a time (many years ago) when I could do ten shots and not feel a damn thing.  That was the first time I thought to myself, ‘Hm, maybe I should lay off the drinking a bit.’  And then I promptly thought, ‘Nah…I’m just blessed with an amazingly high tolerance.  Thanks, Mom!’  But some unconscious part of me must have realized something was amiss, and I changed up my social group and stopped drinking as heavily.

Then, a couple years later, I got married.  As it turns out, my ex-husband was a raging alcoholic (because, of course).

A divorce and several years later, I’ve given up hard liquor entirely (six months in and going strong!) and have cultivated my friendship with beer and wine.  But I still feel awkward when I’m around my largely-sober family and pour myself a glass of wine.  And my body doesn’t handle a heavy night of drinking quite like it used to (fortunately for my liver, those nights are relatively few and far between).

But then, last night, I found myself feeling unjustifiably frustrated and poured myself a glass of wine as way to demonstrate–and cope with–my anger.  It was a strange combination of rebellion and surrender.  And it scared the crap out of me.

Although I point to last night as the inciting incident that prompted this first little experiment, it’s my lifelong history with alcohol–both its absence and its presence–that is really driving me to take this step…specifically, a one-month foray into sobriety.

For the next 30 days, I’m not going to drink a drop of alcohol.  I’m not doing this because I need to or because I particularly want to, but mostly because I’m curious.  I’m curious if I’ll feel different one day in, one week in, one month in.  I’m curious how my friends and family will react.  I’m curious how long it will take them to notice.  I’m curious if it will be harder or easier than I think.  I’m curious about the effect alcohol has had on my life, and one way to explore this is by cutting it out entirely.

At least for a little while.  Or, depending on how this plays out, forever.  Who knows?  I sure as hell don’t.  But let’s find out.

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2 thoughts on “a dance with sobriety.

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