Have you ever had that moment when a myriad of thoughts that have been floating around in your mind suddenly congeal into one, cohesive, utterly convincing realization and you can’t believe you haven’t seen it all along?
Nah, me either. At least, not often.
Last night, however, I was fortuitous enough to experience such a moment, and the simple truth of the thought I was left with was powerful enough to spur me to immediate action.
Giving up alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and any other tempting substance that might come my way for 100 days.
Well, I won’t bore you with the details, but it boils down to this: I have long used the above-mentioned remedies as a convenient way to a) mark important moments, b) avoid dealing with truly painful emotions, and c) occupy my brain and body when I am too lazy to make a concerted effort to use free time.
In fact, I realized my entire relationship with substances has largely been one driven by relaxation, celebration, and consolation. And, let’s be honest, pretty much every day can fit into one of these three categories, and sometimes several simultaneously.
“So what?” you may ask. “Everyone drinks after a long day, or to celebrate a grand occasion, or to drown their sorrows when the stress gets to be too much. That’s why we have a multi-billion dollar business of bars and resorts and mix-your-own cocktails.”
And you would be right. Our society by and large not only accepts, but really celebrates, this mentality, particularly with alcohol. And to be fair, many of us really are able to just have a few drinks from time to time and leave it at that. But many more of us have fallen into a trap of avoidance, abusing the privilege of indulgence and getting away with it (hell, even bragging about it) because it is such a commonly accepted mode of distraction.
But combining the recent death of an old friend, the witness of his widow’s grief, a come-to-jesus moment with my long-time weight struggle, the realization that there are past emotional traumas I have yet to fully tackle, and the difficult admission that I have not put forth the effort to engage in activities that I truly love because it simply takes more energy than pouring a drink — all of these have synthesized into one crystal clear memo: it’s time to put down the glass and pick up my life.
For the sake of this blog, I’m choosing to focus on the sobriety portion of my challenge. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, not by a long shot. Admittedly, I’ve spent many years being bad at drinking (read: binge drinking, blacking/passing out, and waking up to a hellish hangover), but it has never been a siren that calls me back day after day. I do not wake up after a bender and want another drink. I do not rely on alcohol to regularly numb my feelings. I do not require alcohol to have social interactions.
But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been abusing it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t used it as a convenient excuse to put less effort into my life. In fact, drinking is often one of the laziest things I do. After a long day of teaching, I will come home and consider my options: go for a bike ride? practice my ukulele? take a dance class? work on my writing? read a book? or pour a glass of wine and turn on the TV? My already tired brain barely has to think about it. I’ll take Option F for a $1,000, Alex.
Well, enough is enough.
Last month I turned 30, and it’s about time I put on my Big Girl Pants and push myself a little. If I want to be my best self, if I want to be authentically happy, if I want to truly live with no regrets, then I need to go through some growing pains.
Let’s just hope it’s more growing and less pain-ing.
Serendipitously, 100 days just happens to bring me to January 1, 2016. (The kismet! I feel it!) I really like the symbolism of that date, and I look forward to having the opportunity to make a fresh start with a clear head and a better understanding of myself.
And for now? For now I’ll pour myself some herbal tea, curl up with my pup, and read a good book.
I’m taking it one day at a time, so here’s to 1 day down and 99 to go.