Heads up: this essay discusses my relationship with alcohol, if you're in recovery or struggling with addiction this is probably not a good essay for you to read.
This fall has been a season of change for me. The universe has been giving me signs for a few months now, that it was time for me to slow down. But in my constant desire to move forward I admittedly forgot how to do that, to stay slow. It happens to the best of us, but it sure feels like it happens to me more than it does for most. As evidenced by basically every other blog post I've written.
One night this summer, deep in the throes of Tennessee, I made pizzas for a few coworkers. In an effort to get back to my roots, and find some semblance of home in the corporate housing I'd been provided with, I decided to make both the dough and sauce from scratch. The recipe I followed for the sauce called for a splash of a dry white wine, something I've been staying away from for the last 3 years. Normally I'd simply go without, but on that day I found myself circling the liquor section at the grocery store. Something was calling me. I made a few trips there and back, before settling on a dry chardonnay that came in what I can only describe as a juice box. I included a few tablespoons into my sauce and put the rest in the fridge. I felt like I had answered the call.
I forgot how much I love the taste of white wine. And the smell lingered in the air even after the alcohol burned off with the heat of the stove. At the end of the night I stared at the wine in the fridge, wondering why I'd kept it. I wasn't planning on cooking anything else with the wine, but for some reason I let it stay there.
If you're new here, or unfamiliar with my journey, about three years ago I decided to stop drinking alcohol. It was a decision born more out of convenience than necessity. I've thankfully never struggled with addiction, but was able to come to the conclusion that I like my life better when I'm not drinking. It's been admittedly easy for me. It's not hard to go without something that you don't even miss.
But I think I was starting to miss it, especially in Tennessee. I missed the ritual of a glass of wine with dinner, or cocktails paired with deep conversation. There's an element of social bonding that comes with drinking, that I've been good at replicating with sparking water. I started to long for that added element after a long work day. I'd watch my coworkers enjoy a beer on their porches or smell the fermentation on their breath as we celebrated our days off on the river.
During my last few nights in Tennessee I kept coming back to the fridge. Staring at the juice carton of wine, daring myself to take a sip. I'd feel the light of the refrigerator illuminate me, a stark contrast to my dark apartment, once again calling me. After the third night I poured the wine down the sink.
I felt angry with myself. Like I'd opened pandora's box with that stupid single serving portion of wine. I don't ever remember feeling longing for alcohol the way I did in Tennessee. I'd never been so enamored by the smell, or felt the call to imbibe. Drinking had always been an additional element to parties or the perfect end to a long evening. It wasn't something that defined me, or consumed my thoughts. At least, not until now.
This new sense of longing scared me. I'd never considered myself an alcoholic, and I still don't, but this was a new feeling for me. Something I didn't feel like I could control. I felt like I didn't know myself anymore.
So I did what I normally do when I don't feel like myself. I listened to the advice of people I trust, who reminded me that the reason I stopped drinking was never because of addiction, it was a choice, a promise that I'd made to myself. If I was feeling this pull, it might be worth it to give in, to listen. I grappled with it for awhile. Would I be betraying myself? I made another promise, that I would pay attention to my body and my heart. And if the moment felt right I would answer.
I did listen. When I got back to LA I found myself deep diving into the world of bread baking. First with easy, no-knead bread and then onto the big leagues with sourdough born from my very own starter. And let me tell you, baking bread allows for a lot of self reflection. In between kneading and rising, I gave myself lots of time to think. I thought, and I listened, and after a few weeks I poured myself a half glass of white wine, made myself two pieces of toast, put on my coziest pajamas and sat down to enjoy my first drink in three years.
Besides remembering how much I love the taste of white wine, I quickly remembered how much I hate the fuzzy feeling that fills my head when I drink. How my thoughts cloud together and how warm my hands and neck get. That tiny glass put me to sleep almost instantly, and I woke up in the morning feeling groggy, and somewhat guilty.
Had I just thrown away three years of sobriety for one stupid night? Maybe. But I don't regret it. It was almost like a little refresher course for me. Turns out I still don't like drinking. I like the feeling of being in control, feeling clear headed and in charge of myself. I don't regret it because there's nothing more valuable to me than listening to my own needs and giving myself that respect. I thought long and hard about having that drink, and I satiated the curious part of my brain, the part telling me that something was missing. I still consider myself "sober" because labels are dumb and it's the easiest way for me to explain myself to other people when the time comes.
Is there a lesson to learn here? Probably not. But if there is, it's about staying slow. About taking those long pauses to listen to the things your heart and soul are telling you.