Dryuary is a thing now. People make a New Year’s resolution to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January.
There’s a website: “Dryuary is all about Not Drinking in January. Join with others, share your strength, take the Dryuary Challenge!” People can sign up to stay in contact with other dryuary participants and stay encouraged.
I get it. Every few months, I have to stop drinking coffee for a week to rein-in my caffeine intake – cut down my three-cups-of-coffee-and-a-hazelnut-latte habit to a half cup of coffee in the morning.
Alcohol is another story. I stopped drinking more than nine years ago. As of yesterday, I’ve been not drinking for nine years, five months and a week. July 29, 2017 will be ten years of sobriety for me. It will also by my 44th birthday.
I can’t “rein-in” my alcohol intake. One drink is too many and 1,000 is never enough. I’m an alcoholic.
The first time I stopped drinking was Christmas Eve of 2006. I had been literally fall-down drunk at a work holiday party, falling into a table at Jazz club and knocking drinks into the laps of my colleagues and CEO. The next morning I didn’t remember it being as embarrassing as my husband said it was.
“Everyone was drinking,” I said, “They all laughed – you’re the only one making a big deal about it.”
“I don’t want my daughter raised by an alcoholic,” was his only response. Our daughter was less than a month from her third birthday.
Still in denial – I agreed to stop drinking for three months. My own private dryuary – that lasted until March 24. And I did it – not a drop for three entire months. Shortly after my time as a teetotaler, I ordered a glass of Riesling at dinner with my husband.
“Are you okay with this?” I asked after the waitress walked away from our table.
“Are you?” he asked.
As it turned out, I wasn’t. I never again got so drunk that I fell into a table full of drinks, but drinking started to become that thing that I carried around with me everywhere, like a backpack full of lead – it weighed me down. I couldn’t imagine who I was if I was someone who couldn’t drink, but I couldn’t deny I had been happier during those three months without alcohol.
By May, I decided I had to quit drinking. I didn’t want to keep hiding empty wine bottles at the bottom of the trash. I didn’t want to lie anymore and say I’d had a beer at lunch, when really I’d had a beer after having a cocktail. I didn’t want to keep making deals with myself around alcohol – bargaining with my addiction.
I didn’t want our daughter to be raised by an alcoholic either.
I never did AA – or, at least, I didn’t attend AA meetings regularly. Instead, I met with my therapist weekly at first – working through all the fears I had about who I was if I was someone who couldn’t drink. My husband and I stopped going out. I remember going to lunch with another couple who we had spent most of our Friday and Saturday nights with for years. They ordered beers and we stuck with water.
“So what’s going on with you two?” our friend asked.
I don’t remember how I responded. I know I wasn’t ready to talk about it – or say out loud my constant inner dialogue at the time, which sounded mostly like me yelling at myself, “YOU CAN’T DRINK NOW BECAUSE YOU’RE AN ALCOHOLIC – AND IF YOU DON’T STOP, ALL YOU WILL EVER BE IS SOMEONE WHO CAN’T STOP DRINKING!”
My yelling at myself eventually did stop. I still have days. Last year, I fell face-first into my addiction when I ended up alone in a room with a half-smoked joint. I stared at it, and instead of yelling, I heard a whisper, “You could smoke that and no one would ever even know.”
I ran out of the room as if it was on fire.
(Drinking wasn’t my only thing. I liked weed. And pills. Xanax. Once, after my husband had hernia surgery, I had emptied his bottle of prescription pain meds before he was out of bed the next day.)
I’m not scared anymore about the person I will be if I’m someone who can’t drink – it turns out she is a lot more happy nine-plus years into her sobriety than the 20 years she spent drinking.
I hope everyone who commits to Dryuary gets what they want from it. And if you’re someone who is thinking maybe dryuary isn’t long enough – I hope you find whatever help you need.