A few weeks ago, I wrote about how this past year I have been working on noticing what triggers some of my behaviors around consumption – and by “consumption” I mean shopping, drinking wine, eating whatever is in the fridge, and escapist Netflix watching.
I started with what I had noticed about the relationship for me between food and fear.
And as I reflect on this theme, I realize that really, all my mindless consumption has it’s roots in fear.
The famed and no doubt fearless writer Elizabeth Gilbert espouses that “your fear is boring” — which is likely true, but I also believe that it serves an important purpose.
When I turned my attention to my habits around consuming alcohol, here’ s what I noticed:
Whenever I crave a glass of wine on a Friday or Saturday evening (or, let’s be honest – on any given night of the week), it is usually because I am having trouble relaxing and allowing myself to flow with ease into the evening or weekend, because I feel like I haven’t been productive enough.
I didn’t cross off everything on my to-do list (today’s list, for example, has 16 items on it).
I didn’t tackle that project that will be hard because I’ve never done it before so I might fail (fear) or just not be good at it (perfectionism).
In short, I didn’t do all the things, so maybe I don’t deserve to rest.
I feel like less, like I’m not enough.
As though my to-do list is the criteria by which I am to be measured by, as if my success as a human being depends on my output, my productivity. I want the wine to help me forget that I’m a failure.
This is a battle with fear and perfectionism that I have long waged and I am slowly relinquishing my tight grip on it. I can tell you that whenever I am able to be self-aware and notice my triggers (mindfulness), I do choose differently.
But this has not been easy, my habit of turning to wine to relax me is so ingrained, has been with me for so long, that I have had to really work at not casting about for a different thing to consume as a distraction (like the t.v., or way too much coffee). Instead of a glass of wine, I make the effort to go for a walk outside, I play a board game with my kids, I write. I offer myself compassion whenever I can because some nights I have to sit on my hands to keep them from reaching for a wine glass.
And as with any habit, the more I choose something kinder, including offering myself kinder thoughts, the more often I am happy to forgo the glass of wine. If I’m completely honest, I can see that the wine doesn’t really help in the end anyways. My “not enoughness” is still there to greet me in the morning…now accompanied by a sulfite-induced headache.
A friend told me that her glass of wine at the end of the day gave her “something to look forward to.” Another has told me that she is able to justify her habit of having a Manhattan every evening because she only ever has one. I don’t know what the answer is and my intention here is not to offer permission or judgement or advice of any kind, only to share my own experience with alcohol at this time in my life because I suspect I am not alone in my habitual and often mindless relationship to it.
I don’t want to do things mindlessly anymore. I don’t want to be chased through the long dark winter nights by my habits, with my fears and insecurities snapping at my heels, driving me to the liquor cabinet, to the Amazon website, to the endless episodes on t.v. where you never have to come up for air.
I want to turn and face the demons, to understand them, to put them to rest…with love.
I want to be able to relax in my own home at the end of the day or the week without a glass of wine.
I want to be enough, just as I am, with all my flaws and weirdness and beauty residing happily and soberly together.
I want to live on purpose, to realize that in every moment I get to decide. To be fully conscious or to go below consciousness (which is where alcohol takes you) – where there is nothing to be felt, or resolved or gained.
Because that glass of wine is simply a way of courting oblivion. And I want to be fully awake to this beautiful life. My life. I want to hear what pain and fear have to teach me. I want to welcome them with compassion and love and heal them, not run from them forever into the dark night with a bottle and a corkscrew tucked under my arm.
Now when I feel like I might like a glass of wine, I pause. I breathe. I ask myself: why do you need a glass of wine today, what edge are you walking that feels so uncomfortable that you want to blot it out, what imaginary failure are you courting?
Have some tea.
Write it down…with all the love and compassion in your trembling heart, write your way through this habit that numbs you from the pain and then also disconnects you from the joy of your one beautiful life.
So here it is: I am working on understanding my relationship with alcohol and I am slowly changing it, finding that I need it less and less because – and I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating – I really do want to live: fully, energetically and with purpose.
Maybe you do to?