30 Days and “Counting”

photoI decided a month ago to stop drinking alcohol for 3 months.How did this come about? Well let me start this story at the very beginning as it was part of a process.

One thing worth mentioning is that there is a wealth of information about everyday life that it is easy to forget if it is not documented.

I have been keeping journals consistently for over a decade now.I had been keeping them longer than that,  off and on, from the time I was in my teens.In recent years, I was inspired to keep a journal by the book “The Artist’s Way”  by Julia Cameron.The book advises the reader to journal three pages of stream of consciousness,  long hand writing first thing in the morning.They are referred to as “Morning Pages” although, for me, they haven’t always taken place in the morning.I haven’t even done them every day, truth be told.I have managed to make them a consistent part of my life, though,  and can’t really imagine my life without them.

In May, I was having some car repairs done.( yes, again ).I took some time to sit by the river downtown while the car was being worked on.It was a lovely spring day that was sunny and breezy.I sat on a bench, pen and notebook in hand, to pray for wisdom and listen.I asked about finances somewhere along the line.I got the intuitive sense that if I gave up drinking alcohol, it would help my finances.This came to me as  something more than just not spending money on alcohol.It felt more like a kind of shift, a lifestyle change.Hmmm.

It didn’t feel restrictive or heavy.It felt more like a different way of doing things.

Let me say this, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe I am an alcoholic.If I am, then it will come out sooner or later.I do not believe I am in denial.I have struggled with the “lifestyle” of drinking.Playing music in bars, working in restaurants, and being married to someone who is in a similar position has set the stage for this.I don’t think that this is uncommon.I also don’t look at booze as ” bad ” so to speak.I compare my situation to what happens when you go to the doctor to get an x-ray.It doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to the patient, but the technician steps out of the room because they are doing this all the time.I am in an enviroment that puts me at risk.

After I received this guidance, it took some time for me to actually try it out in earnest and take it at face value.

Several months ago, I did something called “counting” which was inspired by a book called “Money Drunk,Money Sober”which Julia Cameron co-authored with Mark Bryan.The practice of counting is writing down ever penny you spend, what you spend it on , as well as every penny you earn .After a month, you begin to get a very clear picture of what you have been doing with your money.I did it during June and July for 4 weeks.This was not earth shattering for me but it was very revealing.For one thing, I earned more than I thought and I spent more than I thought.What did I spend it on? Well, the number one thing, besides bills like mortgage and utilities, was food.When I say food, I mean groceries, the stuff you prepare at home.The second was alcohol.Now, I didn’t separate going out alcohol from staying home alcohol.Because I was I was doing this exercise, I was more mindful of what I was spending out.It was still more than I expected.I wasn’t spending as much money on gas for the car, clothes, dinners out and/ or entertainment.In fact, the money spent on alcohol was rivaled what I spent om food.Whoa.

Where does this leave things? Well, food is a tough one because I need to eat.I buy the food for my household ( my husband and I ) and I do enjoy cooking and eating healthy food.Food is not only about sustenance for me.It’s also about connection and creativity.Now the question is, is there another way to find that? Have I been squandering my creativity in one place? I work with food and drink and have for many years.I also connect with friends in this way. Actually, from a caloric point of view, alcohol consumption can be eye opening. One leisurely Sunday, I took note of what I drank over the course of a day and the calories they contained.   900 Calories!!    I got a good scare, that’s for sure. After that, I decided to hop on the wagon for 30 days.It was a good thing, at the time, but it only seemed to scratch the surface.

As I pondered abstaining from alcohol, I looked at different articles on the internet written about how sobering up changed their lives.I am not talking about the standard AA ” bottom out” kind of experience but more of a health and wellness variety.In other words, did you notice physical changes, better sleep, more productivity?.Let me take this time to say, I have nothing against Alcoholics Anonymous.It is an excellent program that has helped many lives the world over.I just didn’t see it as a fit for me.

As a result of my search, I stumbled upon Hello Sunday Morning, an online support group more focused on the idea of, as they put it, ” changing our relationship with alcohol”.This seemed to make sense to me so I decided to check it out.It centers around the concept of taking a voluntary break from drinking for a period of time, like 3 months or a year,writing about your experience and connecting with others doing the same thing.I decided to give it a try for 3 months.The people involved in this seemed to be predominately from Australia and the UK.Some are heavy drinkers looking to quit for good.Others, like myself, are doing it to experience a new way of life and don’t see themselves as “Tee total” forever.May I also mention that I am not recieving any endorsement from this group.It is just something I am doing.

It dawned on me how all these years I have been looking for something like this.It’s one thing to be in serious enough shape to consider rehab but what about the rest of us? How about those who just want to drink less? I know that this can be the subject of great debate. There are some who don’t believe there is a such thing as moderate drinking, All or nothing seems to be the norm.In sharp contrast to this, I see myself as being a part of the population whose needs are not being addressed.

It has been 30 days since I have had alcohol and I feel pretty good I am, in fact, sleeping better, saving money, and discovering how to socialize without it.I have been recording my spending and earning, though nor quite as diligently as before.The most troubling expense for me, aside from alcohol, would be groceries and that seems to be roughly where it had been before.Although there is always room for improvement,I can live with that for now.

The hardest thing about this process is looking at all the things I would like to accomplish and knowing that there is only so much I can do in each day.In order to be at my best, I have to take time for me. When I don’t take time, or have time, for the things I enjoy, alcohol serves as a quick fix, or makeshift alternative.I now seeking out the things I enjoy that don’t involve alcohol.It could be a good book, dancing, writing, visiting with a good friend, or finishing a long postponed project.My creative side needs more attention.That is becoming more and more obvious.

I am only  1/3 of the way finished with this journey but I feel as though there is still so much to learn.I am not in a HUGE hurry to get there but, yes, I am looking forward to having a glass of wine again, no joke. Time goes by so fast and I want to have something to show for the 3 months.For now, I am open to all the richness that this experience has to give.

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