Updated: Jul 2, 2019
In October 2017 I decided to fast from alcohol for a while. It was after a weekend I spent with family and friends. I'd gotten in a dicey conversation about politics and ended up saying much more than I meant to, in probably less-than-kind ways. Which I can blame almost completely on the delicious Manhattan that my father-in-law had made me and I drank on an empty stomach. The holes in my already rather loose filter got larger, and some things came through that shouldn't have. After a few weeks of contemplating a fast for the reasons I stated in the last blog, this seemed like as good a sign as any that I should take a break from drinks.
I decided to fast from alcohol through New Year's. It was rough at first. The first six weeks I quit drinking, I found sorrow. I cried a lot about things I didn't even know had been bothering me and was amazed that my three-to-five-times-a-week drink had been keeping those things at bay. But by allowing myself to be sad, I found that what Jesus said is true: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
In general, the main lesson for me in this has been learning how to receive comfort: comfort when I'm grieving, when I'm feeling anxious, when I'm simply wound-up and overstimulated. I struggled with clinical depression and anxiety in my early 30s. I've since learned that people prone to anxiety are more prone to be agitated from certain stimulus. For me it's noise: multiple conversations going on at once in a small room, loud atmospheric noise at family gatherings. Add that to my sensitive soul and tendency toward people pleasing and I am struggling inwardly in crowds of people in ways that no one in the room realizes.
One memorable day, I was driving home from the kids' soccer practice. It had been a stressful day at work, and the kids were loud on the ride home -- they might have been being silly or they might have been fighting. Whatever. My nerves were a-jangle. I started yearning for getting home, opening the fridge and filling my juice glass with Chardonnay. But instead, when we walked in the door, I told my sweet girls that I needed ten minutes all by myself. I took my phone up to my bedroom, and lay down on the floor in child's pose. I turned on a worship song by Matt Maher. Here are the lyrics:
You are my joy, you are my song
You are the well, the one I'm drawing from
You are my refuge my whole life long
Where else would I go?
Surely my God is the strength of my soul.
Your love defends me, your love defends me
And when I feel like I'm all alone
Your love defends me, your love defends me
Five minutes later, my nerves were all soothed, and downstairs I went to make dinner and generally kill it as a mama.
I began to find other ways to comfort myself. I really did start deep breathing more. I asked my husband for hugs. I made phone calls to good friends. I prayed and told God about my worries. And I also started making different decisions about how I spent my time and with whom. I was inspired by a blog that went viral in November on Thought Catalogue by Briana Wiest. Here's an excerpt:
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.
"Making a choice to build a life you don't need to regularly escape from." Isn't that a powerful idea? This does not mean building a life without challenges or sacrifice; that would not be a life in accordance with who I am in Christ. But it does mean exercising freedom and discernment so that I am sacrificing for the right things and the right reasons (people pleasing isn't one of them), taking into account my own abilities, weaknesses, and calling.
And it does mean relying on God's love to defend me rather than on a buzz.
But more important -- MOST important -- a life I don't need to regularly escape from is the life God is calling me to moment by moment, which is a path of rigorous honesty, emotional and otherwise. The old standbys -- a cup of tea, a journal, and a place to be alone -- are becoming more effective. Being sober helps me hear his voice more clearly, and I'm beginning to understand in a new way how His love is enough.
A note to the moms of young ones out there, who make up a large portion of my audience and readership. I get that you can't leave your babies and toddlers alone in the kitchen for ten minutes at 5:15 p.m. That's the era for me wherein wine became a habit, and I pour grace out on you from my little laptop. But I also encourage you that there are ways to care for yourself so that your life feels a little less escape-worthy. Stick with me. I'll keep writing about this as God leads.