Wine was a good friend to me for a very long time. It had essentially become my security blanket when things weren't going well. Although I could list many other ways that I believed wine contributed to my well-being, the greatest of these was certainly to cushion any blows with which I was dealing.
From a bad day at work to relationship woes to parenting struggles, I'd pour myself a glass to soften my anxiety or unhappiness by dulling the pain or discomfort of the moment. Fast forward to today, more than six months since I last had a sip of alcohol and I continue to realize how this change in my routine has helped me to better understand myself.
Although a change in routine may be a strange way to describe embracing sobriety, it was actually one of the biggest hurdles I faced in overcoming my reliance on the stuff. Routines, after all, by their very nature provide us comfort and security. We come to rely on our daily patterns so intensely that when one of them falls away, it can be extremely destabilizing and distressing.
While I reworked my routines to help alleviate those moments of stress, it's only now -- six months in -- that I'm progressing into some deeper understandings around why I needed that routine in the first place. I've come to recognize that routines no only provide security and stability, but they can also (sometimes) obscure our own struggles and prevent us from waking up to our own need and capability to evolve and grow. So,what is this lady getting at, you may be asking.
I've always known I have an annoyingly negative voice in my head. In fact, I'll bet you've got a similar sounding one in your head too. I first became truly aware of the damage this voice was causing when I started meditating about 10 years ago. At the time it was an a-ha moment. I'd realized I was letting that nasty persona have way too much control over my thoughts. That was plain self-awareness 101. I learned to become aware of its power and try to control it by shutting it off as often as possible.
However, I was still a great fan of the liquor at the time -- and continued to love the sauce for a good 10 more years. Although I'd become much better at recognizing and controlling that negative voice, the nightly glasses of wine and periodic binges were an important part of my toolbox to shut it down. Easy peasy solution. Get a little buzzed (sometimes pretty sloshed) and I could forget about it, albeit for a short time.
The problem I continue to face even today, is that the negative voice is still there. My routine of turning to wine is gone. And, frankly I'm sick of trying to deal with the anxiety and relative misery that accompanies my negative thoughts. So, what am I supposed to do? Go back to alcohol? I don't want to do that. Meditate? Yes, sure. That helps. It gives me a break from my thoughts by helping me stay detached from them as they flow in and out of my busy brain. But a girl can only meditate for so long.
Six months into sobriety and I realize that it's actually very simple. I can stop thinking so negatively all the time. Today, as I was driving home from work I felt my stomach clench as my mind began to recount all the negative aspects of my life. I actually thought about how nice it would be to have a glass of wine - if only I still drank! After several minutes of discomfort and anguish, I realized I was allowing my negative thinking to take over, yet again.
I reminded myself that if I was able to quit drinking alcohol, I can certainly make another positive change in my life. I can stop thinking negatively. Or, at least, stop doing it as soon as I noticed the drum roll of complaints rippling across my mind by countering each negative thought with a positive thought.
Now, I'm not saying this is going to work perfectly. I know the world isn't rosy all the time. We have wars, greenhouse gases, homelessness and mosquitos in summer. Life isn't perfect. However, I don't need to add to the misery of the world by piling my own perceptions of how crummy life is on top of it. My life is pretty darn good and I shouldn't be hard-pressed to match every dark thought with a light one.
It's thanks to my new routine (or more precisely, the end of an old routine), that I've been able to recognize how negative I allow my mind to get. And, drinking enabled it to flourish within that routine. It's because of this longer term change I've experienced in my routine that a window into self-awareness opened. I'm glad I finally peered through it.