When you stop drinking, you have to deal with this marvelous personality that started you drinking in the first place. ~ Jimmy Breslin
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~Dr. Seuss
Saying the words – I drink, therefore I am – sounds ridiculous to me now. Yet, before I stopped, I sort of felt this way. Alcohol seemed so intertwined with who I was, my very identity, that I could not reasonably imagine removing it from my life.
For years, I cultivated this identity, convincing myself and others that my interest in alcohol was something academic and cultural, that it enhanced the very quality of my life.
My undergraduate thesis was about the Mediterranean diet, in which red wine figures daily and happily. My dream was to live the lifestyle of its originators who drank wine with every meal (and got upwards of 40% of their calories from fat!!!).
I became the girl who was always up for a drink – after work, before a movie, at art galleries, in airports or train stations, on the planes or trains themselves, at brunch, lunch, dinner, and beyond – picture me as the EverReady Bunny except instead of beating a drum, I was popping a cork.
I learned about viticulture – the various regions, soils, grapes, processes, the right food pairings – all in an attempt to distract from the fact that it was the singular compound – EtOH, ethanol – that held my true interest.
I expressed myself through my drinking, matching the alcohol with my mood and setting like I matched my belt and shoes:
- Wines were chosen not only based on what I was eating, but also where I wanted to be, and how much money was in my bank account: American, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, South African, Australian…from the relatively expensive to dirtball cheap.
- Beer was typically reserved for sports bars, athletic events, or very specific cuisines, like Irish or Jamaican.
- Hard liquor expressed my tougher, saltier side: Jamesons on the rocks, Maker’s Mark Manhattans, Chopin Cosmopolitans, and a wide variety of gins – Tangeray and tonic, Sapphire dirty martinis, Hendricks when I wanted it straight but wanted to seem like a connoisseur.
Part of what scared me about quitting drinking was the fear of what I’d lose – in a very basic sense, I was afraid I would lose part of myself. And I feared it was what other people liked best about me.
Now that it’s been more than 3 years since I had a drink, I can honestly say alcohol was never my identity. It was more like an article of clothing that was too tight. A distraction that, once removed, freed me up to see who I really am.