I stopped drinking when I was 29. I was tired of the consequences outweighing the benefits — tired of calling in sick to work, tired of hooking up with people I would have run from sober, tired of crying and throwing things for no reason. Oh, and did I mention I was tired of all the drama drinking brought to my love life? Sure, there were the occasional incident-free drunken date nights. But when men were brought into the mix(ed drink), I didn’t tend to remain the cute, funny little version of me. My usually-sharp wit would dull into a mushy puddle of need. You know what I’m talking about: “You don’t realllllllly love me! I don’t believe you love me! I need you to love me! Do you promise you love me?” Ugh.I’m 33 now, and still sober, but at a crossroads. I’ve been alcohol-free for almost four years, and to be honest, a glass of wine is starting to sound pretty good. I miss it — it’s as simple as that. I miss sipping a margarita (on the rocks, no salt) with my Mexican food. I miss the elegant flute of champagne at the dawn of each New Year. I miss sharing a bottle of wine with my paramour du jour. Now, before you write me off as nothing more than a raging alcoholic in denial, please know: I’m not sitting around sobbing because I miss getting sloshed. I was never physically addicted to alcohol — drinking was just something I did to help quiet the ever-running whir of my overthinker’s oversensitive brain. Plus I liked the taste (no, really, I did).
So I’m thinking about saying sayonara to the dry life and allowing myself a glass of wine with dinner. The thing is, I’m terrified — and mainly about the consequences for my love life.
Like I said, I wasn’t always the most delightful date when I drank. Sure, I was fine with one glass of wine. But living in NYC in my mid-to-late 20s (an extended rough patch), one drink often led to more. There was the night I met up with Tom, an adorable drummer from an up-and-coming indie band, whom I’d met on an online dating site. Over our third or fourth vodka tonic, we somehow established that he was close friends with my first love (and first heartbreak), Jim. Instead of taking this tidbit in stride and bonding over a shared connection, I, um, started crying. And then I told Tom every wrenching detail of my years-old breakup with Jim. Because obviously the dude needed to know how important Jim had been to me, how I’d written an entire zine about him, how I’d believed he was my soul mate, how he had been The One …
Drinking while dating? It was dangerous. But dating without drinking had its own share of problems. For the past few years, I’ve suffered a series of duds. False starts, dashed hopes, great expectations squashed — more “not over my ex”-es than any nice girl should have to contend with. And then there were the guys who couldn’t understand the whys and hows of my sobriety.
Like Craig. Tall and dark with long eyelashes (my weakness), he was sexy in a skater-boy way (I never overcame my sixth-grade propensity for Vans and bowl-cuts). He was a friend of a friend, whom I’d casually admired for months, and his warm, easygoing manner won me over right away. He was a considerate guy who held doors open, carried my bike up the stairs, and offered to feed my cats when I went away. Sweet, right?
Right — and things progressed nicely until, cuddled on my couch one night, Craig said, “It makes me sad that we can never have a glass of wine together.” Which sounded, to me, like, “The fact that you don’t drink is a dealbreaker.” He claimed he was just being honest, and we tried to talk it out. But it bothered me deeply that my sobriety — something I was proud of, something I’d worked hard for — could be an issue for him. His uber-casual comment made me feel like there was something wrong with me for being “unable” to drink like a Normal Person. Needless to say, we didn’t pan out.
So now I’ve been alcohol-free for almost four years, single for just as long, and I’m ready for something real. I’m ready for something awesome with someone awesome. I’m ready to let go of the all-or-nothing mindset that kept me in perpetual fear of What Might Happen if I had a drink. I’m ready to try drinking like a Normal Person: a glass of wine with dinner here and there. No more, no less. I want a healthy, sane relationship, and I want to be a healthy, sane person, both in relationships and out. Two very worthwhile goals, methinks. And methinks — no, meknows —I’ll get there one day, drinking or not.