After much thought and Advil, I have decided I am going on a sex/dating and drinking sabbatical. I went on a six-month sex sabbatical after my breakup from my fiance a few years ago — or, rather, I announced I was going on a six-month sex sabbatical and then it lasted for, I think, around two. It wasn’t a complete failure, in other words. Hilariously, I went on a sex sabbatical because all of my efforts to get laid were being thwarted and I figured I might as well decide to NOT have sex with a purpose.
Meanwhile, I have never taken a significant break from drinking. I didn’t start drinking until I was in college — I believe most people start in high school, so I was a late bloomer in more ways than one — and I remember the night I got drunk the first time as well as you can possibly remember a hazy night 13 years ago. The amount and frequency of my drinking has gone up and down over the years, but I generally consider myself to be a responsible boozer. I don’t drink and drive (easy when you don’t have a car!), I don’t say things I don’t mean, and, for the most part, I don’t do things I actually regret.
My drinking has increased in frequency and volume since my breakup. When I was at my lowest, sitting alone in the apartment we shared, feeling like I would never be loved by anyone again, my dog Lucca and a bottle of red kept me company. Wine fueled every instance that I checked my ex’s email, hunting for proof that he had been cheating. When I was proven at least somewhat right (that he was dating the girl I suspected he cheated on me with), a couple glasses of Malbec would inspire me to scope out her Facebook page or troll recent media party photos in hopes of glimpsing a photo of them together.
But I got over him and I moved on and I started dating. It was weird at first. I hadn’t dated anyone new in five years and my self-esteem was badly damaged. The person I loved who I thought loved me, who had proposed and told me he wanted to be with me forever, one day seemingly changed his mind. About me and about us. As instantly as a light switching off, or that’s how it felt. Even though I was ready to date again, to meet new people and to, gasp, have sex with them, I didn’t feel confident that the same thing wouldn’t happen again. That there was a possibility I could fall in love again and that person could just change their mind about me with the snap of their fingers. I felt like I was missing something, a certain je ne sais quoi that M. couldn’t put his finger on and neither could I. I often thought to myself, I am lacking something. If I wasn’t lacking something, M. wouldn’t have changed his mind about you. I dated one guy for two months who couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for being in a real relationship and I blamed my lack of something for that too. Then I entered into a relationship with someone else for six months. We said I love you to each other. And then he took it back. Again, I thought, What is it I lack? (Sorry for the Dr. Seuss rhyme.)
In the last six months, I have dated up a storm. I’ve slept around and, for the most part, had a good time.
It relaxes me, it makes my fears of rejection and abandonment melt away, it makes me feel like the kind of woman that would never happen to again. Drinking also shushes the sensible angel on my shoulder who tries and fails to remind me to take things slow if I’m actually interested in a person. A few glasses of wine and I’m giving sensibility the finger. I feel good, I silently boast. I’m just having a good time! And look, he’s into me. Why am I going to put the breaks on something that’s going well?
Sex takes that up about 10 notches. In bed with someone, I feel like a f**king goddess. I feel hot, smart, funny, sexy, beautiful, all of it. I feel in control. Control is what I have been grasping for ever since I was blindsided by my fiance calling things off. And I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. In bed with someone, I feel whole.
Then the sun comes up. The light streaming through a window (mine or his) illuminates the truth. I maybe have a hangover. I desperately need a glass of water. Rolling over, I look at the person I slept with and I wonder if they felt as awesome as I did the night before. As time goes on, I usually don’t hear from them, or I do and they want something very different than what I want. They don’t want to get to know me better. They already know enough to determine they’re not interested in something more. And suddenly I don’t feel so whole again. It’s not that I regret my decisions. I just hate that the high I get from them — the control, the confidence, the courage — doesn’t last.
After bawling my eyes out last night after the pattern repeated itself once again, I’ve finally come to a conclusion. I have to take ownership of my feelings and behavior. It’s not enough to acknowledge that I’m an extreme emotions junkie. I need to figure out and manage why those extreme emotions come up. I need to feel confident completely in who I am without a drink in my hand or a man in my bed. I need to really see and believe, 24/7, that I am a whole person who is lacking nothing, rather than depending on a man or a buzz to give me that validation.
So. I’m taking a break from drinking. And from dating. And from sex, even with people I don’t care about. I’m not putting a time frame on it — I’m going to go as long as I feel like I need to. If I fall off the wagon, I’ll just hop back on again. Maybe I’ll come out of it a stronger, truly confident person.