We celebrated my mom’s retirement tonight, just six of us, at dinner in the Waterfront Kitchen, overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. I noticed when I sat down that my sister and her boyfriend–who had arrived fifteen minutes before the rest of us– were nursing martinis. My mom promptly ordered a cocktail. My dad produced a bottle of distilled water he had brought from home; he always does that. My husband and I just drank the water the restaurant served.
Wine glasses were brought out and wine poured as we began our appetizers. I noticed my husband was growing agitated, and I asked him what was going on.
“I feel like such a prude,” he said. “A glass of wine would be nice.”
“Well have one then,” I told him.
“I won’t drink if you won’t.”
“Well, I’m not drinking tonight, but it’s fine with me if you want to, I can drive home.”
He opted out, but continued to seem pretty agitated; I attributed this to his being hungry and was hoping that he would mellow out once he got some food in his belly. Here we were in a nice restaurant, the kids were at home with a sitter, and we could just relax and enjoy our meal. Why let a dilemma about drinking detract from this fresh experience?
I watched my sister and mother drink more. They started getting a little louder, a little more animated. My dad, who is much more conservative with his consumption of alcoholic beverages, worked slowly on a glass of wine as he took careful bites of his entree. My sister’s boyfriend encouraged my husband to go ahead and have a glass if he wanted one. I was secretly glad that he decided not to.
So much of our drinking is simply out of habit. A lot of it arises from social pressure–everyone else is drinking, I might as well have one too. Why–and how–have we normalized the act of ingesting this powerful intoxicant when we know full well that it’s dangerous, and that ultimately it poisons us? And why don’t more of us question this behavior?
I sat there thinking about all of the things I could do instead of drinking:
1) Stay clear-headed and really listen to what the people around me are saying.
2) Take in the environment around me. Observe. Listen more.
3) Be aware of my thoughts. Challenge the thought that I would be more comfortable if I would let loose with a drink. Challenge the thought that catching a buzz is “fun.”
4) Sit up a little taller in my chair. Take a deep breath. Take another deep breath.
5) Remember that all of this apparent activity in the realm of the senses is simply a play of shadows cast over a timeless ground. For one moment, hold the awareness that we all are of source energy, expressing it as individual bundles of energy, all emanating from the same source.
6) Respect everyone’s freedom to live in accordance with their own set of values. Be loving and kind and appreciate the individual’s expression of his or her uniqueness. Be the opposite of judgmental. Be tolerant. Accepting.
7) Revel in the fact that my liver doesn’t need to work overtime to filter toxins out of my body. Look forward to waking up tomorrow hangover free. Feel a little smug and elitist about my healthy choice. Catch myself feeling smug and elitist, and take another deep breath.
Yes, I had a lot going on as I sat there at dinner tonight. Even as I watched my husband battling it out in his head about this choice to stop drinking (it has been since August), I was so clear about my choice, so in my integrity, that I was able to feel compassion for everyone there, just doing the best they can with their current resources and motivations.
I watched waiters bustling around, I heard people talking and laughing. I smelled delicious food and enjoyed tasting so many different flavors. I have discovered that not drinking has sharpened my senses measurably; I enjoy my food even more, and the simple taste of water leaves me content. Not drinking has simplified my life; it’s a blessing to enjoy what is right there in front of me. I am grateful I chose to stop. My body is too.
And I don’t have the guilt I had before, knowing that I was putting strain on various important organs in my body. What was driving me to drink before? Did I just want to cut loose? To have fun? Did I want to blend in? What the heck is this kind of reasoning?
Yes, there is much to do instead of drinking alcohol, but even so, I can drink with the best of them. Next time I find myself in a social situation where people around me are drinking, I’m going to pour myself a big ol’ glass of self love, smack my lips, and guzzle it down.
To your health!