Fourteen is a sad age to start drinking. But America’s backyard where dirt roads outnumber paved ones 10 to 1, it was a passage of life. The few classmates who remained sober through high school bounced hard into the booze once they hit college. We all drank.
Living out of my car with my college diploma stuffed in the trunk, I spent nearly every weekend drunk. I couldn’t afford rent but could manage drinks. My parent’s punishment in high school for coming home drunk later paid off in my career. If I could get my ass out of bed and clean out the barn hungover, I certainly could survive a desk job with the 3-2-flu.
My poisoned liver and jokes-so-dirty-they-made-a-sailor-blush were my easy street to promotions. I stayed up until dawn doing tequila shots with the top dogs, shamelessly rattling off dirty jokes and they rewarded me. Drinking rocked.
Then a few years ago at 7:00AM my three year old went to the fridge and asked with all seriousness, “Mom, you want a beer?”
I was a full blown take-the-edge-off-aholic. Tequila shots and homelessness were history, but every time a wine bottle called my name, I’d cave.
The more I tried to avoid the booze, the more it followed me. Wine and painting. Yoga and beer. Wine and playdates. Wine-dispensing handbags. I’d give in convincing myself, “What’s the big deal?”
Puffy faced, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. My hallow eyes looked twenty years my senior. My lethargic body felt like shit. My plastered on smile did a crappy job hiding my stress.
Fast forward to New Year’s Day 2016. A college friend from New York meets me for a drink. The last time we saw each other we got smashed at a drag club in Queens. But this time, I order wine and he gets a coke. He tells me that he’s “taking a break” from drinking and rattles off all the times drinking made him miserable, including that night in Queens. It jolts me.
“Taking a Break”
I like that. I can do that. Quitting, no. But take-a-break, yes.
Take-a-break sounds like a vacation. Feet up, cucumbers on my eyes, Massive Attack playing, doing my own thing.
So on January 2, 2016, I took-a-break.
I got up a little earlier in the morning. This was my take-a-break time.
No kids. No husband. No emails. No Facebook. No phone. Just me and my desires.
I listened to my music. I stretched.
Then I got up earlier and meditated. The more I meditated, the less I craved.
Then I got up a little earlier and went for walks. The more I got outside, the more I fell in love with life.
I walked in shorts and flip-flops. I walked in three layers to protect me from the subzero arctic vortex.
Sometimes I got up just to stare at the stars and daydream. I read books, poems, inspirational quotes. I wrote whatever came to my head. I healed.
It wasn’t a routine. It wasn’t a ritual. It’s my take-a-break time.
I tune out and tune it.
I take a bath. I pet my dog. I studied maps and planned vacations. I indulge me.
Today, on my 443rd day of taking-a-break, there is no “edge” to take off. In fact, the only reason I had an “edge” to begin with was because of the booze. This is just the start too.
I know with all certainty that taking-a-break is something we all can benefit from, whether it’s booze, screens, porn, food, gossiping, worrying, drugs, politics. They’ll all be there later if you absolutely need them in your life. But that precious me-time won’t be there. That’s gone each day. So you pick. The red one or the blue one. You have the power.