The call of life


In 1986 I drank my last alcoholic beverage. At the time, I didn’t know that it would be my last. I was 30 years old and had gone to a Joan Armatrading concert with 2 friends. I was supposed to be the designated driver, but ended up drinking 2 beers and smoking a joint. I still drove home. Nothing bad happened. No accident or close call. Neither of my friends said anything. By all outward appearances, it was a pretty tame evening. I woke up the next day with a sense of remorse and guilt that was unprecedented (and I had experienced some pretty remorseful mornings in my life). The question that was going through my mind, which I had never allowed myself to entertain before, was, “Why couldn’t I not drink?”

I decided to go a week without having even a glass of wine. I went through the first weekend and extended the “fast”. 12 days later, I was running, and had an epiphany. For most of my adult life, I’d felt like I was living on an emotional roller-coaster, but on this run I noticed that feeling was gone, and it was replaced by something totally foreign; inner peace. For years, even though I did most of my heavy drinking in my teens, and my life looked good on the outside, I knew that drinking was a problem for me. By my 20’s I drank much less, but it had become a game of limiting and controlling what I drank, to avoid feeling out of control.

The few times that I considered quitting, I just couldn’t imagine what life would be like without alcohol. I couldn’t imagine going to a Christmas party or out to a nice dinner without having a drink. And what about when my sons got married? Wasn’t I even going to have a glass of champagne ? I loved the idea of celebrating with alcohol and held onto the  illusion of drinking as relaxing, fun and uplifting. I believed that alcohol was the thing that brought sparkle to my life. I believed that it was the thing holding my life together, even though, if I had been able to look at it honestly, this was not my experience. Losing control of myself; talking or laughing too loud, or too much, forgetting what I had said, waking up feeling sick and tired, hung-over and embarrassed, was more my reality than the one of me as the care-free woman toasting friends at a dinner party.

Inside of me a voice was screaming, “Something is wrong here! This is not working for you!” I didn’t stop drinking because I thought that life would be better. I thought life would be boring and dull. I stopped because I just couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. There is an expression, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired” and that was all that I knew.

25+ years have passed since that fateful day in July of 1986 when I had my last drink. My life has been anything but boring! The fears that life would lack luster and vitality were not only unfounded, they were lies. I came alive inside when I stopped drinking. A part of me emerged that I didn’t even know existed. I really started to live the day I stopped drinking.

Life is always calling to us to come up higher; to grow and expand and change. To step into an unknown world. Sometimes the call is exciting and looks like adventure and sometimes we change because we feel like there is no other option. It doesn’t matter. Say yes, move forward, take the risk that the change you fear will open a door to a new life for you.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance”. Alan Watts

38 thoughts on “The call of life”

  1. I haven’t needed adult beverages to have fun in my life. I like experiencing life without a filter, or a dim haze. Never liked that feeling of being out of control.

  2. The minute I walked up the stairs to your office, I could feel your peace! When I asked you about the reading for my wedding, I knew that you would know him. Pete and I are so pleased that we were brought to you. You will bring the same feeling to our wedding.
    Thank you
    Lillian and Pete

  3. Mary—–thank you so much for this post. I recently (6 months ago)
    quit drinking and I can relate, so much, to what you speak about in this post. I am a 45 year old wife, mother and working girl! I knew for quite a long time that my drinking was a big problem, and it became so difficult and tiring to try to “control it.” I am a professional with a full time job and it became absolutely exhausting to keep spinning all the plates in the air.
    When I finally sought the help that I so desperately needed, what a relief! I reached out for help and found that there is so much love and support! The 4 days in the hospital were an eye-opening experience and from there I have been involved with AA. I am blessed to have a wonderful family and a few very close friends that have been a constant source of strength for me. I will admit, there are some days that are much more difficult than others, but overall, what a feeling of peace!
    Thank you , thank you—for sharing your stories and helping us all to realize that we are really “in this together!.”

    1. Jackie, congratulations and all the best of luck to you!

      My boyfriend attended his first AA meeting nineteen months ago: AA truly is a godsend, full of terrific people. Keep on keeping on, one day at a time. 🙂

  4. Mary – Thank you so much for sharing this. Much food for thought….
    (And how funny to see Eleanor eating out of a “dog” dish!)

  5. Kudos to you Mary for recognizing as a young woman that you didn’t need alcohol in your life. At 30, I was also in the process of giving up a different kind of relationship. But one that nevertheless left me feeling empty, afraid,
    small, ashamed, and alone. But not for long! I love the person and the woman I became since then. I found strength and independence and a self respect that I hadn’t known before that time. Change takes courage…sometimes blind courage. Now, 30 years later, when I choose to look back, I am proud of that time. It definitely opened new doors to a new and better life…the one that I am living today!

  6. Thank you, Mary, for reminding me of all those feelings that I too felt before putting down alcohol. It has been a wonderful journey. I am so grateful that I made the decision on that October day in 1984.

  7. The sharing and trust needed to speak of our own personal struggles – wow, Mary, you really have created a sense of acceptance and encouragement here. I’ve been married 40 years now to a man who grew up in Spain and all his family has always lived there too. Eating and drinking are just one of THE biggest parts of that culture and all the years he was conducting symphony concerts there and we were traveling, oh boy, I can’t begin to count the number of long, long dinners that took place after concerts and the number of bottles of wine opened, endlessly poured by staff that couldn’t wait to open yet another. Almost like the concert itself was an excuse to have something to have a party for! Hardly moderation, but a most accepted lifestyle there. All about celebrating. Well, it became too much for me. I, who would sit and smile hour after hour, though I could speak Spanish well, it seemed interminable waiting for it to come to an end, and yes, sipping away to sort of remove myself from the din and escape into my own mind and thoughts. What can start out as fun, or even celebratory, can morph into too much. So, thanks Mary for helping me to once again, examine my habits, – do I really need to drink wine every day just because it is a long established, almost routine in this household? And I know my husband will never ever give up his ways or his connection to his roots, which in other words means for him wine with meals. Sometimes I just feel tired of it all – the cooking, etc. Thanks for letting me vent here. I almost didn’t want to write today, but something was nagging me to ‘fess up.

    1. I am very grateful that you did write today Susan…it is so helpful to share the ways that we are growing, changing and reconsidering our lives, with each other. Thank you

      1. Thank you Mary, – I’m glad I wrote too, – as the day goes on, more and more comments reflect the beauty of this wonderful community.

    2. Hi Susan! I seem to always connect and identify with your comments. Thank you! Reading your thoughts today makes me think right back to Friday when you commented about time for some ‘spring’ cleaning…which prompted me to think of what old patterns I have that I should consider tossing out. Kind of like needing a mental dumpster! Mary’s post today prompts us to again consider these old habits and old thoughts and old routines. Life altering. This is a fun journey…and I enjoy sharing this ride with you!

      1. Beware the DUMPSTER idea—just ask Jon Katz!
        (A little levity to a very important topic. There’s always one smart aleck in the group and that would be me 🙂 XOXOXO

      2. Oh my…what a story, Cheryl B! My inspiration for dumpster came from a small one that sat in our yard for awhile as we had to have our back porch rebuilt last year. For all of the rotted wood! I would ‘sneak’ things into each day while it was here…and lay awake at night thinking ‘what can I put in that dumpster’! Just it’s daily presence made me want to purge. But I’ll stop there! It WAS all junk! 🙂 XOXO

    3. P.S…upon further thinking, it occurs to me that perhaps the very best thing we can do with our ‘discarded’ thoughts, habits, patterns is to share them…give them away here! Unlike the material things we decide to get rid of, and can give to a thrift shop, or to church, or to a friend…what can we do with our revelations and learnings? And sharing them here seems like the perfect place! Thanks to all…thanks for your inspiration…

      1. Kathye, thank you so much for reaching out to me, which is really a big us, flock! I loved that mental dumpster visual, – I took it one step further wishing it were as easy as tossing old habits into a paper shredder. But no, there aren’t really any short cuts here, but I love the idea of being able to air our thoughts here and know it’s safe. And there will be another sister ready to rally around you. Tonight I’ll lift my glass of Perrier to the flock! My son is coming over with his girlfriend for supper, too, – isn’t that a celebration in itself? Hugs Kathye!

    4. Susan I feel your message resonating with many members of the WFFF, I for one! Thank you for sharing and encouraging us all perhaps to welcome change.
      From Fran

  8. in march of 1986, i too, had my last drink of alcohol. i had not contemplated that the night before would be my last drinking and partying episode. someone else, however, did notice that i needed help (it wasn’t hard to see) and took me to my first aa meeting on a sunday morning.

    it has been a long turn-around but, like you say mary, there isn’t any boring in my world today. challenges, of course, but i’ve an anchor.

    I’m into another discourse of “women who run with the wolves”, clarissa pinkola estes, a voice i deeply trust. about change she says, fear is a poor excuse for not doing the work. we are all afraid…………..

    just for today, i can ‘reset’ my compass and move forward. thank you mary, for the up-front post. you inspire!

    1. Thank you Virginia. I love your words, “…I can reset my compass and move forward”

  9. I know I’ve said this before, Mary, but I have to say it again:
    “Just when I think you can’t write a better post……..”

    Your honesty and ‘realness’ blows me away. And how wonderful are the replies! Everyone of us feels safe here in your flock, and everyone gets their own personal sense of relief by being able to share, knowing that only love is offered in this domain.

    Blessings and love to you, Mary, and to all who read and answer.

  10. Mary – you just told my story! Only it was 1985 for me! 26 years of no hangovers —at least not from alcohol. Sometimes I have an emotional hangover from picking up someone else’s business and not minding my own!
    Thanks for sharing your story. Love, Mary Rita—in the backseat of my son’s car heading back to OUR TOWN, Cambridge, NY.—missing the hills, farms, people, places, and my animals. Hope to see you soon. Cyber Hugs to all my White Feather Friends.

  11. Loving this post today, I know, what else is new! But as Mary tells me, it just never gets old. I commend all who write here today of changes they have made and the fear that was confronted in the decisions to do so. It is a mind boggling process to change old ways for new, but oh so worthwhile. For me it would be making dietary changes, that I know will make me feel so much better. I have had 10 lbs to lose for about 10 years now! I lose a few, then gain them back… yada, yada. Many know this routine! I received something in the mail today about wheat products being a huge culprit in obesity partly due to genetic engineering of wheat starting in the mid 80’s and chronic inflammation in the body which leads to diabetes (not yet for me), arthritis, colitis. Anyway, I don’t want to take up too much space. There is so much mis information out there about what ails us and the cause and next big cure, but something just tells me I received this info today for a reason. Love to all and it is so wonderful to have a place to share and receive support. It doesn’t get any better than this!

    1. Terri, I had a stroke in December and one of the recommendations from a holistic cardiologist is to get the grains out of my diet for the reasons you mention in your response. There is a very good book out called Wheat Belly by William Davis that covers much of what you are talking about. When you read how wheat has been modified over the years, you find out that it isn’t the same plant at all. I have been changing my way of eating and not missing the breads, etc. most days. Good luck.

      1. Kathleen! Thank you for your response. I am amazed to report that the info I received today was about this very book by Dr. Davis. I ordered it and am looking forward to becoming more informed. I hope for you a complete recovery and long term good health.

  12. Several years ago, a friend was lamenting the fact of not “getting to drink any more”. She had found out that alcohol was going to be a problem in her life, and had made the decision to quit. She wanted to know how I could be so content with knowing that I never would be able to drink. I told her that I felt lucky and blessed because I would get to live my life without drinking. My thoughts, feelings, and actions would never be the least bit blurred by alcohol or non-essential drugs. She said that she hadn’t thought of it that way, and this gave her comfort. I’m not saying that it was easy for me, but I am thankful every minute of every day that I made this decision 15 years ago:)
    Jackie, You are beginning an amazing journey with people you don’t even know cheering you on.

  13. Mary, you are such a blessing; I look forward to hearing from you every day!
    I celebrated my 20th anniversary in January and am so grateful every day that I made the decision that I don’t need alcohol to make me happy or to calm me down. I feel peace now and that is a much better state of mind!!

  14. Mary, I am sitting quietly here w/ my yellow lab friends near in the early hours of this day. Your writing jerked me into a fast reverse over years and thoughts of drinking. I realized that when I drank it was “trying to drink” and a need to be accepted or to please. Whoa.. Fortunately I would quickly become ill! What out of control behavior..I have no idea in years, but I can tell you that it is wonderful to just be me and to enjoy. Thanks Mary

  15. Mary – I totally understood your post today. I quit drinking years ago – all it did was make me miserably tired, effectively ending any fun I might have been having. I decided shortly after that anyone – friends or family – who did not think I could have fun without drinking did not belong in my life.

    All these years later, I am even more certain that was a good decision for me. Your post speaks to my heart about that.


  16. Weight’s the issue for me, too. A few friends have dropped wheat and feel better.Having to limit what I eat seems like a terrible imposition and I probably need to reframe the whole picture. I’ve added swimming exercise, but it’s not enough. And the older I get, the more food sticks! Hmmmm. Having a whole life is a goal, but I need to lose a whole lot. Step by step…

    1. I hear you loud and clear, Kathi. I’m dealing with needing to drop quite a bit and no matter how much I deprive myself or exercise, it’s not budging. So now that I’ve taken it “step by step,” and nothing’s happened, I have one option left and that’s acupuncture. If people can stop smoking through acupuncture, I’m hoping it can unblock my metabolism. I just don’t know how to fix this.

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