Conviction often begins with noticing.
I began to see how alcohol-centric our culture has become. To see how much of our version of fun revolves around wine or beer or some form of alcohol. To see how unhealthy our dependence is. To see the industry around it, capitalizing and marketing and selling and manipulating and exploiting.
I began to see what those no-fun tee-totalers a hundred years ago had seen – how the victims of alcohol were almost always the ones who were most vulnerable, how it impoverished families and lives, how it threw a lit match into powder kegs of longings.
I began to see how unhealthy it made me feel in mind and body. I began to read news stories I had somehow missed about how alcohol was linked to so much physical toll in our bodies.
I began to see women of my generation becoming increasingly dependent, as wine was marketed to women as the rest or as the treat they deserved for their exhaustion and their diligence and their selflessness.
I began to see news stories everywhere about the rise of women drinking. I began to read memoirs and stories and articles from women who had become caught in drinking too much and about how they felt addicted and dependent and entangled almost before they knew it.
I also began to notice how the church had begun to embrace drinking as well. Others of my generation who had also grown up in legalism regarding or abstention from alcohol perhaps, and so were exploring their emancipation with micro-brews and homemade wine over thick theology books and bible studies and hymn-sings. Then I began to wonder about stumbling blocks and I couldn’t seem to shake off early church admonitions to consider one another, to give preference to one another’s weaknesses. Were we setting someone else up? Were we judging the ones who abstain as legalists?
I remembered Brennan Manning – the man who has translated the love of God in a way that I could receive it more than probably any other writer – was addicted to alcohol and I re-read up one of his last books before he died: “All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir” where he vulnerably writes about what this battle has cost him, even as he experienced the unending and unconditional love of God in the midst of it, how he experienced regret and pain and loss alongside of the love and tenderness of God in this dependency. And I thought about the Ragamuffin for many, many days.
I began to notice my friends who were in recovery. I began to notice how hard it is to be in recovery, to be an abstainer, in a world of drinking. And how it was somehow just as hard to be an abstainer in the Church as outside of the Church. I stopped posting pictures of wine on my Instagram. I began to wonder if I was thinking of myself and my own freedom more than I was considering others.
I began to notice how one glass of wine almost always means two or three.
I began to realize I was not a special snowflake somehow immune to addiction and dependence.
I began to see what my parents had always seen because I began to see it in myself…….
So I quit drinking.
Quietly. Without a lot of fanfare. It’s been a while now. I simply stopped one day and I haven’t had anything to drink since that day.
The surprising thing to me is this: it’s been good. I haven’t missed it, I haven’t felt like an outsider, I haven’t felt longings to drink. In fact, I have noticed that my not-drinking has given other people permission to stop, too.
I wonder if my experience here is a grace that was given to me: once I stepped out in trust, once I said yes to the invitation from God, I was met with goodness.
I was prepared for struggle to quit: I wasn’t prepared for how good I would feel in my body, in my soul, and in my mind. It felt exactly like setting down a weight.