Alcohol, A Love Story.

A week ago I had lunch with an old friend.

Our meal turned into a two-and-a-half hour catch up on our work, creativity, our relationships, yoga…

But our conversation around addiction was the highlight.

There is not one person I know, whom, if they were truly honest, can claim to be addiction free. It’s a difficult time to be a human and we cope using whatever methods we can at any given time.

My addiction(s)??  I have a many, but my relationship with alcohol is a complicated love story.

I saw at least two out of the four years of undergraduate through the bottom of a pint glass. I had a lucrative career in my mid 20s as a bartender while living on the North Shore of Oahu (*still* the most money I’ve ever earned per hour). In 1998, in the midst of a miserable marriage, I sought solace for a good 6 months in a bottle of chardonnay. Even today, there’s no beach golden hour that wouldn’t sound better with a margarita.

I adore the illusion of internal warmth and intimacy it creates.

I know enough about human needs and strategies to be clear on the role alcohol plays in my top three needs: Connection, love, happiness/avoiding suffering.

That I sometimes use it as a strategy to satisfy these needs is often why I temporarily stop using altogether: Dry January, No alcohol November, I love these.

Sometimes I consider stopping drinking for good, however: I technically don’t qualify as an alcoholic, so my motivation is low. Online quizzes determine I do not have a drinking problem. I almost never consume more than 2 drinks at a time. In the past two months, I’ve have wine or a cocktail with dinner twice. No day drinking, no cravings, no DUIs. No loved one questions my drinking. I’ve had no rock bottom.

There was a time, eighteen years ago, with the realization I was using alcohol as a toxic relationship coping mechanism, I quit drinking (and subsequently quit my marriage) altogether for several years. During this time, I identified as an alcoholic in recovery and attended meetings, but I never felt as if I truly belonged. I would sit in AA meetings surrounded by stories of “coming to” from a blackout; of losing children. Of losing it all.

I had not even come close to any of these things.

When I voiced my lack of resonance with my friends in recovery, AA speak as a response is this: Do you think you’re different?

No. Actually, Maybe? Yes.

Still. I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion – even in my 20s – that even mild drinking gets in the way of living soul-on-fire type of life.

Several years ago, at satsang in India, our speaker Sadhvi likened addiction is a form of spiritual seeking. “With addiction you have the right idea for a destination, but you’ve gotten on the wrong train.”

The “wrong train” is our belief that somehow, something outside of ourselves can offer us a feeling of being whole again.

Wholeness. What so many of us are searching for when we roll out our yoga mat: A life that feels connected, happy, complete.

Is there anyone among us who does not deeply desire these things?”

No wonder, then, that we look toward our addictions – our easy, quick fixes from outside ourselves – to satisfy these desires.

I’m guessing, when we….. order the wine / hit the vape / binge on cupcakes / fuck the stranger / insert appropriate strategy here ______ , our goal is always the spiritual path – a path to contentment.

With this awareness, my love affair with alcohol is currently waning. We still occasionally date, but I’ve stopped returning many of his calls.

It’s also why I’m considering hosting future Twist retreats as clear headed & alcohol-free, even though our India and Morocco retreats tend to evolve naturally that way – who wants to numb when life feels so lush and vivid in these places?

The one roadblock I have to establishing retreats as wholly alcohol free is that we don’t have the training or skills to support folks in active recovery, especially early sobriety. If anyone has any thoughts on that, I’d welcome them.  

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Anyway, I think we need not hit rock bottom to address our relationship with addiction.

The spiritual path is available to us, with less reliance on addictions. It’s often harder work, but we can all learn to sit still. We don’t have to avoid or grasp. We can find our way to contentment through time on the mat and watch our lives change for the better.

I wonder how much longer I’m willing to settle for anything less.

You?