Monday, May 23, 2005

The Pushback

I must be changing because a phenomenon known in the personal growth community as "the pushback" is occurring to me. The "pushback" happens when people around you notice that something is different, either they can put their finger on it or they can't, and they begin trying to push you back into the shape you were before, the mold they are used to seeing you in.

Lately I have been experiencing pushback because I have been casually mentioning that I've given up drinking. I have gotten long emails and diatribes and sad looks and even outright weeping because of this. Why, Sara? Why?? There is so much outrage, so much of a sense of despair.

My husband would be the first to point out that I can't afford to get too outraged about the outrage. Afterall, I have practically made a living out of ridiculing people for giving up alcohol. For years it has driven me nuts that so few people in my cohousing community drink. "The puritanical left" I've dubbed them.

And I've also taken serious issue with my wonderful in-laws for such famous quotes as "who wants to split a beer?" and "oh, do you think we should have wine for Christmas? What if the leftover wine in the bottle goes bad?"

In other words, I've been there. I've been the leader of the outraged pack. The Queen ridiculer of reduced consumption.

From the other side of the bottle, it all seems very odd. It seems to me that this should have nothing to do with anybody else. That people should be pretty much neutral to pleased that I've made a life change I feel good about.

Which brings me to why I did it. First of all, for the time being I'm allowing myself special occasion exceptions. Like this Thursday, when I go out dancing at my birthday party, I may decide to have a drink.

I decided to quit because I just generally tend to feel less crappy when I don't drink. I get sick less. I have fewer headaches. I have fewer hangovers (and I experience hangovers of a sort after only 1 glass of wine). It's kind of a sugar hangover with me; I start to crave bad carbs to take away the feeling, so I eat a lot worse when I drink.

Although I have experienced occasional poor impulse control while drinking, I generally haven't ever experienced the other problems associated with alcohol use. I've always been able to stop drinking for long or short periods of time without difficulty (I can quit anytime?). And I rarely crave alcohol as a soothing or calming thing--I've almost never had that "god I need a drink" feeling. I've had "god, I need a huge bowl of ice cream" and "god, I need a midnight bowl of cereal" and "god, I need to lie on the couch and watch a bad movie" much more often.

So the much more interesting question for me here is, what's at stake for my friends? One thing a bunch of them seem to think is that I won't want to dance any more. Wrong. I have never been one of those people who need a drink to dance. I'll dance at 10am stone cold sober (although coffee would help).

2) Maybe they think I won't stay up late talking about all kinds of ridiculous things with them. Well I don't think that's true either, I definitely plan to stay up a late talking a lot more and it would be unlikely that I would stop being ridiculous.

3) Maybe they worry that I'll start trying to convert them to non-drinking. Wrong. I would definitely drink if it didn't seem to have this negative effect on my health. I don't try to talk people out of drinking unless they are puking on me night after night.

Ultimately, other people's opinions of this matter and other changes I'm going through are going to have little or no effect on me, but they'll have a large effect on them and the lense through which they see me. I guess this is one way to find out who loves you just the way you are.


eman said...

Ironically, as I read this I am in a minor bleary eyed alcohol induced stupor (rock on, Sister!). A father of two little ones, tonight was a rare opportunity for me to go out with a friend who is currently exiled in Iowa for grad school. We threw back a few and talked of life and what it means to be a good citizens and whether religion, sports and television are the root of all evil. We blurted out things like, "Without time there is no culture...Write that down!" We laughed about old fiascos: near drownings, schitzophrenic roommates, frisbee.

Then I got up to use the restroom. As I stumbled away from the urinal, my cell phone launched into its salsa dance number. I answered the phone to the unmistakable sound of my infant son screaming his lungs out. The birth mother of my infant son came on the phone: "Your boy is inconsolable." I told her I would come home as soon as I sobered up a tad. She said, "I can't hear you over the screams."

An hour later, or so, I am home to a now calm house. The alcohol is wiggling its way through my body, planning an early morning ambush as I try to resurrect my sleep deprived body for another day of teaching third graders. My sister, whose birthday is already approaching midnight (HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARA!), is writing about alcohol and health and friends who feel threatened or abandoned or merely culturally concerned.

I tell you what. You're alright in my book, big sista. That's a girl. You go tell 'em who's who and whatsa what. You are an Obelix the gaul, anyway, bathed in the magic potion of extroversion as a child. You will always maintain you're super charms.

Dr. Condaleeza Rice said...

Wlel im todallly fkuked up on tankqueray at the mmoment sara but i sa y FFK YUO to anybdy who givs upp drnkiing beccase oh wait fuckng blue goats on th porch again fukc fjuk fjuk

Anonymous said...

I think you're finding out who loves you just the way you *were*. Do whatever you want, but if you stop being funny I'll stop taking your calls.

niagaradem said...

Sounds like you're just putting things in perspective. About 10 years ago, I swore off any alcohol for 12 months meaning to set a good example for Josh (who will be drinking age himself in about 3 weeks, btw, we'll see how the example took").

A most interesting experiment. During the one year hiatus friends and acquaintances seemed dismayed or confusd when I requested "soda with a twist" instead of beer or wine. "Is there something wrong?" many would ask, the implied question being, are you a drunk who had to quit? When I explained the rationale, some seemd to accept it while others feigned their understanding with an unceratin "oh.".

And then there were the whispers that would make it back to my ears. There were many who had it on good authority that I had a drinking problem. Such logic, eh?. One stops drinking because one can't stop drinking.

So good luck Sara. Enjoy your liberty.

And by the way, is there something wrong?