A [be]-longing

Growing up, I was a quiet kid. Not the awkwardly quiet kid that gets picked on or shoved in lockers (though, that did happen to me that one time.) No, not geeky quiet, because those kids actually belonged, to each other, at least. I was the kind of quiet kid that was basically invisible.

I was good in school. Never really struggled with the work, so I could hang with the honor roll kids in high school. I became one of them for a few years. I was just smart enough to not get noticed. Not so smart that they were calling my name out when awards were handed out, but smart enough not to be on the teacher’s radar.

Stealing a line from The Three Bears, I guess you could say I was “just right.”

Looking back, I realize I have always been a bit of a chameleon. Put me in a room of people, and watch me conform. (Step up, ladies and gentleman, watch her conform.)

This past six months has busted open something inside me that has me pushing back on my desire to fit in, blend in, go with the flow, be part of the collective. I think I’ve finally, 55 years into my life, figured out who I am. What I believe in. What I don’t believe in. What I stand for and what I won’t tolerate. And I’m feeling rather fierce about it.

I’ve always avoided conflict. My feelings easily hurt. When in a place where the conversation is primarily about a topic that I disagree with, I’ve always kept quiet. Don’t rock the boat. Just smile and don’t contribute. It’s fine.

No more.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize, I don’t have to fit in. I don’t have to be one of them. Yes, they are entitled to their beliefs about mask-wearing, gun control, (God-help-me) political leadership — but I don’t have to nod and smile. I can leave. Leave the conversation. Leave the gathering. And even leave the friendship.

While we all tend to have this desire to be accepted and brought into the fold, I think what I’ve learned these past few months is that it’s important for me to have friends that align with my spirit. I’ve spent too much time compromising my own values by not taking a stand and making my personal beliefs known to those who call me a friend. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to want the same things for humanity.

Quitting alcohol has changed my life (and me) in countless ways. And one of the biggest changes I’m noticing is this: I feel free to be me. Just as I am. Drinker. Non-drinker. Whatever. And here’s the kicker: I was the one stopping myself from being the best version of ME. All those years I spent trying to belong somewhere, and in the end, I was already there.

Forever and ever?

A friend asked me today whether I thought that I was done with drinking forever. And it’s a question that I’ve been thinking about probably since I crossed over into the triple digits of alcohol freedom.

Today is 121 days since that last drop of wine, and when she asked me THE QUESTION, my first response was that I really thought I was done. For good. And that’s the truth as I feel it today, in this exact moment. I really don’t see myself wanting to drink alcohol again. Like the ex-smoker who finds the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke revolting, I’m finding myself more and more turned off by alcohol as the days go by. The smell of red wine is sour to me and a once-loved sniff of straight bourbon makes my nose twitch. Too strong. Too alcohol-y. Too… something.

And why in the world would I ever want to go back? I’m sleeping like a baby. My skin is smooth and my eyes are bright. I don’t have to question whether I should drink on a Tuesday night or lament over whether it’s a good idea to have a second or third glass of wine on a Friday. My brain is free from any drinking decisions (this is where the moderation thing goes wrong for some…it’s too much thinking…thinking about drinking or not drinking.)

And then there’s the fact that I love waking up hangover free every single morning. Especially on Sundays. Having the entire day free and feeling 100% able to do anything i want is such a gift. Although I was never what you would call a heavy drinker, there have been plenty of Sundays when I felt a wee bit “delicate.” So much so that I wasn’t up for a hike In the woods or motivated to jump in my kayak or even spend an afternoon in the art studio. Sometimes it was a morning of counting the hours until the fragility wore off.

No more of those days.

I don’t have time for those wasted hours.

I want to feel good all the time.

So yes, I think today I feel like I’m done now and forever. And I suppose the short answer to that question, which I added in a text to my friend is this:

“I don’t think I want to drink ever again because I love they way I feel being 4 months without it in my body. I hope that I always feel that way because I have learned a lot about the effects and for me I want to slide into old age feeling great!!”

I guess that pretty much sums it up.