So I am giving up alcohol for Lent. This was not a decision I made lightly. I am not a heavy drinker but I suspect I’m a habitual one. Meaning three or four times a week, I like a glass of wine or a beer while making dinner, and sometimes another one with dinner. My husband and I enjoy the winding-down, end-of-the-work-day ritual of a libation together and I tell myself there is nothing wrong with that. However, I’ve noticed that this evening routine has become more important to me than it perhaps should. And I wonder if I might have a problem.
Alcoholism runs in both sides of our families. My dad’s dad was an alcoholic and years ago I recall my father telling me that whenever he felt the need for a drink, that’s when he deliberately chose not to pour one. That stuck with me.
There is no doubt that alcohol plays a huge role in our society. The first thing a waiter or waitress will ask when you are seated in a restaurant is what would you like to drink? And if it’s dinner time, there will usually be a wine or beer menu placed prominently in front of you. Of course, alcohol is the great social lubricant at most events. I love getting together with our neighbors for an impromptu Friday night cocktail or other grownup beverage. And drinking wine with other military wives-- while playing Bunco, at a farewell or welcome party, or simply because you enjoy the company-- is a time-honored tradition. There is nothing wrong with that. And yet…
Motherhood changes the game a bit. Like all kids, my sons are pretty observant and pick up on things you think they barely notice. They watch us having wine at dinner and have made comments. Our 7-year-old recently asked me why we like wine so much. (Cringe!) While modeling responsible alcohol behavior is a plus (we don’t get “drunk” or belligerent when we drink,) I’m not thrilled with the prospect of the kids seeing Mom and Dad with a glass in their hand on a regular basis.
Though I feel we use moderation when we imbibe, I would say there are still repercussions. Such as, that the relaxation qualities of alcohol sometimes make it more challenging to read my little guy a book before bed. Or that I occasionally fall asleep much earlier than planned. And if I’m truly being honest here, sometimes I get irritable after a glass of something. (Of course, it should be pointed out that I can also get quite irritable without it!)
(Note to Reader: If I’m starting to sound like a party-pooper or—God forbid—a self-righteous, card-carrying teetotaler, please forgive me.)
Of course I’ve abstained from the sauce before - during both my pregnancies, while on deployments and times when I was “de-toxing” or just not in the mood to drink.
From a health perspective, as I’ve gotten older, I find I’m getting more frequent headaches after even just one glass of wine. It’s a no-brainer to state that our livers take a beating with frequent drinking, though of course every individual processes alcohol differently. But we women need to be careful—our generally smaller sizes dictate that we can’t keep up with men in the drinking department.
Lent is a time of purification, self-reflection, sacrifice and re-evaluation. It is a time for entering the “wilderness” and finding out what we’re really made of. Maybe giving up alcohol is a small thing, but I think it will test my mettle in ways beyond the obvious. When my husband is pouring himself a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio on a sultry Texas evening, I know I will want one, too. When St. Patrick’s Day arrives and we’re at a lively gathering with all hands clutching cold beers, it’s a safe bet I’ll be feeling sorry for myself as I sip my glass of water. And when the novelty of my Lenten sacrifice wears off and dinner time inevitably rolls around and the kids are bickering and I realize I forgot to defrost the chicken, I know I will probably want something to take the edge off a little bit.
I worry this means I have alcoholic tendencies. Or maybe I’ve simply grown a little too accustomed to what began as a harmless ritual.
It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to point out that sometimes a glass of wine can be desirable, merely because of what it represents. Having a cocktail is a nice transition to the evening and a way to connect with one’s Significant Other. It can smooth out the rough edges, fill in the lonely or uncomfortable gaps and bridge that restless time from early evening to night. All in moderation, naturally.
I’m curious to discover how the next six weeks will go and how I’ll cope. I wonder if I’ll be able to stay strong when temptation strikes? And what will taking away this familiar crutch ultimately do for me and my family? Maybe I won’t have any dramatic epiphanies when Easter arrives and Lent is over, but I suspect there will be some quiet lessons.
As Jesus discovered during his 40 days of wandering, he was stronger than the devil and all the temptations he threw at him. I can only hope to be as victorious during my much-humbler Lenten challenge.
I wish you peace, strength and joy during this beautiful season. And just so you know, I’m toasting you with a glass of flavored water!