Can a relationship survive if one partner gives up drinking her feelings? Will the #resistance fizzle out if activists indulge in simple pleasures?
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Since about November 2016 I’ve been drinking more than I ever have, and while the numbing effect is helpful at times, I’m feeling bloated, more anxious, and most of all, sad. So in an effort to improve my physical and mental health, I’ve decided to give it up—maybe for a few months, maybe forever. I just want to feel good without the help of alcohol.
I thought the hardest part would be the actual abstention—wanting a glass of wine after work, yearning for a margarita when I go out with my girlfriends. But the greatest challenge is in my relationship. I’m worried we could drift apart if I stop drinking altogether.
We have been together more than ten years, and some of our happiest memories revolve around casual—or indulgent—cocktails. We met at a concert while having beers. We love to take trips to Las Vegas, or Napa, spend our weekends seeking out the best Bloody Mary, and take pride in being the couple that hosts the most barbecues, Oscars parties and New Year’s Eve gatherings for our friends, all flowing with libations. Will I still be as fun without a drink? Will our daily conversation still be as open without the calming aid of a glass of wine after work? Will we still enjoy watching stupid comedies if unassisted by a vodka tonic? Will we be as honest and authentic with one another without the always-effective truth serum of a whiskey neat? Will our connection dry up if I do?
Breaking Up (With Booze) Is Hard to Do
Dear With(out) Booze,
Aside from the whole having-someone-who-loves-me thing, I could have easily written this email. I think a lot of people could! I have watched a lot my friends increase their alcohol consumption since something happened in early November 2016. Who can even remember what that event was? Oh. All of us. Vividly. Turns out booze is not that good at its job.
Does anyone else find it weird that we use alcohol both to celebrate and to mourn? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cocktail even more than the next gal. But if we are using booze to treat depression over current affairs, we dumb. Because alcohol is a depressant! It’s literally not supposed to make you feel better! It makes you feel bloated and tired and headachey and dehydrated and none of those things is going to make you feel better about the impending apocalyptic hell fire we are all soon to be living in. So good on you, W.B. for taking charge of your health! We all handle things differently, and it’s important not to look to some outside definition, but to our own bodies for information about what they need. Your body is telling you it needs a break from alcohol, and mine is telling me it needs a cheeseburger. Both of our bodies are right.
Okay, I’m back from my cheeseburger break and ready to talk about your relationship. OEither one of two things are happening here, and only you can figure out which it is:. Either, you are in a wonderful, loving relationship and your body’s craving for alcohol is lying to you about your relationship in an attempt to get you not to give up the booze. If this is the case GIVE UP THE BOOZE, it’s messing with your ability to experience reality and that is bad. The other option is that you are actually in a relationship with a partner who would not support your trying to get your health in order by taking a break from booze and if that is the case, GIVE UP THE PARTNER. There may be the occasionally misstep like, “Hey honey do you want a glass of wi—- oh, shit, I forgot. Never mind.” And that’s fine. But if someone actually pulls back from your relationship because you are pressing pause on putting literal poison in your body, that person isn’t a very good match. People who care about you will accept your decision and be happy to watch you drink water while they have a cocktail (and to have a designated ride home, lol).
Without alcohol will you be as fun? As funny? As well spoken? As honest and free? There’s only one way to find out. I suspect that your cool personality is not the result of fermented sugars (is that what alcohol is? I don’t know. It’s a cool turn of phrase. I’m not an alcohol expert). I further suspect that once you stop drinking and see that you are just as charming (and probably even more so when you’re the only quick-witted sober one in a crowd of tipsies) without booze you’ll probably increase your confidence level too! And then if you decide to start drinking again, you can enjoy it without wondering if it’s how you are most fun. Because it definitely isn’t.
In times such as these, how can I stop feeling so guilty for simply living my life?
I am an activist, both in my work and my personal political life. I engage anyone who will listen on the issues most critical today: the deplorable anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration; the very real threat of women losing essential health care and bodily autonomy; everyday racism, sexism, ageism, and bigotry. I attend marches and rallies. I call my representatives. I galvanize everyone I know to vote. I try to do at least this much because I know it’s necessary.
And yet, I feel tremendously guilty whenever I take a break to simply live my life. While I am fighting for every one of us to enjoy basic freedoms, I feel like a shitty human when I take the time to take a nap, contemplate getting a manicure, or post Instagram photos of my beloved dogs. Like, how dare I enjoy such things when babies are in cages?
Resistance fatigue is real, but the guilt of not fighting every waking second for people who can’t might be worse. How do I find a balance?
Sleepless In America
I’m so glad you wrote in because FUCK THIS SHIT. Fucking fuck it right off to Fuck Town. Seriously. Stop this right now. I demand it.
Guess what? Those people you are fighting against every day, the ones who hate immigrants, and don’t want women to be able to make their own health-care choices, the racists and sexists and ageists and bigots, guess what those people want most of all? They want you, and people like you, and the people you are fighting for, to be miserable. If you forget how to enjoy your life, you are helping them win. Self- care is a revolutionary act, particularly for marginalized people. Get that pedicure because you deserve feet that don’t snag your sheets! The bad guys want you to have nasty feet! If you’re going to be out there marching against their bullshit all damn day, AT LEAST HAVE NICE FEET, DAMN IT. And then post those pretty ass toes on Instagram, because you are a human being and you deserve to be able to share your full humanity with people.
Where the country is politically right now is fucking depressing. We have to fight that depression in order to have the strength to fight back. But you know what else causes depression? Not taking good care of yourself. When your house isn’t clean, or your personal grooming/hygiene isn’t right, it actually makes you feel worse. And it’s a terrible cycle, because feeling depressed makes it harder to do those little acts of self- care that will make you feel better. If you allow your guilt to stop you from taking care of yourself, the not taking care of yourself could lead to depression. So what I’m saying is, take a fucking nap for your mental health. You are a warrior and we need you strong for battle.
As far as finding a balance, I think that if you, dear writer, are both a professional activist AND do activism in your personal time, you are in very little danger of accidentally turning into a lazy layabout if you take one wine bath. For other readers, who maybe aren’t doing as much activism, don’t say, “Ashley said getting a pedicure is activism.” First, you do the activism, then you give yourself a break from it. It’s not a break if you aren’t working. At the very least use that service that lets you text your congressperson while you’re sitting in the pedicure chair.
But seriously, everyone deserves nice toes.
Rest well, warriors!
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