Easter is this Sunday, and you know what that means? Yes, that Jesus raised from the dead and such, but also that I can drink again soon!
Though I’m not Catholic and it’s not required of me (and am as Protestant as they come), some years I choose to participate in a Lenten sacrifice, for different reasons each time.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in early 2009, I was in a period of transition: I’d gone through a bad relationship, whose breakup lasted longer than the actual relationship, and was mired in anger; been laid off from my job; and gotten a new job in a new industry. I gave up alcohol for Lent because I had too much going on and wanted to give myself the unblocked mental space to get things in order. I wound up meeting my now-husband the week before Palm Sunday, and my job wound up leading me to business school. I’d say it all worked well.
This year, I went into giving up alcohol for Lent for the same reason—transition, reassessment of life, etc.—but this year, I was able to examine what’s important to me and the role the alcohol plays in my life.
I was fine for the first couple of weeks of March. I didn’t even really think about alcohol at all. But around the third week, I realized that I was super anxious. Even physically, my body felt different, almost constantly trembling.
Now, I am not alcoholic, and it’s not my intention to make light of those who struggle with addiction, so I wasn’t going through the tremens or anything like that. What I was going through was a heck of a lot of anxiety, and I was forced to admit to myself that it was there because I couldn’t use my usual coping mechanism: a glass of wine at the end of a long day.
Giving up alcohol for Lent was easier in my twenties because, while I had a lot going on, it wasn’t the magnitude of what I have going on now. Now, my career and I are ten years older, and trying to sort out our relationship. I’m married, and while happily so, marriage takes some work, even if it’s because someone else is sharing my space. My friendships have evolved in a lot of ways I wasn’t expecting. My writing leads me to think about things I hadn’t had to ponder, making me think about my life’s experiences as I experience them. On top of all this, my body is ten years older, and though I exercise kind of a lot (way more than I ever did in my twenties), my body responds differently to anxiety: it’s as if I feel it in my bones now, and that never happened before.
I realize the magnitude of importance of that glass of wine at night, mimosa at brunch, beer before my Sunday Afternoon Golf Nap, in taking the edge off a lot of the sharpness of my life. I told my therapist this, and he assured me that I don’t have a problem and that it’s okay to have a drink to take the edge off sometimes, as long as you’re not reliant upon it. And I think that’s my fear: that as life gets more dynamic and challenging, I’ll run out of ways to cope.
Yesterday, I avoided images on the internet of Notre Dame burning. But when I went to the gym, CNN was on in the locker room TV, so I couldn’t avoid it, really. For some reason, a sentence a friend told her three-year-old daughter came to me: “You can cry if it hurts, sweetie.” And so I did. I cried in the gym locker room about the burning of 850 years of history. And I was embarrassed as all get out, but I had to do something. I couldn’t drink about it.
This Lenten period has taught me that it’s okay to acknowledge my feelings, especially anxiety. Ignoring doesn’t make it go away, and saying it’s not there is lying. I’m encouraged by my faith: I am a Christian, therefore, I have prayer in addition to wine. And I remind myself that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. I don’t understand why a lot of things happen, but they’re all working together for good, with a glass of wine or without.