Written January, 2021
I want to talk about drinking. Are you doing a Dry January? Getting stone cold sober for a month? Then what?
The idea is you’ll drink less because you’ve reset your system. But February 1st comes around and it’s off to the boozy races again? I’m not a fan of abstaining for a set period. It feels like a diet and diets are for the birds.
However, I have started to take a peek into my own drinking habits and it feels scary to write about. I don’t want to admit to anything and I definitely don’t want to be sober. I feel vulnerable talking about my drinking – even a little taboo.
I dabbled with drinking and smoking in high school but didn’t start “partying” in earnest until college. With the freedom of being 3000 miles away from parents and the confines of girls school and in class and dorms with boys for the first time, I really went for it.
In my twenties in New York City, I’d stay out til all hours. The bars closed at 4am and I would be there, highball glass in one hand, cigarette in the other. Through it all I was a dancer, yogi and Pilates teacher. So healthy, right? All of my friends and boyfriends drank, smoked and partied as much, if not more, than I did, so I didn’t think anything of my behavior.
As we got into our thirties though, friends got shaken out into adulting categories. Some drew the line in the sand and got sober. Some grew up, got married, had more demanding jobs and/or kids and naturally cleaned up their acts, while others continued to drink heavily.
I’d say I fell somewhere in the middle by moving home to L.A. at 31. Los Angeles is a driving city and I won’t pretend I never did anything stupid, but I rarely got in the state I would in NYC at 5am. Plus, last call for L.A. bars is at a more civilized, 1:30am. Pre-Uber you had to be slightly more responsible. That, coupled with the fact I lived at home with my parents when I first moved from NYC, curtailed some formerly reckless behavior.
I moved to the west side to an apartment right on the beach in Santa Monica and still behaved like the single young woman that I was. I met Alan when I was 33 and we had so much fun together coming home late from the bars on Abbot Kinney. The problem was, I’d spend most of the next day in bed recovering. That was a new symptom in my thirties. When I was in college and my twenties, I could party all night and make it to an 8:15 ballet class, no problem. As I was getting older there were physical consequences. Not that those hangovers ever stopped me!
Our wedding was such an all day/all night booze fest that one of my best friends resolved to get sober after that week in Mexico and has remained so for over ten years! It was one of the most fun weeks of my life surrounded by family and friends, all in the same seaside village in Nayarit. I wouldn’t take a moment back – but we really took it to the next level with cases of Sol and Herradura delivered daily to our oceanfront compound.
Everything in my life changed drastically when I got pregnant in 2011. It was the first time since 1991, the year I went off to college, that I’d been sober for more than a week. I’m not gonna lie, it was really hard at first. I felt left out when socializing with my friends and didn’t like the sober life at all.
I went to a wedding in Northern California when I was nine weeks pregnant that was especially hard. At that stage in pregnancy you’re not in the clear to announce the news and you’re not showing, but you can’t drink and you’re exhausted. Everyone was drinking, smoking, having a ball, wanting to extend the reception to a late night after-party. I wanted to get in bed so bad! Finally, I understood why my mom, the ultimate teetotaler, loathes long cocktail hours at weddings and is angling to make her exit after the cake is cut. It’s not that fun to see your formerly articulate friends turn into loud, repetitive comedians. Not a judgement since I was usually in this camp!
After my baby boy, Shepard was born, I returned to drinking, albeit much less and in a different way. 2011 marked the end of my crazy, partying days but the beginning of my habitual drinking days. Motherhood brought an entitlement to daily drinking. I deserve it! I’m tired. I work all day. I need this reprieve of daily relaxation in a glass.
I stopped again with my Pippa pregnancy. Again, it felt harsh to stop cold turkey, which I mostly did. I was more confident in my second pregnancy and would have little half glasses of wine with dinner. Hey, they did it in the 70’s and smoked too! We all turned out fine, I would justify. I promptly returned to my old drinking habits right after the birth.
With my precious first born I was so nervous about everything from vaccines to exactly what was in my breast milk. With Pip, I never “pumped and dumped” as I did with Shep. Homegirl got a lot of grape juice breast milk.
In the last eight years I’ve become a moderate yet habitual drinker. I never have more than two glasses of wine a night, unless I’m going out with the girls, and I pay dearly for it the next day. I like to say I’m European about my drinking. When I lived in Paris on my junior year abroad, my French family, the madame et monsieur drank wine with dinner every night. Just one glass for Madame, peut etre deux pour Monsieur. So I’m like that. I almost never have any hard alcohol like the days I’d throw back Jack and Cokes, Margaritas and Vodka Tonics. Now it’s Rosé all day- just wine. But every day- rain or shine.
Every evening, as I begin preparing dinner, I pour a glass of cold rose and start chopping vegetables. I only skip if I have a day of filming the next day or an especially early morning – or if I’m sick. A couple times a year I’d check myself and abstain for a few days just to make sure I could do it.
I want to bring this topic out of the shadows because it’s not black or white – there’s so many shades of gray. Most of the people who are comfortable talking openly about their drinking are now sober for many years, like Glennon Doyle, for instance. It’s easier to talk about possibly destructive habits when they’re safely years in the past. What about the rest of us who drink? It’s a touchy subject.
I have some close friends and family who 100% abstain – totally sobes. Then there’s my mother, who has never had a drink in her life! My dad, also was not a drinker. He’d occasionally order a Michelob draft when out to dinner or a sugary daiquiri or Cosmopolitan. He had more of a sweet tooth than any other vice.
Most of the people I hang with drink regularly. Some only imbibe on the weekends and stay clear headed during the work/school week but really go for it on the weekends. Some, like me, drink daily but moderately. I’m trying to uncover or possibly justify, if it’s okay to drink daily and be “European” about it or am I kidding myself, making excuses for unhealthy, unproductive habits?
Since my new year reset I did 12 days, no booze and it was not easy. Every single night I wanted to pour a drink at Happy Hour. Remember, I’m still in Mexico and the climate and sunsets and my view is to die for. But I’ve found a kombucha in a nice highball glass or refreshing coconut water straight from the shell is not bad.
Day 12, Alan grills steaks and found a Beaujolais Nouveau in Puerto Vallarta and I have a couple glasses. I wake up with a headache. The next night is Saturday and Pippa has an epic meltdown. I make myself a short vodka tonic. Honestly, the effect the next day wasn’t so bad. But was it good? I didn’t feel awesome. I had been waking with the sun and that Sunday I slept in. I felt so-so. But I only had one small drink. Do I want to just feel so-so?
I climb back on to the wagon and do Sunday through Friday and decide to have a very cold Pacifico at sunset Friday evening. It was so satisfying. Just the one, dinner after. Woke up with no ill effect. On this January day in 2021, I’m taking stock of how I feel when I don’t drink and when I do. It’s probably a good idea that I drink less habitually. My family runs the gamut from lifetime teetotalers to full blown alcoholic. I don’t want to be either one! If I don’t watch it, I fall into the negative habit of drinking too much. But at a perfect Mexican sunset or out with my girlfriends I can have some cocktails and maybe pay for it the next day. I’m a work in progress and may change my mind.