Earlier this week my husband visited this blogsite for the first time.  In his typical fashion, he read thoughtfully, gently stroking his finger up the iPad screen as he moved through entry after entry.  In my typical fashion, I scurried about the house gathering laundry, changing sheets, and doing everything I could to stay busy until he finished.  I would have appreciated some token feedback – a little “whew”, “wow” and “gosh” go a long way.  But no, I know him well enough to know he would need to process it on his own for a while.

That night before bed he hugged me and said he thought the blog was wonderful (*sigh of relief*).  A few days later we were at work together, wrapping up a meeting in his office.  With just the two of us and a rare moment of privacy, he did something we seldom do at work – shut his office door to discuss a personal issue.

“I want to be respectful and supportive,” he said. “I want to understand how to do that, but at the same time I would still like to be able to have a beer in the back yard on a nice day.  What is that like for you? Is it harder for you if I do that?”

I explained that I don’t expect anyone else to stop drinking, so I would happily join him in the yard for some sunshine and erm…..um….tea? Diet coke? Nothing really sounds all that appealing or appropriate to me, either.

I have yet to find anything that really replaces the wine for me.

The only drink to rival the anticipation and enjoyment of my (former) evening dose of wine was and is coffee.  I open my eyes each morning at 6:30 and cheerfully stagger to the quiet, empty kitchen to fill my favourite mug with strong coffee and fat-free cream.  Mmmmmm.  On weekends I return to bed with the coffee and paper to spend a leisurely hour or two.

The first person I take care of each day is myself and I cherish the luxury.  Having had three children in four years, I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades looking after everyone else from dawn to dusk.  There is a lot I miss now that the boys have grown, but there are a few things I’m happy to leave behind as well.

I have adored raising my sons but oh, it’s so hard to wake up each morning and still feel tired.  Starting my day rested and enjoying a bit of solitude is a lovely reward for making it through the more demanding years of motherhood.

Morning coffee is on a mental pedestal for me.  Funny though, how after two or three cups – that’s it! No more for the day.  Offer me coffee after 10 am and I will look at you like you’re a maniac. (What? Coffee now? At this time of the day?)  10 am – 4 pm were the “buffer zone” in my day.  Water maybe, possibly a diet coke with lunch.

Then came the blessed hour at which I could begin the next phase: happy hour.  Or, as I downplayed it: having-a-little-drink-while-cooking-supper hour. 

Drinking while cooking was entirely justified to me because:

a) chefs do it on tv

b) I’d had a busy day and deserved a little treat

c) I was going to pair a glass of wine with dinner anyways so I might as well just have a few sips of it beforehand and

d) I didn’t really want a big meal but was preparing it for my family’s enjoyment therefore I was self-sacrificing, which always calls for a drink.

I would often joke with my friends that my health plan included a strict daily regime of coffee to power up and booze to power down.  As an otherwise fit and health-conscious person, this statement was so silly it always got a laugh.  Only I knew the truth of it and on looking back, I think saying it aloud was an early attempt to be honest.  A weak attempt, but at least it was the beginnings of being honest with myself.

Simply put, coffee and wine were two of my great daily joys.  No wonder it has been so difficult to quit the wine – it left a big hole in my self-care.

Around 3 or 4, I start to get a little antsy – this is the part of the day when I would begin looking forward to a drink after work.  Now what do I have to look forward to? Often I now come home and have a small sweet or bit of ice cream plus a mug of tea.  (Note: it seems important that the tea mug is large, lovely and exclusively mine.  I seem to be transferring the attachment I had to the wine glass as an icon of….what exactly? Indulgence? Reward?)

I have also started scheduling a pleasant activity for this time of day to give me something else to look forward to instead of wine. So far this week, the replacements treats have included a visit to the bookstore, a 30-minute neck massage, a manicure, a hike, a People magazine. Dinners are getting later and later in our house as I battle through the much-less-happy-hour.

With supper I will often mix a concoction of juice and pop, which my family calls “Juice Pop” – clever, inventive bunch that we are.  The juice helps replace the sugar cycle my body has been accustomed to over the years of wine before, during, and after dinner.

That’s the day to day but what about social situations? If we go out, I have been ordering a cranberry and soda, which may or may not look conspicuously non-alcoholic.  I am noticing that busier bars are more likely to serve non-alcoholic drinks in large, tacky glasses branded with a soda company – I’m guessing that helps the servers keep the order straight.  The more elegant the venue, the more likely it seems that a “virgin” order may fly below the radar.

A great suggestion for handling things within our regular circle of friends came from one of my dear confidants, who says that it can make a host feel awkward to hand you a plain old glass of tap water when all of the others guests are being treated to special beverages.  She noted that it makes the host and other guests more comfortable if you also have something “special” so bring along a bottle of Perrier or imported soda and allow the host to feel they are pampering you as much as everyone else.  Eventually, your circle of friends will incorporate your drink of choice into their household selections.

All of this swirled through my head as I sat in my husband’s office. I was so thankful for his acceptance, so touched by his desire to be supportive.  I thought about everything from coffee to Perrier as I considered our situation.  This is a new normal for us and we are embracing it together.

I thought of the many times my husband had gotten home from work before me and started supper.  When he’d hear my car pull into the garage, he’d pour a glass of wine and set it out for me to see as I walked in.  A thoughtful gesture that said “welcome home” and “good job today” and “I am here for you” all at once.

I think what he is wondering is how to show the same consideration now.  I’ve taken away the “sure thing” and while he is incredibly proud of me for this, it also leaves him without direction.

We agreed that the wine on the counter was an important symbol but could be replaced with something else. Something special.  We decided to make it a mission to discover a special drink for me that isn’t a “mocktail” but that requires a bit of effort.  Something more than the coffee, tea or diet soda I drink constantly. It will be our summer project: try new things, find new favourites.

So you see, I’m learning.  This week the lesson extended beyond myself, as I learn to be considerate for others and understand that someone’s discomfort with my alcohol abstinence can come from their desire to be a good host, friend, or companion.