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Okay. Deep breaths. This is hands down the scariest post I've ever written and published here at ILI.

(How's that for a hook?)

I sit here. At Starbucks. At my little table in the back. I am plugged in. Looking out. At a soggy city day. Looking in. At my soul, my struggles, my self. My self. That thing that so often gets lost in the shuffle I've been lucky enough to live. That thing that so often slips between the cracks of a busy day and a busy life.

(My self.)

I sit here. Shaking. Shaking from fear, wild and robust fear that ripples through me. Shaking from clarity, brilliant and bursting clarity that grips me. Shaking from insecurity, deep and profound insecurity that knocks me around and makes me who I am.

(Who am I?)

I sit here. Smiling. Smiling from realization, exquisite and enigmatic realization that I have a different kind of story to speak, to write, to live. Smiling from love, vast and vastly intricate love for creatures, for words, for place, for me. Smiling from change, slow and steady and petrifying change, but change that is real and important and theirs, ours, mine.

Enough. Enough obscurity. Enough hiding. Enough dramatic hinting. Here's what's going on:

I have decided to give up alcohol for an entire year.

The reasons for this are many. They are little and big, simple and complicated, more superficial and more sinister. What matters is that these reasons are real and they are mine. This experiment in change is ultimately about two things: Health and happiness in my personal and professional life.

It has been two months today. Yes, that's right. I haven't had a sip of wine or any booze since January 15. And there is so much to tell you about these two months because honestly I have learned more - and more about myself - in the past two months than I have maybe in the last twenty years. I waited two months to talk about this here because I wasn't sure I would, or could follow through. I waited because I worried about what others might think or conclude about my doing this. I have told family and a few friends about this little plan of mine and the response has been extraordinarily positive and incredibly interesting, too.

I have been writing a ton in the past two months. About my days, the wonderful ones and the hard ones. I've been keeping these words in a safe place, tucked away, on a private blog. And I want very much to share them with you even though they are very raw and very real. But this today is my first step.

I want to leave you with the first thing I wrote after I decided to do this. There is nothing revolutionary about this bit of writing, but I love it and have returned to it again and again in the past two months to remind myself just why I am doing this.

Wine Is My Weakness

{written on January 9, 2012}

Wine is my weakness. White wine. Pinot Grigio given the choice, but I will guzzle Chardonnay in a pinch. Even Sauvignon Blanc though I really dislike the taste.

Wine is my weakness. This has been the case for a long time. Too long. Like many of you I suppose, I had my first drink in high school. I was a sophomore. It was soccer season and homecoming and I’d scored the winning goal. I went to a party that night at my friend’s house. Her parents weren’t home and we helped ourselves to their vodka. (We replaced the imbibed Absolut with water, water that of course froze. This detail makes me smile to this day.) We drank it from fancy shot glasses, I think. I remember licking salt and biting into a lemon and laughing deeply.

If memory serves me, it was a fun and happy night. It was my first buzz and I rode the rebellion well. I don’t think I was even hungover the next morning.

I continued to drink a bit in high school, but not much and not too often. I do remember being drunk, really drunk, on a few occasions. I remember people puking on living room carpets. I remember one night senior year after getting accepted early to college when we went out to an underground club and the drinks were flowing and my friend and I ended up kissing the very same boy. I thought it was hilarious. Honestly? I felt like I was living.

College, of course, was soaked with booze and I welcomed this. I worked hard and played hard, graduated Magna Cum Laude and then went on my merry way to law school where I continued to study and sip, to mix achievement with escape.

But here I am. Thirty-three years old. A wife and mother of three. A writer. A thinker. Suddenly, alcohol doesn’t seem quite as happy, or hilarious. Suddenly, I am curious and concerned about things, big things. Things that never before kept me up at night: Health, Happiness, Legacy, Presence.

I want to be healthy for my children. And for me.

I want to find happiness whatever it is, whatever that means. I want to teach my kids how to find it.

I want to write books. Books that people read, and remember.

I want to be here. Awake and aware. For my family and for myself.

Here’s the thing. And maybe you will read my words and my stories and disagree, maybe I will read my words and my stories and disagree, but I don’t think I have a Problem. Not yet, at least. But I do think I have a problem. I think many of us, maybe all of us, do. I think adult life is hard and complicated any way we slice it. I think our days are riddled with existential and emotional cracks and complexities. I think we are constantly struggling and juggling and I think each of us copes with these struggles and juggles in different ways.

My way has been wine.

And so. At the age of thirty-three, I am taking a step back, trying something new. It’s an experiment and, for me, a profoundly scary one. I am not sure what life looks like, or feels like, without a periodic primer of Pinot.

Honestly? I am not sure who I am without wine.

But I’m going to find out. And so are you.

I have let a few people read this. And everyone, every one of them, has said some variation of the same thing. That they get it, that they relate to it, that they live it. That they pour a glass of wine (or smoke a cigarette, or eat a bag of chips, or shop online, or run a bazillion miles...) when they are stressed, when it gets to be too much. That they do this to escape a bit, to numb a bit, to unwind a bit. They also said that these ways of dealing have become habits, things they just do, but things that sometimes make them feel shame. Yes.

And so. It was not just the conviction I felt then and feel now about how important it is for me to talk about this, to tell this story, but it was, and is, the fact that this story is truly universal that confirmed for me that I really had no choice but to let you guys in.

But still. I sit here shaking. I do. Because I'm human and I feel fear. I fear that certain people in my life will not approve of this kind of experiment, this kind of exposure. I fear that my honesty will bring judgment. I fear a lot of things. But you know what? I am thirty-three and this is my life and I must do what I want to do, what I need to do, what is best for my family. And this? This is what that is. And you know what else? I was afraid when I started this little project. I was afraid I couldn't really do it, that I would fail, and fast, that I would swiftly lose track of my reasons. I was afraid and I did it anyway. I did it and I'm doing it and it is hard, yes, but I haven't felt this good - physically, emotionally, existentially - in a long long time.

And so. I sit here shaking. Clutching my coffee, my worst and most delicious vice for now. And so I sip it, slowly, proudly. It's bitter and black, oh so hot. I sip it here, at my little table, in my little life, so alone, so surrounded, so awake, keen to the sunshine that lingers behind the fat gray clouds on this wet and wonderful almost-Spring day.

I sip it and smile.

A real smile.

And before I hit publish, I ask myself one more time: Why? And though there are so many reasons and so many compelling ones, one reason stands out from the rest. It's three reasons, actually. And those three reasons of mine? They are pictured above playing in an empty bathtub.

At the end of the day, I'm doing this, and writing this, for them.

Any thoughts or questions about my Year Without Wine or my dry two months? Feel free to just say something tiny and supportive. (Did I mention I'm feeling a wee bit shaky about all this?) Thank you for reading my words everyday, but especially today.

I Did It.

Rated P... For Parenthood