A few months back I wrote an article bemoaning my lack of control when it comes to drinking wine.
It’s not that I get blind stinking drunk and stagger out of the house with my pants down. It’s just that, at five o’clock, I want a glass of wine (or two).
In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing. I’m a huge proponent of mindful indulgence (for more on this read Waylon’s article). The problem is, my desire isn’t mindful, it is impulsive, which is the exact opposite of how I want to operate.
So, on my quest to master this impulse, I tried a few different—upon reflection rather foolish—things. I checked my pride at the door a long time ago, so I will share them with you here.
First, I decided—because one thing about drinking randomly that annoys me are the empty calories—that if I wanted a glass of wine I could have one, as long as I weighed myself first. I hoped my hatred of getting on the scale would keep me in check. And it did—for about two days. After that, whaddya know, I was jumping on the scale like a kid with a new pogo stick and then settling in with my wine and an episode of Seinfeld.
Nothing like alcohol and TV to take the sting out of poor decision making.
Next I thought, okay, if it’s so damn important to me to have this wine, I will have it, but I will have it in a paper cup so I know how much I’m drinking and when to stop. Really, this is so embarrassing to see written out in black and white…crikey. Ordinarily I drink from a huge stemless wine glass, which, if pressed, I could probably fit an entire bottle of wine into.
That worked too, for a week or so. But when I got to the bottom of the cup, because I was already a little buzzed, it became awfully easy to convince myself to pour another.
After that, I figured I would not drink Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Sundays, but I could Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Surely, I said to myself, I can go two days without this being an issue.
Nope—I could not.
Depressed and bloated, I kind of gave up. I couldn’t understand why I was struggling so badly; I had always been able to get a grip on this in the past. So I stopped thinking about it, or tried to stop thinking about it—and my nightly glass of wine helped me forget.
Another month passed and I realized I was feeling worse and worse each day. I had to do something. This supposedly minor problem was bugging me constantly. So I made one last deal with myself—each day, whenever my cravings started to kick in, I would meditate.
I meditate every morning, so I’m comfortable doing it, but this seemed like it was going to be different. I thought of it as crisis meditating. I wrote a note to myself on my hand in black Sharpie so I wouldn’t forget.
Meditate, it simply said.
I was nervous all day. Was this going to work? Or was it just another silly idea?
When 4:30 p.m. rolled around, sure enough, my body got that pre-wine zap. Where’s my drink? How early can I get away with having it? Do I have to drive anyone anywhere? (I never, ever drink and drive) I was agitated and anxious, and I just wanted to go down to the kitchen. Then I saw the note on my hand. And oddly, just seeing the word, meditate, soothed me. I stopped what I was doing and sat down. I sat with the feeling of wanting that wine. The want rose up and washed over me like a rogue wave. And then, here was the surprise, it ebbed and disappeared, leaving behind nothing but a sense of calm.
The whole process took no longer than a single minute.
I opened my eyes in wonder. Could it be that easy? Perhaps this big monster of desire and longing wasn’t such a monster after all, but a mere blip on the screen. Throughout the next two hours, the want rose up again and again. Each time I stopped what I was doing, allowed myself to feel it, and watched it wash away. Each time, like the first time, it took less than a minute from beginning to end.
The next night, I did the same thing. And the next, and the next. I built up days, weeks, a month of this new habit, each time watching in utter amazement as the sensation came and then left with hardly any effort at all. Somehow, even though I am a yoga teacher, specifically trained in mindfulness, it was the last resource I had considered using to help me. Maybe I was too afraid to look inside. Maybe I thought it would be less painful to try and chain the monster rather than listening to him breathe.
I am not afraid now; Iam grateful. I look forward each evening to an opportunity to ride the storms in my mind, because I can ride them, and it won’t hurt me. Mindfulness is an infinite, foolproof resource, there for us every day, all the time. All we have to do is stop, listen to our breath, and let it be the sturdy boat which carries us through tempestuous seas.
Knowing me, I will forget this wonderful fact again at the next important juncture in my life, but I’m hoping that the more I practice observing my fears in real time rather than just in formal seated meditation, the more like second nature it will become.
Until then, I’ve always got my Sharpie.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: Gabriela Kulaif