For the month of September 2016, I embarked on a self-initiated Wine Fast. Many friends scoffed at the idea, asking why go to such an extreme: Was it to drop weight, run faster, sleep better? That combination sounded worth the effort itself, but those weren’t my reasons.
My desire was to have a reason, actually an excuse, to say No. We were coming off one of our family’s best summers: weather allowed for many great activities with friends, many nights of grilling out, our family gelled around some terrific conversations, and … most of the activities also included wine, cocktails or craft beer. After three months, life was feeling gluttonous. Plus, with school starting, I explained there would be lots of carpooling and weekend sporting activities that would make it easier to abstain.
This wasn’t my first time abstaining from alcohol, I had three nine-months segments of adult life that were alcohol free: first I’d given up drinking during for my freshman year of college, more as an experiment in discipline, and I wasn’t tempted to drink during either pregnancy, for fear of what could go wrong with the baby. However, this was going to be different. As a wine Fast, whenever I desired a glass of wine or a beer, instead of indulging, instead of discipline, I would try to hear what God was saying to me in that moment.
Was I drinking because I was stressed? Was I tired? Was I bored?
“Do not get drunk on wine. Which leads to debauchery.
Instead be filled with the Spirit”. (aka: Awesome Joy!)
I went into Labor Day weekend curious what I would discover and assuming one month should be a breeze. I journaled and listened and read scripture throughout the month. Here are the results that stood out:
Why is it more natural to invite a friend over for a glass of wine than to meet for a walk?
When my children where younger I consciously decided one glass of wine after work was fine. Somehow that crept to two glasses a night and basically almost 4 bottles a week. That didn’t seem healthy. I also didn’t want my kids to see alcohol at every evening meal. Once I recognized this constant consumption, I made the effort to change some behaviors: Instead of hosting after school happy hour, I met friends for walks or nail appointments. Recently, when a new mom stopped over, I offered her a diet Coke or a Lacroix. I felt funny but was also proud that I didn’t over-explain why I wasn’t offering her wine. She happily accepted the sparkling water and we had an hour-long, deep conversation.
When did alcohol become such a large part of my culture?
I considered this question while reviewing my calendar: Friday night happy hour, weekend dinners out, Tuesday night Book club, Wednesday night Bunko, Thursday night date night… these aren’t every week, but during most weeks there are opportunities to drink multiple weekday evenings. On these nights, alcohol is typically offered and consumed. Please don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t adult peer pressure. On a few occasions, people didn’t even realize I hadn’t been drinking until we talked about it post Fast. My take a way is that alcohol is available, thus our society (including me) seems to drink out of habit.
Would my story’s ending be spicy and bitter or have a sweet tannin finish?
By the third weekend I was having a tough time. My husband had been traveling and I was tired of single parenting, working and chauffeuring kids. I was ready for adult conversation and a home grilled dinner. I sought advice from friend JCM who was going through an even tougher month dealing with excess. She suggested a Sabbatical, one day off to spend time connecting with my hubby. I felt a little guilty, but I didn’t let the one-night ruin the final week. The following day we hosted a family birthday party for our nine-year-old and I was back to abstaining.
As this project was Breathing and Decanting, was anyone noticing?
Yes, many friends were noticing … and supporting me. The following email was received from the hostess of our South Africa Mission Trip reunion: Hi, I noticed that hardly anyone drank last night…we only went through about half a bottle of wine…I think your (Facebook) post may have gotten people thinking and been a positive influence! So good to see you!
Any unintended consequences?
Yes, I was feeding my sweet tooth. Just about every day I ate chocolate, an ice cream cone, double bubble gum, Rice Krispie treats, brownies. Yikes. I replacing the wine sugar with table sugar, yet I justified it believing I had extra calories available to consume.
Also, I am an outgoing personality, thus typically don’t need the liquid courage, but I realized I still say funny things, I would normally blame on wine – like complimenting a kindergarten cheerleader, before realizing it was the wrong kid.
When was wine missed the most?
During this month, I discovered that having a glass of wine is my “turn off”, once I pour the glass, I give myself permission to stop doing tasks that require tactical thinking. As an entrepreneur and mom who always has one more thing to do, the wine allowed me to stop. I wouldn’t try to write, read, do. It was my ending point. The turning off allows me to sit, relax and cook. As a substitute, I found that drinking sparkling water in a wine glass also feels fancy, and more importantly, the need for creating a time turn off – for stopping, breathing, thinking, taking time for self.
What did the fast teach me about wine through scripture?
At the right times, God wants us to celebrate, enjoy and praise His creation. He made wine to gladden our hearts. That is really cool! Following are a few of my favorite passages that I would reread throughout the month:
Psalm 104:14-15: He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth, wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts”.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything, but not everything is constructive.”
Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine. Which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit”. (aka: Awesome Joy!)
Proverbs 20:1: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise”.
John 2:1-12: Wedding at Cana in Galilee – Most of us have heard the story of Jesus turning water into wine. Have you ever considered though, that the wine He created was perfect! The master of the banquet (aka sommelier) comments on it. This was Jesus’ first miracle. Go read it yourself John 2:1-12 Feast of Cana
Why am I sharing this months later?
As spring brings schedule changes and warm weather getting us out door more …, our family schedule changes. After a couple weeks of having a Sunday, Wednesday and often a Thursday night adult social activity, plus the weekend, I needed a reminder of what I experienced and learned during my wine fast. I am reminded that there are great relationships that curate over wine and conversation, but it’s the Spirit, not the wine that creates the joy!