I don’t usually make resolutions, but it’s been an unusual couple of years for me and my marriage. Two whack years, after which I’ve arrived at being resolved to quit using alcohol as a crutch to hobble through life on. And to stop trying to buy happiness, worthiness and other good feels. Because whenever I try to curb my drinking, I start to spend money. And eat pie.
Owing to finding myself in the unexpected and unwelcome position of having to recover from my husband’s choice to have an affair during a time our relationship barely even qualified as friendship, I hit a wonky patch in life. In the early stages of recovery, I made big strides, quickly. Only to be tripped up later and further skin my already bruised ego and scraped up heart on the gritty, gravely road to the finish line of healing.
From the outset after my husband’s confession, I knew I wanted to stay with him. Just not in our marriage, for it was obliterated beyond repair. I didn’t want to be in that marriage of old anymore. Or ever again. Rather, I wanted to stay with my husband and begin a new marriage with him.
I just didn’t know how. As I sought out the how and it came to me, I healed. He healed. We healed and we left our past behind in favor of the gift of our present and hope for our future.
Then I stalled out. After we concluded couples counseling, after we found a better way to love each other, after I became a writer and found an outlet for my pain that also worked to help the next one in line—I got stuck.
They say healing isn’t linear and they are right. Healing is a wild goose chase in a tricky maze in a foreign city in a strange country.
Having never been able to stand the taste of alcohol until well into my 30s, I came to crave it—especially its numbing effects—over the last couple of years. Somewhere between beginning anew with my husband and suffering the damaging effects of unpredictable triggers and what was very likely a form of PTSD, my relationship with alcohol became untenable. As did my relationship with the almighty dollar and all the lovely things it can buy.
My personality walks the stage with a sash that reads, Miss All or Nothing. Since alcohol has become one of those things I’m all in for, it needs to go. Since spending money on all matter of whatnot for myself competes with drinking for my number one coping mechanism—I need to send spending, as a means to feel good, packing, too.
Via no more negotiating deals with myself, no more budgeting or attempting moderation, no more arguments with me about why I deserve this thing. No more manipulating myself by asserting something’s so cheap I can’t afford not to buy it.
No more going for the quick fix high over the long haul heal.
None of those strategies work on me. Cold turkey nothingness is what works for me when I’m finally ready to work toward a better way of life. I won’t be doing any personal spending this year because I’ve been all in for shopping for too long now and so now I need to be all out.
What do I mean by no personal spending? It means not spending money on any “thing” that I want but don’t truly need. In a year’s time, there’s not much I’ll truly need either. So unless it’s a grave necessity, the likes of which I can’t even conjure right now, I won’t be purchasing it.
What doesn’t my year of no personal spending encompass? I’ll still go to lunch with a friend. I’ll still catch a movie or go for a pedicure. I’ll still buy a book if I can’t get it from the library. I won’t suspend my Apple Music subscription. I’ll still buy a ticket to a conference or enroll in a class. I’ll still purchase toiletries and continue to groom myself.
I just won’t be adding to my already bulging closet of clothes, my rows and rows of shoes, or piles of jewelry. I won’t be buying any decor for our home that’s already decorated. I won’t purchase any gadgets for my already plentifully-gadgetized kitchen.
A year of no personal spending is not about deprivation or not meeting my physical needs.
It’s about learning to meet my spiritual needs, the needs of the silkiest parts of my soul. The parts Mary Oliver named for me. My undying love for shoes will no doubt be mentioned in my epitaph, but the truth is they don’t love me back. Shoes don’t fill the deep-seated void, the God-shaped hole, or the blast site my husband’s infidelity created inside my heart. What will? And how will I not drink or spend frivolously for an entire year?
I don’t know how, yet. I just know I’ll accomplish my intentions, or at least give my utmost trying to. I’m not going for perfection. Because—this just in—PERFECT IS GROSS. I’m going for health. For wellness. For mental stability and new methods of self-soothing that actually serve me; not set me back physically, financially or emotionally.
How do I know I’ll be able to do what I’m setting out to do? Because I’ve been here before—with my husband, inside our wrecked marriage. At the intersection of how the heck will I do this and what’s it gonna take? At the corner of I know what I want and what’s best for me. And so I’ll do the same thing I did then—I’ll just begin.
I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt we don’t need to know how to accomplish a goal when we first begin to try.
For let’s say you decide you want to climb a mountain but you never have. So you read books written by experts, you buy all the gear, you train in a climbing gym, you join a Facebook group for all things climbing and you follow some wildly popular climber Instagram accounts. You watch YouTube videos and you chat with friends about their climbing experiences.
You watch climbing documentaries and you start journaling to capture your new knowledge. You make plans for your first climb. You take the time off work and you buy the plane tickets. You arrive at the base of the mountain and gaze up wistfully at the summit. But then you never set one foot in front of the other. You never actually begin.
What good does it do you to have all the know-how to do the thing if you never start to do the thing? It’s so much more important, so much more valuable and worthwhile to just begin. Just embark. Just launch yourself into the doing of the thing and seek the how-to as your journey unfolds.
At this moment, I don’t know the entire “how” I won’t spend on me all year. But I do know some of it. I know I can literally shop out of my own closet for months. I have clothes with the tags still on and pieces I haven’t worn in so long they’ll feel new. God willing, I’ll have a birthday this year and a couple more gift-giving occasions on which I can ask for anything I find myself wanting.
When I’m feeling low or unsettled, I will sit down and write. I will exercise or reach out and catch-up with a friend. I will get lost in a good novel or pester my freshman in college on FaceTime. I will look into my husband’s eyes and soak up the love I see there.
I know what I really want in this life, what I desperately need to feel whole, healthy and truly happy—and I know enough of the route that will get me there to just begin. I have enough tools to get started. And I’m guessing all of the above is true for you, too.
So, let’s just begin.
We’ll gather what we need to get there along the way. And we’ll get there faster together.
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