To preface, this is not a piece about my road to sobriety. I still drink one or two drinks 2 – 3 days per week. Further, this is not a piece railing against alcohol. It is simply my experience with drinking during a stressful time in my life, and what I know on the other side of it.
My husband and I always enjoyed our wine and cheese Thursday evenings, which led into dinner in front of a TV show or a movie with a second glass of wine. Simple and easy, a good way to unwind near the tail end of the work week. And then there were kids, twins to be precise. Goodbye quiet “unwind” nights! We continued to enjoy wine or a cocktail on Thursdays and the weekend. It was nothing out of the ordinary, wild or unusual, save the occasional one-too-many evening. In late 2014, my husband accepted a job in Seattle, WA, 2,000 miles from “home.” Wine became my daily way of coping with the stress and the sadness over our upcoming move. Never mind that wine is a depressant!
Wine every day was not my norm, and I immediately felt uneasy about it. When I broached the topic with our nanny at the time, she said she had seen much worse, moms having their first glass at 3:00 in the afternoon. I wasn’t going to get a slap on the hand from her. My habit continued up until our move and on the other side of it in Seattle. I never got drunk or blacked out. I was simply trying to get myself to this light buzz where I could zone out from thoughts and feelings I didn’t like.
Seattle wasn’t a place that was going to slap my hand over my daily wine habit either. Much like Dallas, many people have a glass or two of something every day, on sunny days especially, because that is a real reason to celebrate. The sun’s out, where’s the rose?
Here’s what was happening to me those 3-1/2 years:
- I lacked motivation. Alcohol slowed me down, and it clouded my brain. I was waking up tired, which was partly due to the lack of sun in Seattle. But, not to be ignored is the fact that alcohol disrupts sleep, causing you to feel sluggish the next day. Not much was getting done in the evenings at home once I had a glass of wine. Evenings are a great time to prep for the next day. That wasn’t happening at our house. Needless to say, I wasn’t exercising on a regular basis because it’s difficult to get up and go after a couple of glasses of wine the previous night and working out in the evenings was definitely out because I was choosing wine instead.
- I was making poor dietary choices. We all know alcohol lowers inhibitions. You’ll say things you normally wouldn’t, for instance. For me, this carried over into my choices of what to put in my body. I wasn’t focused on clean eating. Let’s face it, red wine tastes immensely better with pasta and red sauce than it does with a salad. I think it also goes back to my point above about clouding my brain. I wasn’t clear in my head and not feeling my best, so I was reaching for things I thought would make me feel better like fatty snacks and Starbucks mochas, which were actually making me feel worse.
- I was short-tempered with my kids. No doubt, my neighbors heard me on more than one occasion blowing my top at my sweet kids. During this time, I was slower, and I needed my kids to stay on their tasks, which isn’t the forte of 5/6-year olds. Thus, we were often behind schedule, and boom, I’d yell… loudly. My kids weren’t listening to me was my rationale. It’s their fault. Actually, I wasn’t listening to them, nose in my phone, so there wasn’t anyone to point the finger at except myself. I have noticed (now that I’m no longer drinking every day) after having a drink or two the night before, I am much less patient with my kids, not good.
You might be wondering why I stopped drinking every day. What turned the tide? First, we moved back to Dallas last summer, a very happy event! The daily need for the numbing solution was gone, but the habit was well-established. Like most habits, it is a tough one to break. The primary reason I stopped was I became concerned over the drinking habits of someone close to me. The more research I did on what alcohol does to the body, the more it opened my eyes to the ways it was affecting me. Heartburn had become a daily battle, and my energy and motivation had not fully returned. My body was telling me I could not continue at this rate.
I did what I’ll call “semi-dry” January, 2-3 drinks per week, and I felt great. I was waking up rested, I was more patient with my kids, and I was motivated to get more done during the day, especially in the evenings when I would have been parked with a glass of wine. I haven’t turned back, and my body is responding in ways I never imagined. My stomach is flatter, and I’ve started to look leaner, which is also a result of a cleaner diet and more exercise.
Here’s what I’ll say about not drinking:
- No one cares whether or not you drink. If you think people won’t like you or they will think it’s weird you don’t drink, stop. Those are lies your brain is telling you. If that does happen to you, those people aren’t your friends. You have to do what is right for you. No one will judge your decision to not drink. In fact, you not drinking sets an excellent example to those around you who are struggling with it.
- You might feel worse before you feel better. If you are a moderate to heavy drinker right now and you stop, you may feel sick, slow and sleepy. I was having headaches in January when I stopped. Alcohol is a toxin, so your body has to make major adjustments when you don’t give it that thing it is used to receiving every day. You will feel better eventually; you just have to push through that time of not feeling well. Having a drink to feel better isn’t the answer.
- You still have fun. I tested this at a birthday party for a friend in early January. I brought a bottle of Topo Chico with me because I do enjoy having a fizzy drink in my hand. I had a delightful time, the same amount of fun (or more) than I would have had while drinking. Back to that clear-headed point above, not drinking at that party allowed me to be more alert and more focused on conversations, and isn’t that what being present and in the moment is all about?
If you are struggling with an alcohol addiction, or if you are simply over-using as I was, find someone to confide in and look for a local support group to help you. You are welcome to private message me through my Instagram or my Facebook business page if you have no one else to talk to. It is difficult to tackle alone. Alcohol abuse is much more prevalent than we care to discuss because its use is very accepted, and each person’s tolerance varies.
Listen to your body and your heart. You know what’s right. I was looking for someone to slap my hand, but I had to slap my own.
Thank you for reading this, and please share it with someone who might need it.
aka Southern In Seattle