March 1 2021 - 8 months, 244 days.......243 bottles of wine (ish).....
8 months. When I started my journey of giving up alcohol I didn’t really know. I just didn’t know ‘how long’ I would be at it for. Just being completely honest. I told people I was doing ‘dry July’. I ‘told’ my husband I was going to do a 100 day challenge. I told him that so I could justify paying a sober coach to help me through this that would cost $1800 for 6 months...... That was a shit load of money. It didn’t make sense in my head, it was illogical. But. I knew deep in my soul that I had to make a change. I told myself that it was the same amount of money I was spending on wine so what’s the big deal? I told myself that it would make me accountable to at least one other person if I had a person I would be emailing regularly, being completely and utterly honest with. Because still, as of today, I have not been completely honest with anyone. Well, except for you people - anonymous readers in the blogosphere.
At almost 6 months, December 23rd, I remember telling my daughter that I ‘wasn’t drinking right now’. My husband reacted - ‘What? What do you mean ‘right now’?” I told him I still wasn’t ready to use the word FOREVER.
I still can’t get my head around the fact that I went from occasional, social drinker, to that person who was doing a mental inventory of what was left in the house before I left work. I went from a regular, come home from work, make dinner, do some laundry, drink a shit ton of diet coke and go to bed young woman, to a come home from work, pour a glass of wine- repeat, go to bed middle aged woman. It became so engrained in my neural pathways that I literally couldn’t figure out how to BE any other way. Even the nights I had to go out, to commitments I actually enjoyed doing in the evenings, I still managed to come home and put away a good 2-3 glasses of wine before heading to bed. What in the actual.........?
I have no explanation. Literally. I can only tell you, in those days, my brain was saying “well, what else is there to do?”, or “what if you can’t fall asleep on your own?”, or “it’s no fun to be in the same frame of mind all day every day” (that’s a weird way to put it, but I can’t explain it any other way). Then there was the ‘I deserve it’, ‘Everyone drinks’, ‘I will examine this tomorrow’, ‘we are celebrating’, ‘it’s Friday’, ‘it’s Tuesday’..... you get the picture.
When it occasionally occurred to me (usually in the early part of the day....) that I wouldn’t drink that day, it INSTANTLY put me in a bad mood all day. If I actually followed through with it (which trust me, was not very often), I was grumpy, non-communicative, downright angry with my husband especially if he was drinking and I just went to bed. I didn’t take pride, or look at all the positives of having a ‘dry day’. I was a horrible witch. I acted like I was child; like I was being punished. Then the next day - was like a big negotiation. “Ok, you can have A drink today; but come on, don’t drink a whole bottle. You don’t need to, you aren’t an addict or anything”. The negotiations I made back and forth were EXHAUSTING. And of course, we all know, somehow I always lost to myself.
This inner turmoil was such torture. I would look at myself in the mirror before bed and say the most horrible things to myself. Then in the morning, the conversation continued. Imagine a parent looking at a child and the last thing they hear, and the first thing they hear, every single day, are messages of disgust and disappointment. No wonder I felt like a phony for so many years. Relationships with friends, family and coworkers; I felt like I was 2 different people. The person on the outside projecting this image of someone who was all put together; funny, smart, driven. But I always felt I was hiding somehow, hoping people couldn’t see the person that buried deep down: The person waiting for 5:00 (or earlier). The person who was hoping others didn’t get too close for fear they would smell the wine from the night before. Never in the moment, always living in the past, or looking forward.
Aha - that’s the gift. That’s the aha moment! Quitting drinking has given me back PRESENCE. Presence of mind, presence of gratitude, presence of solace, presence of joy. I no longer have to wonder if people are sensing my ‘dirty little secret’. I no longer have to do a mental inventory, or do a mental countdown to happy hour. No more measuring other peoples’ drinks, counting the minutes since I finished my last drink, none of it. Just to BE is a glorious gift.
My husband says he isn’t counting anymore. I certainly am. Somehow just saying the number of days, or months, or looking at the app to see how many bottles of wine I haven’t consumed is the parent in me telling me how amazing I am. I still think about it every day. Not that I want a drink, or miss drinking, but I just think “wow, here’s another day without wine, go me”. Sometimes I chastise myself saying I should just move on, just forget that it was ever a horrible habit that developed. Over 20 YEARS........ I guess that’s why it still crosses my mind. It was such a part of my persona, like another arm. I guess it would take a while to get used to losing an arm. Even though a third arm was useless and did me no good, it was still in the way, and now it’s not. So getting used to it is just part of my brain adjusting. No more, no less. No reason to overthink it.
I am so comforted by the women I have met that are just like me. Even though there are no women in my ‘real’ life who walk with me and talk with me about what it was like to be so dependent on the poison, it’s such a blessing to read stories of success, and also I cry for those stories of struggle. Hopefully those of you that struggle find that one thing that is the switch for you. It’s there. It’s in everyone. You just have to find it. And when you do, cherish it.