Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Here's what drinking didn't actually do.

There are some things I always had such guilt and anxiety about, because I'd always associated them with drinking wine.

For example:

My memory, or lack thereof. I used to not remember what I'd had for dinner last night, what, and/or if, I'd had eaten that morning, had I taken my pill? And on and on. God forbid someone would tell me what I said in the past...especially if it was not flattering or went against my thinking. How could I argue?

Well, guess what? That's just my brain. I have not had any alcohol for almost 2 months and still, each day, I cannot remember these things.

Nausea. I used to wake up most mornings with a bit of a nausea. I'd assumed it was the wine specifically, now I think it was sugar and carbs. I've come to this conclusion because it's still an issue, and in lieu of wine, I've been stuffing my face with candy, nuts, chips.

To think, all that guilt, all that worry, for nothing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Books! Books!

So, I began with "Mrs D is Going Without: I used to be a boozy housewife. Now I'm not. This is my book." by Lotta Dann. So glad I found this book. It pushed me over the edge and gave me confidence to quit drinking alcohol forever. Not just moderate (which I couldn't do anyway), not just abstain for a few months (which I'd done with my pregnancies, only to jump right back into the bottle afterwards). I love her and owe her a great debt.

Then, "A Drinking Life: A Memoir" by Pete Hamill. Fantastic storytelling. Very densely packed with imagery and memorable stories. The first 95% of the book is about his life before he quit drinking. I have to admit, I got antsy to get to the part where he gave it up for good. The final 5%, where he discusses what happens, is amazing. I'm so glad I read this. The analogy of "I realized that for years I'd been squeezing my talent out of a toothpaste tube. I'd misused it and abused it and failed to replenish it with deep reading and full consciousness." Pure gold.

Currently, "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp. One of those books where, on my Kindle, I've only read up to chapter 3, yet I've highlighted 75% of the text already. Her methods and background differ, but when she speaks of the "greediness" one feels when the wine is out...
Oh shit. Shit. I am completely relating to this woman and decide to look her up online to see what she's up to. She freaking died. In 2002. Of lung cancer. In the beginning of "Drinking" she relates how her father died of cancer, how he smoked, how she smokes...shit. I feel so bad. Dang.


"Kick the Drink...Easily!" by Jason Vale. I've just started this, but already found something of a gem, "I feel elated to be free from what was a constant struggle to gain control. I feel so relieved to be mentally and physically free."
Yes. That is how I feel. The knot of anxiety is missing from my chest. I'm not thinking about what to drink, how much, should I moderate, are people I'm with aware of just how much I've drank, is there enough for me to have another glass, etc. I feel relieved. That is definitely the best word for how I feel. I love how he writes, "free from the constant struggle to gain control." I'm all about control. And, drinking was an uncontrollable thing, a huge effort to even try to control.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What's in that glass?

I still drink out of my big, beautiful wine glass. Every afternoon. Sometimes even in the mornings. I love how it feels, I love how it clinks on the table as I set it down, that sound is like a Zen meditation chime to me.
However, now it contains only water, or seltzer, or another sweet non-alcoholic drink.

Besides water, I mostly drink:

An iced tea brew consisting of herbal teas: 2 peach, 2 raspberry, 2 green/nectarine. I brew it, put it in the fridge and drink cold as is, or add seltzer or soda.

Flavored seltzers. Lime, orange, lemon usually. On their own or mixed with the iced tea or soda.

Sodas. Normally, sodas are not something that agree with me, they make my innards wacky. So, I cut them with the above iced tea, or seltzer.
Some favorites have been:
Whole Foods Italian Soda in Lime or Grapefruit. They are freaking gooood mixed with seltzer or tea.
Belvoir Elderflower Lemonade. This is light, not too tart and actually looks a lot like Sauvignon Blanc.

I know I'm clearly replacing my wine habit with a sugar habit, so in an effort to not jump from one problem to another, I rarely drink the soda straight, I mix it with herbal iced tea or seltzer. It still is a remarkably satisfying replacement to the wine.

Monday, July 6, 2015

First test, sort of.

So we went away for Fourth of July weekend. one noticed. Or if they did, no one said anything as I drank wineglasses full of soda, iced tea or seltzer. The only time alcohol was mentioned (in regard to me, anyway) was when my mother in law said, "there's wine in the fridge, help yourself!" and that was it.

And I didn't say anything. I was a bit worried about having to have "the talk" and tell people I'm not drinking and why...I don't have that answer by the way. And many times over the weekend I came close to mentioning why I was drinking soda or iced tea, but just didn't. I felt like that was going to make it bigger than it was. No one really cared. Not in an uncaring way, but in a way that led me to believe they didn't care if I was drinking alcohol or not.

I'm not sure what's a good thing to tell people. I come from a family that is fairly stoic. We do not stand for complaining or whining about one's problems, and we inwardly (and sometimes, outwardly) judge people who do do that. I mean, my sister has survived two(!) different types of cancer and my father had circulation issues which led to multiple amputations of his toes/foot/leg. I mean, come on...can I really tell them, "oh, yes, I am an alcoholic", that sounds a bit too self-serving and dramatic to me.

For responses which do not sound too weak or overly dramatic, I have so far:
Alcohol didn't agree with me.
I feel better without alcohol.
I was worried about my innards (we have sugar issues in the family, I don't want to drink myself into diabetes.)
Stopping has helped remove that constant pain in my chest and reduced anxiety.

These are all true, they aren't too pathetic sounding, and they're also non-judgemental. I don't want to make my family feel like I have quit alcohol because of how bad it was, how I drank too much (when I'm fairly sure other family members drink more), anything that implies I believe I've done something good or am somehow better than my family because of this thing I'm doing.

That reminds me of a part of Pete Hamill's book, "A Drinking Life", which really spoke to me:
"And there was some residue in me of the old codes of the Neighborhood, some deep adherence to the rules about never, ever rising above your station. Getting drunk was a way of saying I would never act uppity, never forget where I came from. No drunk, after all, could look down on others. Being drunk was a great leveler, a kind of Christian act of communion. Who could ever point the finger of harsh judgement at a drunk if we all were drunk?"

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sugar. Oh shite.

Well, I see now that my evening glasses of fancy non-alcoholic beverages (carbonated juices, natural sodas) are my body's way of getting that sugar it needed each night in the form of wine. Took about 30 seconds of online searching to see sugar binges accompany quitting alcohol. Great. As I'd written in my last post, none of this is original. Shite.

I am not going to quit sugar. I just cannot go there right now. But instead of having two glasses of sugary drink followed by a few Ghiradelli squares, I'll have one topped with seltzer, to both cut the sugar and make it last longer. I know this sounds exactly like when I began the long process of quitting alcohol. Trying to moderate. It didn't work with wine, I had to quit it outright. But that's wine, not food. I'll try what I'm currently doing with wine...replacement. Instead of Ghiradelli squares, I'll eat handfuls of blueberries. Yes, it's still sugar in my body, but at least there are other good qualities to the blueberries (or raisins, oranges, peaches, etc.) that the chocolate doesn't provide.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

None of this original.

As I read and finish yet another book from a person who has given up alcohol, I come to the conclusion none of what I'm experiencing is original. I'm often reading these books and saying to myself, Yes. Yes, that's it exactly.

The most recent is Pete Hamill's "A Drinking Life". I think it was one of the books I randomly selected when I began this process of tentatively testing out if I could even do this alcohol-free life. It's a memoir, and the first 90% (according to my kindle) is his life, growing up in NY. It's lovely and well written. However, when I finally got to the third part of the book, Dry, I began to get that feeling. That thrill of reading something someone else wrote (years ago!) that I can completely relate to.

From "A Drinking Life":

"I had a tremendous craving for sugar and began to eat more ice cream and candy than I had since moving away from Sanew's. In the mornings, I felt clear and fresh."

"I liked reading myself to sleep a lot more than falling into a swollen stupor."

"Getting drunk was a way of saying I would never act uppity, never forget where I came from."

"Being drunk was the great leveler, a kind of Christian act of communion. Who could ever point the finger of harsh judgement at a drunk if we all were drunk?"

"I began to think that I only had to give up one drink: the next one. If I didn't have that drink, I'd never have another. If that was the trick, then the trick worked..."

"Now I had more time than I'd ever had as an adult. I had gained the time I once spent drinking and the time I needed for recovery."


I love this. This act of finding out that this has been done many times over. I'm not the first to do this. I always marvel that as I age (I'm mid 40s now), I'm constantly learning how little I actually know. (And, what the hell is up with the sugar?? I'm eating candy every night. Bizarre.)

I knew nothing of Pete Hamill. Never even heard his name. But from reading his memoir, I'm stunned. He's pretty well-known. Has had an amazing life and worked with and socialized with a lot of famous people. I love that I've thought that in my life I'd learned quite a bit, knew a respectable amount. And then something comes up to make me realize how small I am, how small my knowledge base actually is. It's kind of cool.