I had my last drink on December 25, 2022. The fact that this is newsworthy is part of what makes this post vulnerable. And, the fact that I’m publishing this post eight days later is what lands it in the “my most vulnerable post to date” category.
Today, I shared a post on Instagram and Facebook and also a reel about it. Given the response I’ve received, I decided to write this post.
This is my (recent) story with alcohol.
It’s January 2, 2023, and I’m 46 years-old. Christmas Day was only eight days ago, and it was a pretty chill day spent with family. I poured a glass of red and enjoyed it. Out of the three adults present, I was the only one with a drink.
Once I drained it, I refilled it. I don’t remember enjoying the second all that much. I think I poured a third – these were small pours – and I ended up dumping most of it down the drain, along with the rest of the bottle.
In that moment, something in me knew that I was done with alcohol. Like, DONE.
I think about the eight days that have passed. Some of that time was spent excavating why it was time to declare sobriety (rather than just opt for a “dry January”). And some of that time was spent renegotiating other long overdue lifestyle choices – choices that I’ll likely be sharing soon. Truly, these past eight days have offered a pretty fucking amazing gift!
[Sorry…this post drops a few f-bombs, and you’ve already encountered the first…]
If I think back to what precipitated my decision to choose sobriety, I’m not sure where I’d land.
Maybe it’s when a very successful coach friend of mine shared on Instagram that she’d been sober for nearly a year.
Maybe it’s when I learned that someone close to me had a very drunken, very rock-bottom experience. Their solution wasn’t to quit drinking but to make better use of breathalyzers and designated drivers.
Or maybe it’s when I said something regrettable to my amazing partner – last summer, maybe? – about the future of our relationship when a drunken state left me uber emotional.
Regardless, the seed had been sown many, many times over the past year or two that it was time to revisit my relationship with alcohol because *drumroll*…
I was a nightly wine drinker.
In other words, my drinking was considered socially acceptable to many.
I’d log off at 5 and take a few minutes to fuck around with my phone before I headed down to the kitchen. I’d then pour myself a glass of vino – usually chardonnay because cabs turned my teeth an unbecoming shade of purple – and peruse the contents of the fridge to figure out what was on the menu for dinner.
By the time dinner was on the table, I’d have topped off my glass – it was still technically my first! – and by the time dinner was over and as I was heading upstairs to read and relax, I was officially on my
third second glass.
So when bedtime came around, it was normal for me to have polished off the better part of a bottle. Despite this, I rarely displayed any obvious signs of intoxication.
Rinse and repeat. Every. Damn. Night.
If I was working on my website or had another reason to stay up late, e.g. past 10, it’s very possible that I’d have actually finished the bottle. Even then, I was rarely outwardly intoxicated. But I wasn’t sober.
I generally only got drunk when I hung out with other (responsible!) wine-drinkers in social settings. I wasn’t trying to get drunk when I did – it’s just that the wine never stopped flowing and I was always in great, fun company. Oh, and no one’s ever accused me of nursing a drink.
As an introvert who doesn’t have a very active social life, these events happened maybe every few months. So, most of my drinking was done solo.
My partner rarely drinks at home and usually saves his imbibing for social settings like poker nights, Vegas trips, etc. He definitely doesn’t drink out of habit like I do. Or did.
When I announced my sobriety publicly today, my partner and I chatted a bit about it. It turns out that the biggest inconvenience my drinking has caused him is that it sometimes kept me from coming to bed when he turned in (“just a few more minutes so I can finish my wine…”).
To him, our friends, and even my dad (who’s a non-drinker), my wine consumption was normal enough to not raise eyebrows.
So here’s what made my drinking a problem.
My nightly wine ritual was an escapist activity for me. I prided myself on how I didn’t EVER watch tv (a very escapist past time for many), yet as I read book after book on how to be a better coach or not hold culturally appropriative ceremonies, vino was right there by my side.
I had myself convinced that wine was delicious and because I wasn’t harming anyone, my drinking was fine.
I wasn’t a drunk. I didn’t blackout, pee myself, get violent, have any DUIs, or do (many!) regrettable things when drinking. I was rarely truly hung over. And when I hung out with girlfriends, I either limited my drink count to two or took a Lyft.
I normally went to bed by 10, woke up at 4:51, and meditated for 20+ minutes before starting my day. In other words, I was high-functioning, and my vino habit wasn’t causing me any real problems.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, it burdened my soul, my spirit. It created feelings of shame. It wasn’t good for me (my puffy face, ruddy complexion, and occasional headaches are evidence of this). And on rare occasion, it created unnecessary strain in one of my most important relationships. Here’s how my drinking affected these areas…
Reason #1: Shame
Well for starters, I made pathetic, half-ass attempts to not advertise the volume of wine I was drinking. I preferred topping off my glass when I was alone so no one heard yet another pour, and when the bottle was empty I rarely left it on top of the other recycling for all to see.
My integrity is everything to me, and while I never lied or did anything to actually hide my drinking, I wasn’t exactly upfront about the shame I felt about my excess consumption because, well, I felt shame! And this avoidance of sharing the reality of my drinking habit and how I felt about it with others compounded these feelings of shame.
Reason #2: Health
A bottle of wine a day is more than four times the “healthy” limit. Or so we’re told, and I have no inside information on which to challenge this. I was probably drinking an average of three to four times the “healthy” limit nearly every night of the week.
Four drinks per occasion is considered “binge drinking” by the CDC, which means that I was binge drinking. A lot.
At the end of the day and despite how culturally accepted binge-drinking vino may be, I was slowly poisoning my body.
As a student of yoga, breath work, and meditation…as a person who’s very conscientious of where her food comes from, buys nearly all organic produce, and refuses to eat food with dyes like Red #40…it was illogical that I’d voluntarily put so much ethanol in my body. Yes, ethanol. It’s the same shit that they add to some gasolines.
Aside from “healthy” limits, I never felt 100% the morning after drinking. My normal was 90-95%. My face would be puffy and ruddy, I’d sometimes have a low-grade headache, and I usually felt dehydrated. Not only that, but I always felt like I needed more sleep. Seven hours of 100% sober sleep always felt more rejuvenating than seven hours of “buzzed” sleep…and a LOT more rejuvenating than seven hours of drunken sleep.
Reason #3: Relationships
Even though my partner wasn’t generally bothered by my drinking, it’s created tension between us on a few occasions. Why? Because I ruminate on stupid shit.
Ruminating on things I want but will probably never get goes hand-in-hand with late-night binge drinking for me.
Mind you, the things I want when I’m in a vino-infused rumination spree are rarely things that I truly want or need when I’m sober and not ruminating. In fact, they’re more likely to be smokescreens for unrelated shit that I need to work through on my own…shit that actually has nothing to do with him.
Regardless of whether something’s a recognizable smoke screen or not, you can’t undo or unsay certain things. I don’t ever want to go there again.
Reason #4: Spirit
Being intoxicated – even just “buzzed” – muddies my spirit. For example, if I’m with others, I’m more likely to gossip, which never feels right to me. I’m also more likely to find fault in or complain about things.
Instead of feeling love, of BEing love, I feel a sense of separation from my spirit. It’s subtle, and it’s not that drinking turns me into a bitch. It’s more like I swap my authenticity and soul integrity for the perception of fitting in and belonging.
You know what brings me closer to my spirit? Meditation. Nature. Prayer. Sacred ceremonial cacao. Chanting. Kirtan. Gratitude.
You know what goes out the window when I’m drinking? Meditation. Nature. Prayer. Sacred ceremonial cacao. Chanting. Kirtan. Gratitude.
Here’s how I haven’t had a drink since December 25, 2022.
I recognized my weariness and decided that I’d had it. I chose to dump out the rest of my wine down the drain and not take another drink.
It really was that simple.
I then finished reading the book “Quit Like A Woman”, since that’s what most likely triggered my decision. Once I finished that, I picked up Allen Carr’s “Quit Drinking Without Willpower”. I currently have about 50 pages left to go. It’s a bit…repetitive, but it needs to be. And, it’s good.
If you pick up either book, you’ll quickly see that the gist is about changing your attitude towards alcohol. Rather than be a desirable, necessary lubricant of sorts it becomes poisonous and vile…something that no longer holds any appeal.
It’s not about saying, “No, I shouldn’t have a drink…I’m going to be strong!” while white-knuckling cravings. It’s about killing the cravings.
Now, I’m eight days sober and so my experience with this method is limited. But it’s working so far. For example, New Years Eve came and went without the urge to drink and despite being around people who were. That’s pretty rad.
I want to take a moment to mention Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as I don’t know if you’re reading this because you’re just curious about my story or are considering sobriety yourself. I’ve been in many, many AA meetings and speaker events (not as an alcoholic) over a seven-year period, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for the program. The stories are inspiring AF, and the fellowship is beautiful. I’ve also been around AA enough to know that it wasn’t an option that resonated for me short of hitting a rock-bottom. You do you, but I highly recommend checking out AA and/or the books I mentioned if your life isn’t what you want it to be and alcohol is involved. But I digress…
Let’s talk about self-medicating via escapism.
I mentioned escapism earlier, and I want to circle back.
Our culture kinda sucks. We’re constantly on screens living virtual, digital, and highly filtered lives rather than our actual lives. We’re disconnected from our true selves. We worship people for the personas they create.
We consume unsustainably and without reverence for those who’ve suffered for and as a result of our consumption. Most of us don’t even seem to ponder this sort of thing.
We watch videos of people lip-syncing and pointing to imaginary words surrounding them…because everyone else is doing it (I cannot wait for this trend to run its course!). We watch movies and shows that show us in great detail how to torture and murder others. We glorify people who do shitty things and have shitty attitudes.
Most importantly, we spend our free time doing everything we can to distract ourselves from…ourselves.
We seem to be on a perpetual mission to escape from being with ourselves.
My nightly wine habit (or addiction, if you want to call it that) was a form of self-medication, of escapism. It was how I chose to escape, considering that I don’t watch tv, have a TikTok account, or follow any of the Kardashians.
So, what was I escaping from when I already had an impressive treasure chest of self-coaching tools, a solid meditation practice, and a deep connection with my inner guide, my soul?
Ironically enough, I was escaping from my drinking (it obviously didn’t start out that way, but at some point it seemed to become a chicken-or-egg thing). I was escaping from my debt and poor financial habits. I was escaping from the shame I felt for being 46 and not having all of my shit together the way other 46 year-olds seem to have their shit together.
I’m actually a very self-aware person – meditation does this to a person! – but we all have our blind spots. Now that I’ve recognized mine, I’ve begun making changes.
For starters, I haven’t had a drink since December 25, 2022…