I decided to stop drinking two weeks ago. I did it for a variety of reasons. I felt that I was drinking too often, too many times alone, for too many reasons, and for unhealthy reasons. This is a difficult topic and I realize that people may judge and criticize my decision to stop drinking and my decision to share publicly that I am not drinking. But when I wanted to stop I looked for blog posts like these. For people like me that came to the same decision and I’d like to add my voice to the mix. So here’s my list on why I stopped drinking and my initial thoughts and reactions after doing so. I hope to post periodically to check in with myself and share with you what I am going through.
- I started drinking consistently when my ex-husband and I separated and I had to care for our two toddler daughters on my own without any financial or emotional support. He eventually moved away and we never saw him again. That was almost 10 years ago. My girls will both be in middle school this Fall.
- I come from a conservative, Latino, Catholic family. Divorce is a dirty word. You put up with your situation no matter what. You stick it out. It doesn’t matter what is going on behind closed doors you stay together “for the kids.” Now I stayed in that relationship longer than I should have – much longer, because of this pressure. But there were boundaries that were crossed that I will never tolerate and I made the decision to get my babies and I out. I’ve never regretted that decision. But it was a lonely and painful process to go through. I started to drink to silence that pain. I eventually got my emotions in order and trudged on and the drinking subsided to “normal” levels.
- Post-separation – Living my 20’s
- I dated and made friends. I went out to get drinks at a bar (instead of going dancing) for the first time. I wasn’t used to going somewhere for the sole purpose to talk and drink. Being the overachiever I am, I wouldn’t eat much all day to look “good” in a dress and then I’d stick to hard liquor / low calorie drinks. Not a good combination. The next day I would go for an extra long run to burn it off and call it a day. This is not sustainable.
- Coping with long hours at work, stress, and insomnia
- I started working at a law firm where my hours reflected the long hours of lawyers. I thrived in that high-pressure, fast-paced, get shit done environment. I loved it but it came at a cost. I was still heavily involved in my daughters’ PTA, after school activities, and our Three Musketeers Time. This meant that there were long hours into the night of working remotely on work projects and fundraising activities. My mind would be so wired that I would “need” a glass of scotch to unwind before bed.
- Hanging out with a bunch of people who also use alcohol to de-stress and unwind did me no favors.
- Realizing the Pain Never Goes Away if you Don’t Face It
- I’ve had big life changes in the past two years. I don’t know if that’s what triggered the intrusive flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms but it felt like they were taking over my life. It didn’t help that I was running on very minimal sleep and was overextended in all areas of my life.
- I found myself having a glass of prosecco or wine while I made dinner. Then refreshing it during dinner, and sometimes going to bed to watch tv with a refreshed glass. Prosecco feels so light and the glass was so small that it didn’t register that I was drinking more than usual. But what really bothered me was that I started associating de-stressing and unwinding with having a glass on hand.
- I drank to prevent myself from having the nightmares. I drank to quiet my train of thought. I drank to silence what was threatening to pour out of me. I was using drinking as my coping mechanism. I was using it as a band-aid while everything underneath kept festering and growing.
- It wasn’t until I addressed those issues that I realized how much I had used it to cope. As I regained my ability to moderate my reactions to those memories I realized that I didn’t need to drink to silence them. I didn’t want to.
- I worried that my kids would start to associate me with wine, with prosecco, with always relaxing with glass in hand. We didn’t get to that point but that’s the thing – the fact that I was worried was alarming to me. I don’t ever want to get close to that line.
- I have big plans and I need all the energy I need – I want to get shit done
- I have a lot one my to-do list every night – things to get done, things to review, etc. and they would all go out the window after I had a glass. I would be too drowsy to do all of those things.
- I have three children. I go to school full-time. I want to be an entrepreneur post-school. I want to help solve education-disparity among income backgrounds. I have the ability (intellectually and drive) to do those things. But I also need the energy. Drinking is a depressant, it’s kryptonite to Bad Ass Doers.
- I didn’t like myself when I had too much to drink
- I wasn’t a raging party girl or getting drunk in public or getting drunk often but the times when I realized that I had too much to drink – I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I flushed with shame at my lack of self-control. Just because you’re not going out to drink doesn’t mean that you can’t overdo it at home. You can just as easily fall off that slippery slope in the suburbs as in the city.
- I am a fiercely independent person and I felt like I had become dependent on alcohol to cope with stress, with anxiety, with everything. It became my answer to everything and I despised what I saw as a weakness.
- Alcohol is not my answer.
- Everything around us seems to push alcohol in our face as the way to cope with life. How many t-shirts promote drinking as the way to unwind, the way to deal with life? Two of my favorite shows (How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal) feature a strong woman lead who uses alcohol as a way to avoid dealing with uncomfortable situations and emotions. Exercise boards constantly joke about needing a glass of wine as soon as they’re done or have leaderboard handles that include “wine” in it. At the supermarket the most visible items are displays of wine. Right next to the express checkout at my local market there is a small display fridge with gallons of all natural orange juice and bottles of La Marca prosecco. I don’t want to feel like I have to cope with my life. I have a wonderful life now. I have a life that I never dreamed I could have. I have love, safety, and stability. I refuse to fall into the marketing trap of “needing” alcohol. I refuse to become a cliché.
It’s only been two weeks and it may only last a week more, a month, a year, who knows. But I like my decision right now. I like taking control and doing something about something I don’t like. Whether I even have a problem or not, whether you think I don’t or do have a problem, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that I am proud that I love myself enough to check-in with myself and realize that I want to take an extended break.
Reactions of not drinking in the first two weeks:
- I was irritable for the first two days. It felt like caffeine headaches.
- Wired – Insomnia: I felt so wired when I stopped drinking. Maybe because I was replacing some of the alcohol for chocolate and coffee. Maybe because my clarity of mind was so sharp that I wanted to keep studying, keep doing. But I kept staying up until 2 – 3 in the morning and waking up three hours later.
- That clarity and sharpness of mind is awesome. I still feel that. I wasn’t drinking that much to make this much of a difference. Apparently alcohol affects me way more than I thought.
- So sleepy. My body crashed after four days. It seems to be catching up on all of the missed sleep. Even now I keep going through steps 2 and 4. I’m sure I will find a way to come to a good balance.
- It was unexpectedly easy for the first few days but when the weekend (my time to unwind and have a drink) rolled around, all of the associations were stronger and I had to take numerous walks to shake them off. I experienced the same thing as weekend #2 came around. I plan on using workouts, studying, family walks, and conversation to get through this.
- My stomach is back to being pre-baby flat. I wasn’t even exercising for most of the past 2 weeks because I was studying for exams. This benefit I will gladly take. When I crave a drink I remind myself of my reasons and also take a quick peek at my new found flat tummy.
- Exercise is making a bigger difference. I notice that pounds coming off even when I have been eating chocolate and ice cream at night while I stay up with insomnia studying.
- My skin has better elasticity. After only two weeks I notice a difference in my legs, my arms, and especially my face. I have my dewy look back.
- I feel like ME. I have not had one morning where I woke up and regretted what I said or did. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have nothing but self-love and respect. It’s a great reminder that I am taking the right steps in working on myself.
So for the time being abstaining from alcohol is the right decision for me. Thank you for listening.