Trading Stemware for Coffee Mugs (& Merry Christmas!)

Good morning, everyone!  It’s less than a week until Christmas, and I’m kinda over it.  Since I put up my decorations on November 1, I also like to take them down on December 26.  I’m not someone who beats around the bush in life, so I’m going to get down to it:  I am a problem drinker, always have been.  Ever since I was 17 or 18, I drank to fit in during social times, to celebrate good times, to wallow in bad times, and to get through bored times.  When I have one drink (or 4), it’s really hard for me to stop and enjoy the effects.  So, as of 10 days ago today, I chose to retire from alcohol completely.  It was a decision I made after realizing how much money, time, and unadulterated joy I’ve missed out on.  Did you know that 1 in 3 adults are problem drinkers?  Did you know that the top 10% of drinkers consume over half of the alcohol in America?  Also, did you know that 30% of people in America don’t drink at all.  This was all super eye-opening to me for several reasons.

One, I am not alone as a problem drinker—just the opposite.  That means if approximately 50 people live on my street, approximately 16 are problem drinkers.  I always felt very alone as a problem drinker and jealous of my friends or acquaintances who could just drink a few throughout an event, call it quits, and go home.  Knowing that there are so many of us is helpful.  Granted, we all may have different levels of problems, but we have a problem with alcohol, period.  It doesn’t really matter if, comparatively, I’m better off than a hobo with a bottom shelf bottle wrapped in paper.  I still have a problem.  When I drink, I still go overboard, I don’t remember things, I consume empty calories, I’m messing with my memory, and god a zillion other things.

switching.jpgSecond, whoa.  The top 10% of us consume over half the alcohol?  And last, 30% of American adults don’t drink at all?  I thought everyone stocked up on booze for Thanksgiving, Christmas, July 4th?  I thought I’d be left out if I didn’t drink, that I’d be called out for it, or that people would write me off as a weird religious fanatic or something.  But if 30% of us don’t drink at all, that means that another 15 people on my street don’t either.  I’m just using this as an example.

I was uncomfortable and scared of being marked if I said, “Nah, I don’t drink anymore” when offered a glass of wine at a party or at dinner.

I’ve quit drinking many times throughout my drinking career:  of course when I was pregnant both times, once for Lent, and several stints of a week or month here or there.  None of these times did I quit with the commitment to not drink again.  No, I was quitting just to regulate my body, ‘detox,’ etc.  This time it’s different.  I am choosing to not drink today and every day in the foreseeable future, but right now it’s just today.

I’m not going to go on and on, and I don’t see drinking as a moral issue.  For those who can control drinking and do it in moderation, do it!  That’s not my point here.  My point is, I can’t control my drinking and do it in moderation.  Let me tell you about my breaking point.  10 days ago,  I drank 4 bottles of red wine and talked on the phone with my friend from about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.  This wasn’t the first time I’ve done this; I’ve been doing it on a regular basis for over a year.  Basically we just get sloppy and gossip about everything under the sun.  Things got fuzzy at some point.  But here’s what happened in the morning:  I ruined a new pair of contacts by taking them out and missing the container.  I ate 3 different times throughout the night, including pasta, a burrito, and something else unidentifiable.  I spilled wine in the bathtub and stained the acrylic.  I kept my husband awake with all the rambling and trips to the kitchen.  I woke up with a massive hangover.  I wasn’t any good to anyone for most of the day.  I felt fat (I mean hello! I consumed almost 2000 calories in wine alone, plus all the food!).  Around 5 p.m., I picked up my previously untouched copy of The 30 Day Sobriety Solution and started at Day 1.

I am really enjoying this book because it gives me all the power.  I am choosing not to drink; I am not relying on a group or a higher power to compel me not to drink.  I’ve been to 12 Step meetings before and always hated them.  I hate the group setting, the culty feel, the lack of responsibility created by the higher power setup.  I am not drinking by my own volition.  I want the credit, damn it!  All the sob stories at meetings left me feeling depressed, not uplifted.  So many people there because their parole officer makes them go, or listening to stories about how someone woke up on a train track missing their left thumb or some shit.  That is not me.  Somehow I’ve managed to keep up enough of a façade that it’s not easily detectable to acquaintances (though I’m sure my friends could see it).  I always am groomed, dressed in clean clothes, have a nice house and nice things, etc.  I was also missing out on life because I was buzzed.  A lot.  Often.

Another thing I’m doing is actively participating the Reddit group, Stop Drinking.  It’s totally anonymous, but checking in there every day and seeing my badge number grow is super motivating.  I also trashed all my stemware.  I thought about donating it, but it felt more cleansing to trash it and not pass on my “drinking karma” to someone else.  I am a HUGE believer in karma.

The third thing I’m doing is this thing called total honesty.  It is hard, believe me.  But it is super worth it.  Telling my husband I’m committed felt amazing (just to clarify, it was my idea).  Telling my best friend and neighbor felt like I was giving myself real accountability.  Telling my phone friend (the one I drank with last) was scary.  I avoided her for a few days.  But when I told her, she actually said she was proud of and admired me, and she wishes she has the strength to do that.  That response made me so happy!  I mean, does everyone who problem drinks secretly wishes they could quit?  (PS- you can quit.)

I also decided to tell my kids, which was even more intimidating. Without going into detail, I told them I wasn’t going to drink wine or cocktails anymore because it’s not healthy, and because sometimes it’s hard for people to stop drinking wine after they start. This made it real to me. I want my kids to look up to me, and I want to be accountable! If I’m at the grocery store with them and thought about going down the wine aisle, they would call it out. I told them I wanted them to.

So, here are a few things that have been helping me.  Besides throwing my stemware away, I deleted all my alcohol recipes from Pinterest and the one alcohol recipe from my blog.  I began following tons of healthy living people on Instagram.  (By the way, I still haven’t been back on Facebook, and it is the most freeing thing ever.  It’s been about 2 months.  Try it!)  I also think about all the celebs who don’t drink.  Off the top of my head:  Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Blake Lively, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Warren Buffett, Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Lowe, Natalie Portman, and about a million others.  I tried to vary my examples because everyone is different.  I think about how attractive and healthy some of these people are.  Then I think about how successful some are and how much stress they must be under (a President and Vice President? Hello! I can’t imagine any job being more stressful that those!). And if they can do their jobs without drinking, I can certainly get through my day without drinking.

Health is another thing that keeps me motivated.  Not only do I feel better, my face looks better and my stomach is noticeably flatter.  Also, did you know drinking can cause dementia and cancer?  It can cause pancreatic cancer, liver, breast, colorectal, esophageal, and others.  Since I quit, a skin tag on my chest has quite literally disappeared.  Now I’m not saying that my drinking caused it, but it sure was a happy realization.

Finally, I considered waiting until I finished my book to write this, but I’ve been thinking about it so much that I couldn’t wait.  Knowing there are so many of us out here makes me want to shout from the rooftops.  Next I plan to read This Naked Mind, which people on Reddit swear by.  I hope someone who reads this has a light go off and decides to stop drinking too.

Merry Christmas to you all!  I will not drink with you today.

xx, Bette

UPDATE: (12/2217)  I told 2 other girlfriends (let’s call them Carrie and Charlotte)  via text 3 days ago because they started a group chat with me about getting together and going out or having wine together.  I said I’d love together, but I won’t be drinking because I’m giving up alcohol. 

No response from either.  I stewed on it for a full day with the intention of texting back “It would have taken you guys 2 seconds to respond or acknowledge what I said.  I’m not searching for anything, just being honest with you.  Not responding at all makes me think you’re talking behind my back.” 

Before I got to the 24-hour mark, I ran into Charlotte at the grocery store.  She asked me if we still wanted to go out to lunch next week, and I said sure.  So we are supposed to meet up next Thursday, and I will mention it there.  I’m giving her some slack because she has been a pretty damn good friend to me over the past 4 years.  We have had a lot of good times together, and most of it did not focus on alcohol.

Carrie, on the other hand.  I’m pretty pissed off and thinking I’m done with this friendship.  We went out for my birthday last month to a comedy show and then a bar with live music.  I had a pretty strong buzz the whole time; we danced and laughed, etc.  But at the bar, her husband spilled his water and it spilled towards my side of the table.  Apparently the bartender thought it was me who spilled it and said I was cut off.  I’ve asked JW over and over about this because I’m fuzzy, but he insisted it was not my fault.  Even Carrie’s husband defended me and said it was his fault.  Carrie said nothing.  We ended up leaving and haven’t spoken since that night. 

That’s not the original issue, though.  I think her actual issue with me is that her husband flirts with me every time we are together, and it makes her uncomfortable, so when he defended me, it pissed her off.  I never flirt back, because it makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’m not attracted to him, and I think it’s very disrespectful to everyone, hello!  About a year ago, JW told me that Carrie’s husband actually offered to “trade wives” for a night if he was up for it.  And one time I was at their house a few months ago, I was sitting on Carrie’s back porch with her while her husband was inside. 

A few weeks later I discovered a post-it note in my purse with a penis drawn on it and “dick pic” written on it.  I was so horrified and had no idea who had done that, so I actually posted it on Facebook (and blocked my grandmother and pastor from seeing that particular post!), and I asked who would have done it, and is it creepy or funny?  The overwhelming response was “creepy,” and Carrie’s husband admitted he did it in the comments, too.  Carrie acted like she thought it was funny, but it really wasn’t. 

After all that, I think she’s misplacing anger and frustration at me that she should be aiming at her husband.  I’m not getting in the middle of that relationship, and I don’t think our friendship is healthy.  Plus I don’t think she likes losing a drinking buddy.  

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