Some people say you have to hit bottom before you quit drinking. Lost job, threatened divorce, DUI – it makes sense that you’d want to quit.
What is harder to understand is quitting drinking when one is nowhere near bottom, when one, in fact, is not an alcoholic.
I stopped drinking 30 days ago and I’m still sorting out the reasons why.
It was partly inspired by Schmutzie and her quitting. She said she wanted to be more awesome, and I could relate to that. Yes to awesomeness.
And then in church one day, the visiting Buddhist monk, Kusala Bhikshu, talked about why Buddhists believe you shouldn’t get intoxicated – because drinking can turn a PhD into an idiot in an hour. I thought about that. I guess I thought pretty hard about it, because the next day, I stopped drinking.
So here I am, still wondering what I am doing.
To be clear, I never drank a lot. I have never, ever had a hangover. I got drunk maybe once a year because I have a built-in anti-drunkenness mechanism – I go from mildly buzzed to “OMG, the room is spinning and I’m going to be sick” in the space of about one drink.
But I had a couple glasses of wine, every day, every single day, and I just wanted to see how life would be without that crutch.
I also wanted to end the snack-fest that started when my judgment was clouded by alcohol. Some people get horny when they drink. I get promiscuous with food. Things I would never eat while totally sober suddenly start sounding like a good idea. Third cookie? Why, yes, I believe I will!
I also wanted my buzzed hours back. Once I start drinking, I’m pretty much useless for anything more than sitting on my butt and reading or watching TV, so there were long portions of every evening where I didn’t accomplish much. I wanted to have that time to get more done. To be more awesome.
It was more difficult to stop than I had imagined. Every day when I got home from work, I really, really wanted my glass of wine. I wanted it a lot.
It took me a while to realize that I didn’t want the wine as much as I wanted a marker to the end of my work day. I found that, by making myself a fussy drink like San Pellegrino water with ice and lime, it was enough to put paid to my day and to make me feel like it was time to relax.
Now I have a serious San Pellegrino habit. I’m sure their profits have shot up just on the basis on my addiction.
Going out on the town was a little difficult. I quit drinking right before Restaurant Week, when I ate out at fine restaurants three times. It did kill me a little to sit there with a great meal and some…sigh…jasmine tea. Would one glass of wine have hurt me? No, but I wanted to take a good chunk of time to think about drinking before I considered when and if I would start again. So I held back.
Has it helped? In some ways. I haven’t dropped a bunch of pounds, but I have been more reasonable about my evening eating. I sleep better, I think, and wake up less in the middle of the night.
I’m happy to be present for more of real life, without the fuzzy edges provided by alcohol. I thought I needed that fuzziness, but now that I don’t have it, I find that reality isn’t so bad. I have always been a bit of a control freak, and this just adds a new dimension to that. I’m not entirely sure if that is good or bad.
Awesomeness? I’m still waiting for that to happen.
The weirdest side effect is the realization how alcohol-soaked our culture is. I don’t want to be too much of a pearl-clutcher about this, but it had really never occurred to me before. Now it is like a hangnail that you keep bumping on things. Every third tweet is about drinking or wine. Commercials, billboards, jokes, the giant block of pre-Thanksgiving floor space devoted to wine in the grocery store (it apparently takes a sea of wine to get people through dinner with their families. Shock.)
I’m not sure how long I’ll stay sober. I’m happy to have gone 30 days without. The longer I go, the less I miss my glass of wine, but I can’t say that I won’t start again.
I’m still figuring this out.