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30-Day Chip

November 24, 2010

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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.

I had also met two amazing women in recovery at Creative Alliance 10 who made me think about my relationship with alcohol.

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.

51 Comments
  1. November 24, 2010 07:56

    This is an interesting experiment, and I wonder what you will discover. I’m not a drinker myself, but my first husband was a recovering alcoholic, so the emphasis on alcohol in our society is something I’m still keenly aware of. You can’t get away from the imagery, even if you want to.

    I’m working, myself, on being more aware of my actions and why I do the things I do. It’s nice to see someone else doing the same thing.

    Sherry

    • November 24, 2010 08:44

      Thanks, Sherry. I’m definitely a work in progress.

  2. November 24, 2010 08:03

    Personally, I just love knowing that there are people in this world who like the idea of challenging themselves and the social norms the majority of us accept. At the very least, this is a great lesson in self reflection.

    • November 24, 2010 08:45

      Yes, Britt, it has made me think hard about drinking every day and about the choices I make. I have had to consciously choose not to drink every day, because I was so used to doing it that it was a deeply ingrained habit.

  3. Elvie permalink
    November 24, 2010 08:39

    Good experiment, keep it up. I’m glad you can feel the difference when you don’t have that drink. Some people can’t.

    • November 24, 2010 08:46

      You know our whole family is a bunch of easy drunks – we must have inherited it from Mom, because Dad’s side of the family could definitely absorb their alcohol.

  4. November 24, 2010 08:52

    What a brave favor you are doing yourself.
    High five.

    • November 24, 2010 08:57

      Thanks, Lisa. I think CA 10 helped shake some stuff loose for me.

  5. November 24, 2010 09:30

    It’s very hard to know if this is going to make you more awesome, seeing as how you’re plenty awesome already.

    But I dig this. I dig thoughtful and purposeful and I think that’s what’s happening here, so it’s a good thing whether you ultimately adopt it as a permanent thing or not.

    • November 24, 2010 09:42

      Thanks, Mir. I think you’re pretty dang awesome, too.

  6. Sam Pellegrino permalink
    November 24, 2010 09:50

    I stopped drinking before I started chemo in June of 2000. Very heavy habit, & I guess AA would have defined me as addicted. But, cancer was The Great Equalizer, & San Pellegrino became the beverage of choice. If you go to Smart & Final in T.O., & they’re out of 1L bottles, it’s because I’ve been there before you. I stack cases in the garage & get nervous if I get below 4 in-stock. I used to go to Trader Joe’s only to buy wine. Now I go there for dried fruit. I still crave the buzz, & also use my “Pellegrino Time” to mark changes in the day. However, I figure that I drank beer, wine & booze for 30 years (age 20-50), & I’ll take the next 30 (50-80) without it, just to say, “Cuck Fancer.” If I’m still around at 80, I’ll crack a bottle of champagne to celebrate! You are on the right track. Moderation is in the eye of the beholder. Quitting during Lent is also another way to regain control. CHEERS!!

    • November 24, 2010 10:12

      Thanks, “Sam.” I hope it never comes to us fighting over the last bottle, because I know you’re stronger than me. What is it about San Pellegrino? Maybe it is as addictive as alcohol? Oh no! If you’re around at 80, I want to be there for the toast.

  7. November 24, 2010 12:25

    I went two years without drinking, out of support for my brother who was in AA. It helps that I really hate the taste of alcohol. I don’t even remember why I fell off the wagon.

    • November 24, 2010 13:06

      If I didn’t like the taste, that would make it so much easier.

  8. November 24, 2010 13:44

    I quit drinking earlier this year, not entirely by choice. I love a nice glass of wine with dinner, enjoy beer with burgers and wings. I also have a health condition that has been giving me excruciating stomach pain if I drink alcohol. So I stopped, because I only did that twice before figuring that losing days of my life writhing in pain isn’t really worth it. I miss it, kind of, but not really. I come from a long line of alcoholics on both sides, so I’ve just saved myself from that. Unfortunately I have replaced alcohol with chocolate chip cookies.

    It is amazing how much alcohol is prevalent in our society, tho. And how if you say, no thanks, people think you’re either a recovering alkie or a prude.

    • November 24, 2010 13:59

      Yes, there isn’t much place for the non-drinker without a problem or a religion to back up your decision. That is one of the things I am struggling with.

  9. November 24, 2010 14:12

    Now I feel stupid for spending half the day talking about wine on Twitter, and which wine goes best with turkey. I do think American culture has an unhealthy relationship to alcohol. I think it is great that you took this stance once you felt it might be a problem.

    • November 24, 2010 14:41

      I love wine! I think wine is great, especially with a good meal. I like to talk about wine. I’m just taking a closer look at how much alcohol I want or need in my life and what the advantages and disadvantages of it are for me.

  10. November 24, 2010 14:30

    sending love and support xo

  11. November 24, 2010 14:49

    What a great post Suebob. And yeah an interesting experiment….I agree with your observation about how obsessed we are as a culture with alcohol – it’s everywhere. And I’m not a big drinker so I always feel a bit left out…..

    Love that you said that CA 10 played a part in your awareness to even undergo this experiment…the weekend continues to seep in on all kinds of levels for me as well….

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving…

    xo
    Lee

    • November 24, 2010 15:34

      Thanks, Lee. I was in kind of a weird mood during CA10 but I’m really glad I went.

  12. November 24, 2010 15:17

    i didn’t start drinking until college and then i drank A LOT for a while. the weird thing was that when i hit 21, i just wasn’t as interested. (contrary much? why yes, thank you.) i looked at my family’s history with alcohol and decided that i needed to make sure that i COULD stop.

    now, i have a drink or two in a week and maybe twice a year i have enough that i don’t drive and those are numbers that i’m comfortable with. i’m more comfortable knowing that i don’t NEED it.

    it sounds like this experiment of yours is making you more comfortable in your own skin, and i’m a fan of that so kudos to you! if you ever come to visit, i’ll make sure the fridge is stocked with your san p. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • November 24, 2010 15:34

      Sounds like you have it figured out pretty well. I would love to come visit and sip on some San Pellegrino while we chat…sounds lovely.

      • November 26, 2010 21:27

        i’m literally mid-move to chicago. in late november. i am brilliant. and already freezing.

        so if i were you, the visit should wait for spring (which, in chicago, is in july i think). other than that, it would be lovely.

  13. November 24, 2010 15:36

    I relate to this in oh so many ways. Thanks for putting words to it.

    • November 24, 2010 16:07

      It is hard to talk about drinking without it being either all or nothing. The minute you say you’re considering quitting, people start probing about whether you’re an alcoholic – and just as often, trying to reassure you that you aren’t. There isn’t a real structure for considering drinking deeply if you don’t have an addiction issue.

  14. November 24, 2010 15:48

    I have the same shut-off mechanism, and same one or two drinks often. Having close friends for alcoholics I think a lot about when and why and really what is the difference between my habit and theirs.

    GO SUE BOB.

    Self-improvement to me–and I mean in the holistic sense (but go on an get a new rack if you want, no prob) is trading in that illusion of control in order to make room for something bigger. I’m all for it.

    You inspire me.

    • November 24, 2010 16:04

      It is interesting to me how good habits can spread through groups of people, just as bad ones can. I was definitely inspired by Schmutzie, Ellie and Heather.

  15. November 24, 2010 16:57

    I admire your self reflection and your courage to simply work at being more awesome ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’s strange how many people have come to me lately to ask what really makes a person the “A” word. The big bad “A” word. That’s tricky. And I don’t know that what we call it matters. Some people drink obsessively without drinking all that much. I don’t know that we have to call that anything, and when we can’t or don’t, that means most of those people just keep going, taking the risk because they can’t check all the boxes on the alcoholic check-list.

    All that rambling to say that I admire you for deciding to simply set yourself free of a routine that wasn’t making you feel good. Kudos, friend.

    • November 24, 2010 18:13

      My goal is to keep moving toward the stuff that makes me feel alive and healthy. I think that’s the best guide and that, if we do that, labels don’t really matter so much.

  16. November 24, 2010 17:25

    You’ve given me some food for thought! I am pretty much like you were in relation to drinking.

    • November 24, 2010 18:09

      You’re one of the more thoughtful people I know.

  17. work in progress permalink
    November 25, 2010 01:08

    i gave up almost five years ago. i have achieved so much awesomeness since…like the fact that i am currently half way through a degree i could never have begun whilst still drinking.
    not only that, i have been able to pay for my studies without needing to take out loans, and am maintaining a really good GPA ๐Ÿ™‚

    i was an everyday-drinker much like you, but i did binge a LOT too. it was such an ugly and destructive drug of choice for me on so many many levels.

    i wish you well on your journey of awesomeness, and don’t worry about *fitting in* or *knowing why* just run on your instincts and you’ll be just fine ๐Ÿ™‚

    • November 25, 2010 07:16

      Thanks for the encouraging words, and good on you for the success in your education!

  18. November 26, 2010 12:33

    That’s definitely worth thinking about even though I generally don’t drink all that much (until I do).

    Good luck in finding the awesomeness.

  19. November 26, 2010 16:17

    I think this is awesome.

    I’ve tackled other things (beside alcohol) in my life recently – things that weren’t a raging problem, but that I knew were eroding the quality of my life. Food was one. People pleasing is another (I mean the pathological kind … not that I’m trying to turn myself into a bitch or anything…:)

    I love the level-headed, honest and open way you are exploring living your life more fully – anytime anyone does that for any reason, I think it’s amazing. Because it IS so hard to do. Patterns -even when they are fully addictive or self-destructive are very, very hard to break.

    Good for you for exploring more self-love. I love it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Ellie

  20. November 26, 2010 16:18

    Oops – typo. I meant “even when they AREN’T fully addictive…” Go have another coffee, Ellie.

    • November 26, 2010 16:39

      Thanks, Ellie. It is good to take stock of where we are and what we are doing vs where we want to be. I think food will be my next topic, too.

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