I quit drinking, which is worth doing just as an emotional Rorschach test for the people you tell. Drinking and the quitting thereof are just incredibly fraught for so many people, including, I suppose, me. The reactions varied from “Oh, yeah, right, you’re quitting” sarcasm to “Oh, ok, you can always get a Coke when you come out to the bar with us” nonchalance.
But despite the sarcastic responses and the friends who told me I could “just cut back,” I’m serious about quitting, done, no backup plan, no “special occasions.” I quit for good, and I would be truly disappointed in myself if I started again.
I don’t suppose I would quit drinking altogether if I didn’t have a drinking problem. But I didn’t have, and don’t think I ever would have developed, what we think of as classic troubled drinking behavior.
I have never had a hangover nor a blackout. I have only been drunk a handful of times and most of those were more than 25 years ago. I never missed a day of work, never drove drunk, never got in fights or fell down or whatever Lindsay Lohanesque behavior people usually imagine when they say “problem drinker.”
And yet, drinking was a problem to me. I drank nearly every day, a couple glasses of wine, maybe three. I’m affected disproportionately by alcohol. I’m the proverbial cheap drunk. So what might seem like moderate drinking to other people is more serious for me.
I’d often think “This is stupid, I should stop.” Then I’d vow just to drink on weekends or when I was out with friends, but those resolutions would quickly slip away.
Here’s my problems with drinking, as I see them:
- Drinking stole my motivation. Even one glass of wine makes me much less likely to do anything productive.
- Drinking covered emotions that I should have been feeling and dealing with. Not just bad emotions, but it dulled my good emotions, too.
- Drinking took away my free will – I did it because it was a habit, not because it was bringing me any good things.
- Drinking led me to eat more because my inhibitions were lowered and my resolve was weakened.
- Alcohol is a depressant. It struck me that this may not be the best treatment for someone who experiences pretty severe seasonal depression.
- Drinking made me boring, even to myself. My brain just didn’t work as well after even one drink.
- Drinking is expensive. I could have drank cheaper wine, but I liked wine to actually taste pretty good, which costs money.
And on my list of reasons for quitting completely, not just cutting back:
- I wanted more from life. I knew I could accomplish more and stretch further if I didn’t have alcohol in my life.
- I wanted to be free to not have to think about it anymore. The way to ensure I’m not drinking too much or too often is to not drink.
- Most of the people I truly admire are non-drinkers. These are people who are living really full, rich, authentic lives filled with risk and reward and goals and accomplishments. They inspired me A LOT. People like Schmutzie, Ellie of Shining Strong, Heather of the EO, Marius, Cindy Hitsman, and on and on. I want to be like them, not like Team Drunky.
- I don’t want to be buzzed. I want to be present. Something just suddenly flipped in my brain to make that possible. It’s perfectly acceptable in our society to spend a good part of your adult life in an altered state, and I’ve been thinking more and more why that isn’t something I want to do, why that doesn’t work for me anymore.
Ah, that felt good to write. I have been struggling with this for a long time, and to have made this decision and to be on this path feel so good.
I don’t plan to become an alcohol-free Scoldy McScolderson. Feel free to continue boozing it up in front of me. I have passed many happy hours with drinks and wine and friends, and I don’t want to change any of that, except for the me drinking part.
It’s not tough at all, not right now, though who knows? That may change. If it does, I have Marius’s number. He let me know I could call him anytime I felt like drinking, which is a nice ace-in-the-hole. Maybe I’ll even go sit on a metal folding chair in a church basement with him if I feel like I need it. I know help is out there.
At times, I feel a little sheepish, quitting without developing a big, life-threatening addiction. But then I realize that life-threatening is a continuum, not an all-or-nothing proposition. I want a bigger, more free, more interesting life than I had with a head full of alcohol. All I have to do is leave fermented grape juice behind. I think I can do that.