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Dry

April 21, 2013

J.W. Morris White Merlot

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.

50 Comments
  1. April 21, 2013 16:54

    I first read that as “ass-in-the-hole” and it may now be my go-to insult. 🙂

    Also, nice job taking charge of whatever you feel needs changing, for whatever reason!

    • April 21, 2013 21:00

      ass-in-the-hole is a perfectly good expression!

  2. April 21, 2013 16:54

    Good for you!! I’m happy to hear you are doing something proactive to take care of you. I still drink, but cut back a whole lot a year ago. I was drinking 1-3 glasses of wine at night, even on the nights my husband was working. Then I realized, “Ain’t nobody needs to drink alone.” So now I only drink in social situations, and then not even then all of the time. I am way more productive. And you are right about the S.A.D. It doesn’t help it, and I think it made mine worse.

    • April 21, 2013 21:00

      I think if I didn’t live alone, it might be easier to cut back rather than quit, since I’d have someone to give me a raised eyebrow. But Abbie Lynn never pays any attention. Dogs, man.

  3. April 21, 2013 16:54

    I hope I didn’t say anything stupid when you told me. I am always behind you in whatever you choose to do to make your life better. You are always working to be better and that is what I admire the most about you, besides your loyalty to the people you love and your integrity.

    I walk a very different path, as you know, but I hope you find everything you want out of this. (And I’ve heard tell that every bottom is different, and it may not even feel like one at all. You never know what may have happened down the road, and making the call at a conscious place is pretty cool, too, IMO.)

    • April 21, 2013 20:59

      No, you didn’t say anything stupid. I think you were like “Oh, cool.”

      I hope I’m not pinning too MUCH on this. What if I don’t become interesting? But I promise I will still hang out at the poolside bar with you, because that is where I like to be.

  4. April 21, 2013 17:32

    There are as many reasons to stop drinking as there are people who decide to stop. “…life-threatening is a continuum, not an all-or-nothing proposition.” Yes, this. I get people making insensitive jokes about how could I be an alcoholic when I was only 22. Because I was, that’s how.

    I respect this choice, and support you utterly, and am also a person you can call whenever. Much love to you.

    • April 21, 2013 20:58

      Thank you! I’m glad to have people who understand.

  5. April 21, 2013 18:10

    This is my 9th attempt to leave a comment. I can’t recall all the kind and warm fuzzy things I wanted to say because I am so frustrated with WP. But the gist of it is that as a non-drinker, I understand your reasons. You’ll be great at leaving fermented grape juice behind. I hope I can see you when I am in LA at the end of the year and give you a big hug. I feel like so many things have happened, and I really miss you.

    • April 21, 2013 20:57

      I admire your fortitude. Yes, I would LOVE to see you. I was talking about you yesterday and it made me miss you so much.

  6. April 21, 2013 18:11

    Oh, and I have no idea why WordPress will not let me log in as actually me, but it’s Suzanne, not sr393.

    • April 21, 2013 20:56

      Because wordpress is a punk ass. I have the settings set so you should not even have to leave ANY information, but it still manages to be a pain in the rear.

  7. April 21, 2013 18:14

    Proud of you for doing what is best for you and for sharing it with everyone: I can only imagine how intimidating that could be.

    I have to admit I bristled a tiny bit at “Team Drunky,” but perhaps that’s motivation for me to examine my OWN drinking behaviours and attitudes toward drinking. Honestly, we drink so few and far between (we’re talking one or two drinks MAYBE twice a year – I certainly cut back when I went on medication for depression), we might as well just quit (we’re both products of alcoholic parents, so we both have our own issues with alcohol).

    • April 21, 2013 20:56

      I should have expanded more on the Team Drunky thing, I guess. I meet my friends every couple of weeks at a real hard-drinking kind of bar. We only stay a little over an hour but there are people who sort of live there. THAT is Team Drunky to me.

  8. April 21, 2013 18:31

    First of all, you pretty much blow my mind with inspiration. You are taking care of yourself loooong before I did and I’m serious about how much that astounds me. I know I said this already, but I’m excited for you to see all the gifts, even those you can’t prepare for, just in the way not having to think about drinking (at least in the same way) frees you.

    It’s not that easy to always be the non-drinker, but always remember that there are so many of us out here, not drinking with you.

    Thank you so much for including me in your post with such a crew of amazing people.

    xoxo

    • April 21, 2013 20:54

      Thanks, Heather. I can hardly believe I’m doing this, but I am glad to have gotten started.

  9. Ruth Putney permalink
    April 21, 2013 22:28

    SueBob your post captured all the reasons I quit drinking too. Seems impossible for me to have “just one glass” so I don’t have even one. Thanks for sharing yourself this way — I’ve saved this to my encouragement file. Can’t say clearly enough how much this post means to me. Ruth

    • April 22, 2013 07:05

      Thank you. That makes me glad I stopped to write it all down. I feel like I’m just passing on the inspiration I got from all the people I listed in my post, plus others unnamed.

  10. Gretchen permalink
    April 22, 2013 04:26

    I knew exactly what you meant by Team Drunky 🙂 You’ll be fine, I think. If not, well, there’s no better way to find out for sure and you’ve got some support. Seltzer water with a twist or something is pretty darn good!

    • April 22, 2013 07:05

      I plan to become the queen of interesting non-alcoholic beverages. Virgin Pomegranate-Lime Rickey, anyone?

      • April 22, 2013 07:14

        Club soda with a slice of cucumber in it is ridiculously refreshing. (I’m not a fan of super sweet drinks.)

        • April 22, 2013 07:58

          I love spa water – some lemon, cucumber and parsley in a pitcher of water. Or Pellegrino with a few frozen berries in it for pretty.

  11. April 22, 2013 09:51

    Congrats to you for thinking through the issue and sharing your (cogent, rational, sensible) thoughts with us. You got an audible “amen” from me at, “Drinking covered emotions that I should have been feeling and dealing with. Not just bad emotions, but it dulled my good emotions, too.” I’ve recently been experiencing the spiritual world in a new way (yes, insert Twilight Zone music here), and it happens when alcohol is not involved. (Doh!)

    Years ago, I had the book “Moderate Drinking” by Audrey Kishline. Then I read she killed two people in a drunk driving accident. I immediately escorted the book to the trash can.

    You are a wise woman. Blessings on your journey, and thanks for sharing it with us.

    • April 23, 2013 06:21

      I want to hear about you experiencing the spiritual world in a new way!

  12. April 22, 2013 14:12

    “quitting without developing a big, life-threatening addiction”

    I think the reasons you’ve listed all have life threatening consequences and recognizing that is recognizing your addiction. That’s a huge step in healing. The reasons for you to stop drinking are more than valid reasons. Anyone who is worth anything should respect that. You are one totally awesome person.

    • April 23, 2013 06:21

      Plus? I love me some San Pellegrino water.

  13. April 22, 2013 18:35

    Just the fact that it’s something that you’ve thought and worried about indicates it’s a problem, so good for you for getting a handle on it. I’m lucky in that I’m the definition of a social drinker; I like a good martini, but if someone said I could never drink again, I wouldn’t give it a single moment’s thought. On the other hand, I am a former smoker, and your saying, “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,” really resonates with me in terms of smoking. I could have cut down to two or three cigarettes a day, but then I would have spent hours thinking, “it is time yet? Can I smoke now?” So for me the only thing to do was stop entirely, which took three attempts, but it’s now been more than ten years and I don’t miss it at all. So that is my (typically) long-winded way of saying that I empathize and support you, and also that you should be very kind to yourself over the next few weeks in whatever form seems right, whether that be a extra-long workout or murdering a big-ass burrito.

    • April 23, 2013 06:20

      Burrito murder. Mmm tasty tasty murder.

      PS Thanks for getting my reason.

  14. April 23, 2013 07:16

    “Life-threatening is a continuum,” is brilliant. Whatever steals your life, in big ugly ways or in tiny insidious ways, is life threatening. I salute you with my coffee flask.

    • April 23, 2013 07:59

      YOU calling ME brilliant is the best thing that has happened to me all month.

  15. April 23, 2013 09:46

    Those are good reasons, Suebob. xoxox

    • April 27, 2013 07:11

      Thanks, Ann. I feel like CA10 was the wind beneath my wings. It just took a while to catch up.

  16. April 23, 2013 10:15

    I am on Team Suebob. Where’s that dogtag?

    • April 27, 2013 07:10

      I bet I can get some on the internets.

  17. April 23, 2013 22:13

    I love that would have put so much thought into this, Suebob. Such a slippery slope, that glass of wine that turns into 2 or 3. And I love that your pets aren’t judgy.

    • April 27, 2013 07:10

      Thanks, Sherri. Abbie would let me drink a gallon of vodka every night if I just kept petting her belly, so she’s not really a good marker, though.

  18. playfulplanetkaren permalink
    April 24, 2013 09:59

    Rock on, SueBob! I love the way you describe having lost your free will to the habit. I have had to face that issue with both alcohol and cigarettes in my past. I don’t like being enslaved to anything! BTW – Scoldy McScolderson? Best name ever.

    • April 27, 2013 07:09

      I’m still a slave to caffeine, though. Maybe in another couple years…

  19. Anonymous permalink
    April 24, 2013 12:53

    Go SueBob! Love all your reasons for putting your drinking days behind you.

    • April 27, 2013 07:09

      Thank you! I certainly appreciate the support.

  20. San Diego Momma permalink
    April 24, 2013 13:48

    I’m with you in so many ways – in spirit, experience, and heart.

    This is a big thing to make this choice for your what’s to come.

    I’m proud to know you and for the record, I thought you were very interesting before your decision and NOW, the interestingness will go through the roof! To the sky, baby.

    To the sky.

    Xo

    • April 27, 2013 07:08

      Thanks for your kind words, Deb. I think so much of you – that makes them extra special. So many seeds were planted at CA10. It’s wild to watch them sprout, even years later.

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