10 Ways to Stop Drinking Alcohol and Not Even Miss It

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I hate reading blogs that give you a headline you need to know more about, then write 17 paragraphs before getting to the part you want to know. So, I will jump right in. Have you thought about giving up alcohol? Then let’s go:

  1. Read This Naked Mind. Better yet, by the audio version and listen to that. It is this fantastic book by Annie Grace that outlines exactly what alcohol does to your brain and your body, how society is involved, and why you crave it (it’s actually making you crave it! And she explains how. Get this- there’s nothing wrong with you for being addicted to an addictive substance!). There’s also a number of other books about alcohol and the journey others have taken to become alcohol free that are super helpful to read/listen to. These include, but are not limited to: Alcohol Explained, Dry, I’m Just Happy to be Here, The Sober Diaries, and Alcohol Lied to Me.

 

  1. Listen to This Naked Mind more than once. I listened in my car, on walks, while vacuuming, doing dishes, falling asleep, etc. Think of it this way, why would alcohol industries spend billions per year (yes, you read that right) if one ad hooked you for life? It doesn’t. They have to repeatedly spend that money to keep you believing. So, wouldn’t it make sense that you need more than one read to un-do all the brainwashing those ads do to us every day?

 

  1. Replace what was in your glass with something else you can look forward to. I started with tonic and lime in a martini glass. After a few weeks, I switched to seltzer with cranberry, ginger ale and lime in a wine glass. Then I started drinking Kombucha, either in a wine glass or sometimes they come in a cool beer bottle looking contraption (Brew Dr.). I will sometimes do seltzer with cranberry, cherry juice and pineapple juice in a wine glass. I made virgin mojitos (I call them “fo-jotos”). And I found some fantastic craft N/A beers; oatmeal stouts, amber ales… follow me on Instagram to see the brand names @thischicksgonesober

 

  1. You don’t have to tell everybody, but tell Having a little fear that you have someone besides yourself to disappoint helps you stay accountable. I have not made my “coming out” a public thing on Facebook, but I tell people in conversation. I also created an Instagram page for myself and I connect with other people living the alcohol free life. In addition, I frequently visit ThisNakedMindCommunity.com, where folks who are looking to cut back or quit drinking altogether post about their journey, and you can post and comment as well! It’s a wonderful group and they have such inspirational stories. Whether you want to post your journey/struggles/accomplishments or just read and/or comment on others, it’s a wonderful community to be a part of.

 

  1. Do the free 30 Day Alcohol Experiment offered by Annie Grace of This Naked Mind (did I mention, this book saved my life?! And gave my son a good mom!) (I’d say great, but I still drop the ball on things like giving Valentine’s gifts to the kids at daycare and keeping houseplants alive). The Alcohol Experiment encourages you to give up alcohol for 30 days. You get daily emails with information about alcohol, questions to ask yourself with an answer section- kind of like a journal, along with videos from experts in the field. AND IT’S FREE! What’s to lose? Oh, your desire to drink! Sign up at https://learn.thisnakedmind.com/the-alcohol-experiment-registration

 

  1. This Naked Mind also has a podcast, by the same name. You can listen for free on Stitcher. I was actually a guest on one of the episodes (to air March 2020). Annie does a mix of interviews with experts, with real life people (me) and their drinking stories, and she does short episodes where she answers readers’ questions. Listening to this in the car or while I exercise really helps me solidify the truth about this poison that I consumed for so so long. It can take me from a craving to “oh shi*, I don’t want that in my body” in a matter of minutes. There are episodes explaining how alcohol affects sleep, how the toxins our liver releases as it’s trying to get rid of alcohol is actually more dangerous than the alcohol itself, how alcohol causes cancer, and it debunks those bogus studies we always see claiming that alcohol is good for you.

 

  1. Replace drinking time (for me, that was anytime I wasn’t at work) with something else. Writing, Netflix, video games, exercise, drawing, reading, hiking, skiing, volunteering, a pet, cleaning, swimming, meditation… the possibilities are quite endless. You will probably find that you have so much free time, you can take up multiple activities to occupy the amount of time you wasted on drinking. And the brain space you have when there isn’t the ‘drink demon’ in your head constantly making you think about that next cocktail- it’s so peaceful! I used to dread Mondays so much, I spent all Sunday drinking. I drank while I did the chores and prepped for the week ahead. Now, instead of drinking while cooking/cleaning/laundry/dishes, I play fun music loudly and dance around with my son and my kombucha while I do those dreadful chores. And you know what? Now I actually look forward to doing them! And Mondays are a treat without a hangover! Okay, well, not a treat, but certainly not dreaded.

 

  1. Start a gratitude journal. I know, it sounds hokey. But it’s true that when you are forced to be grateful for things every day, you start to look for things to be grateful for throughout your day. This makes you a happier person. I have an app on my phone, and then it gives me little inspirational quotes once I’ve submitted my three grateful items. Sometimes, I just do it to get to the quotes, but hey- whatever works, right??

 

  1. Write down the lows of your drinking days so that when you start to question if you should live alcohol free or not, you can refer to it. Look at this list and see if the 20 minute dopamine rush is worth the 3 hour plunge into depression… per drink.

 

  1. When a craving hits, and it will, think past the moment. On New Year’s Eve, I went to our friend’s house prepared with my N/A champagne, and no desire to drink. Then my friend’s husband said, “Should we start with beer, or whiskey?” Now, I don’t even like whiskey (but that has not stopped me from drinking it in the past), but hearing those words put me in a FOMO state (fear of missing out). I had to think it through. What am I missing out on? That first 20 minutes of the buzz, the lightheadedness, the feeling of all cares going out the window. Okay, then what? Then a night filled with trying to get that first 20 minutes back. Then having too much (by the way, that initial 20 minutes never really returns). Then no way home, as I was the DD. Then a morning of headaches, nausea and a day of hangover. And regret, because I gave in. Is that 20 minutes worth it? The answer, for me, is always no.

 

Giving up alcohol isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. The clear mind, never regretting what you did the night before (unless you got into the ice cream, like I usually do), being refreshed in the morning- instead of trying to find ways to get out of whatever it is you have to do, and knowing you aren’t slowly killing yourself, it’s all worth it. If you have questioned your drinking, then what do you have to lose by giving alcohol up, even if just for a brief period of time? Try these 10 steps and I am willing to bet you will see that life is so much more than what’s in that bottle. I was stuck in that cycle of thinking about my next drink, being buzzed, being drunk, being hungover, and thinking about my next drink again for almost 20 years. I hated my father for living this way, yet I did it to myself, and I realized I was probably setting my son up to live this way too. That killed me. So these are the steps I took, and continue to take, and I have been happily alcohol free ever since.

 

Good luck to you on your journey! Feel free to contact me and let me know how it’s going!

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As Good as it Gets

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Today, on my five month anniversary of being sober, I have come to a few conclusions. Five months of sobriety is 153 days of coming home and not answering the wine that’s calling my name. It’s 153 days of not getting excited over the simple sound of a crisp, yet bitter martini getting shaken (yes, I preferred mine shaken- not stirred, how very Bond of me). It’s 153 days of nodding as people tell me about their drunken escapades over the weekend or how they’re looking sooo forward to our upcoming “girl’s night out”. But most of all, it’s 153 days of not waking up with a hangover, or regret, or anxiety over what I did the night before, or depression- because I had failed, yet again. In these past five months, great things have happened. Now, great things happened to me while I was drinking, too- I got married (this marriage- to a good guy), I had a baby, I got promotions at work, etc. But I was always buzzed, drunk, hungover, or obsessing about the next drink to really enjoy these great things that were happening to me. It’s almost as if they were just “half” happening.

I have written about my final night of drinking in previous posts, so I won’t bore you with that again. What I do want to say about being five months sober is that now when things happen, like working on my memoir, I take more pride in them. Without alcohol, I have the drive to complete the tasks I set for myself. I know I’m a better parent; I am present and not trying to rush the day away to get to a point where it’s acceptable to open a bottle of wine or mix a martini. Other authors I’ve read talk about putting their kids to bed and rushing through the experience so they can get back to their cocktail. I identified with this immensely.

There’s a moment in the movie, As Good as it Gets, where Jack Nicholson is walking out of the therapist’s office and looks at the waiting room filled with patients and says, “what if this is as good as it gets?” You hear a woman gasp and despair floods the room. I identified with this movie as a child because my father had many of the same obsessive compulsive disorders that Nicholson faces in the movie, but that’s beside the point. My point is, right now, in my life, it really IS as good as it gets, and I was missing it all because I was drinking.

I am married to a good man whom I love. I have a healthy, 19 month old baby boy. I have a job that is flexible with my hours and appreciates me. I teach Zumba, so I get paid to work out and unleash my inner clubbing days in a healthy, appropriate for a 36 year old woman’s, manner. My parents are alive and well. Actually, “well” is probably too loose of a term, but they’re functioning. My sister, her husband and their three children are healthy and prospering as the kids move through their teenage years. My husband’s parents are both alive and healthy. Hell- even my dog is wonderful! (Shit- I have to schedule a surgery to remove a benign lump), but even his lump is not life threatening! I know that having another child or publishing my memoir or another promotion at work will bring happiness, fulfillment, and accomplishment to my life… but it won’t make it better. What I have is pretty great, and I didn’t see that until alcohol was removed from my life. How can one feel their life is great when they are searching the cabinets for Gatorade and Advil? Obsessing about when they can put the sweet taste of chardonnay to their lips, and then obsessing about the next drink before that one is even gone. I was wasting the best moments of my life.

I know my parents won’t live forever, despite the twelve or so near misses of death my father has had. I know there will be a time when my husband will say to our son, “Grandpa would have loved to be here for this.” I know there will be a moment when I have to give my furry black lab one last kiss. I know there will be a time when my son packs his bags and leaves the nest I have built my world around. And God willing, I will be the first to go out of my husband and I because every time he throws out a birthday or Valentine’s Day card that I’ve bought for him, I always say, “when I’m dead, you’re going to wish you still had that,” and I just really want him to say, “damn, she was right.” But hopefully that’s many, many decades away.

But right now, it’s really good. And yet, I was spending every day chasing a buzz. A buzz that came and went in 20 minutes and I was determined to find it again… in the next glass, in the next. It wasn’t even a question of “why was I drinking?” but rather a routine, who I was, a physical presence in my life, a loss that I didn’t want to mourn.

Life brings good and life brings bad. I’ve had the bad, I’m sure you have too, and that is why we started leaning on alcohol in the first place. We wanted to numb the feelings that the bad left us with. But as we did that, we allowed the booze to creep into the good parts, and numb those feelings too. And that’s not acceptable. We will miss the full experience of any good that our lives have been gifted with if we let alcohol in. When you’re a drinker, alcohol is as good as it gets. Alcohol makes you believe that. You owe it to yourself to prove it wrong.

When Did Alcohol Take Control of You?

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Have you ever stopped to think about the moment you started drinking? Can you pinpoint it? I remember when I was a child, my father would call me downstairs to sit with him in our yellow flower wall-papered dining room.  He would pour Budweiser into a shot glass and slide it over to me. In front of him, there was always a bottle of Bud and a bottle of whiskey. He would sip the whiskey and chase it with beer. He didn’t call me down to sit with him all the time, only when the yelling the night before was really bad. This was his way of apologizing.

In high school, I didn’t like alcohol. I associated it with my father’s drunken rages and thought anyone who touched the stuff was crazy… sad even. It helped that my high school boyfriend came from a good family, one with two parents who loved each other and expressed that in healthy ways. His father would always call his mom “Dear”, and even when he was just being sarcastic, it still came across as loving. It was much better than the names my dad called my mother.

My boyfriend’s family took me in. I celebrated holidays with them. They included me in family traditions, like his aunt’s annual Easter Egg hunt, which I eventually carried on into traditions with my own nieces and nephews. I still remember playing Balderdash- and winning!- with his parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Things I never experienced with my own family. Being with them was a reliable comfort that my home life just didn’t provide.

In high school, my boyfriend and I didn’t typically drink. I remember on one occasion, we had wine coolers with friends on New Year’s Eve. The rest of the night I laid on the bathroom floor as the room spun. I swore I’d never do this to myself again. Eventually, we went on to college and began trying to figure out if a life together would work for us. During this time, I drank with my college friends before we’d go out dancing, but drinking didn’t seem to be of much importance. However, I never asked myself why something I swore I’d never do was finding its way into my life. I guess I chalked it up to, “it’s college, everyone does it.”

But then we broke up.

Alcohol slowly started becoming a daily presence in my life. I no longer had a person who I depended on to talk to at the end of each day, so I replaced the comfort of my boyfriend with the comfort of a drink. Alcohol became my new friend. It was my reliable comfort. Alcohol never rejected me.

Over the next 15 years, alcohol started changing the way my brain functioned. Alcohol took up permanent residence in my head, letting me know that he would be there for me at the end of each day, whether that day was good or bad. He’d even be there for me the next morning if I wasn’t feeling so hot from the night before.

Alcohol and my brain fought with each other a lot. My brain would tell him, “she needs to cut back, she’s not being healthy, she’s going to make bad choices,” and alcohol would say, “don’t be silly, she works hard, you only live once, grab a drink and enjoy the ride.”

Except, that “ride” only lasts for the first 15-20 minutes of the first drink. And then it’s all about chasing that feeling that never seems to present itself again. These 15-20 minutes of euphoria is when dopamine is being artificially stimulated in our brain by the alcohol, which is, ethanol; the same chemical we put in our gas tanks. Over time, our brain gets used to this artificial boost of dopamine and the things we used to find joy in like reading, talking with friends and sex, don’t bring us the joy it once did. The only thing that brings us joy anymore is alcohol.

And that’s when I knew I needed to quit.

I listened to Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind, on audio about four times. Then I started listening to her podcast. I joined The Alcohol Experiment, where she challenges you to take 30 days off of drinking. She sends you daily emails with loads of information and videos that reaffirm the reality of alcohol. She  explains in detail the reality that the alcohol industry spends billions in advertising to make you think that drinking is a good idea.

Really, I just wanted the fight in my head to end. And even more than that, I wanted to decrease the chances that my son will endure that fight in his head some day. That constant loud voice, the one that only apologizes by handing you another drink, it’s draining. It sucks the life out of you, and it causes depression. I don’t want that for my baby. I would do anything to save him from those demons.

So, I quit. And here I am, at Day 149. Day 150 will be tomorrow, on my 36th birthday. What a great present to myself.

When I find that I’m really craving a drink, I listen to Annie Grace’s- This Naked Mind podcast. I was even asked to be a guest on the podcast where I shared my drinking story, which will air at the end of March. To fight the cravings, I also make fun mocktails, crack open a great N/A beer (there are some fantastic ones out there! Bravus Brewing- Oatmeal Stout, Amber Ale, just to name a few!), or I eat a piece of cake the size of my head because what the hell- it’s better than alcohol!

Macklemore has a great quote that always gets me- “they say you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave, and the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name.”

I want my name remembered for as long as possible, and I want it remembered in fond memories. I don’t think that’s likely to happen if alcohol takes up as much head space as it was. That didn’t leave me much room to concentrate on or make memories with the ones I love.

Good luck to my friends who are on this journey with me or are hoping to be!

Follow my blog and find me on Instagram: ThisChicksGoneSober and let’s do this together! Private message me anytime!!

How I Got Sober

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Waking up on a Monday morning when you’re 35 years old and have a beautiful one year old child, a good paying job, and a husband who loves you is ideal, right? Yes, but not if it’s accompanied by a wretched hangover.

I open my eyes as the alarm buzzes from a location I cannot identify. It’s not on the nightstand where I normally have it charging. I search the bed and find the phone snuggled into the covers. I stop the alarm from ricocheting abusive soundwaves off my skull and try to get my bearings.

It’s Monday. The worst day out of all the days. Who decided to make Monday a work day when we had to spend all of Sunday getting ready for the week? Shouldn’t Mondays be a reprieve from the dishes, the grocery shopping, the meal prepping, the vacuuming, the laundry… and who decided “laundry” was a one-word task anyway? First, you have to put in the load of clothes, then time it just right so you can switch those clothes to the dryer (careful- not everything can go in there!), then you put in a new load, time that appropriately- fold the dried clothes, put the washed ones in the dryer, put in a new load, and then put away the folded clothes.. and the hamster wheel continues. It’s really quite degrading to encompass all of that with just a measly seven letter word.

So Sundays I drink. Well, I drink Monday through Saturday, too, but that’s for celebration. “Way to go! You made it through the day! You got up, you took the baby to daycare, you went to your cushy job where the most there is to complain about is another mouse siting, you picked the baby up from daycare and you made it home. You must be so stressed! The starving people of Africa would really be impressed. Here, have a cocktail. Take a load off.”

But Sundays, I drink to numb the thought of the week ahead. I drink to numb the thought of Monday morning. In my mind, drinking somehow freezes Sunday right where it is so maybe Monday won’t come, or at least not as quickly. I drink to numb the responsibilities of preparing for the upcoming week. And after twelve years of this, you’d think something would click that maybe, just maybe, I dread the Monday hangover more than I dread actually going to work.

So there I am in bed, dry mouth, eyes feeling slightly detached from their sockets and head feeling like it’s stuck between those monkey tambourines. Did I mention I also teach Zumba on Monday evenings? Yup. In an effort to “stay fit” and show the world how healthy I am! Ugh. Me and my stupid ambition. What did I even drink yesterday? Oh yeah. It started out with a bloody mary because I was a little hungover from the wedding the night before (the wedding I was sure I didn’t even catch a buzz at). Then I made another bloody mary while putting away groceries, and another. Then I switched to craft beer from our kegerator. Then I switched to wine. Then I don’t remember. Hopefully I went to bed from there.

I look at the screen on my phone and see a video sent from my husband. With squinty eyes, I reluctantly press play. It’s me. Passed out on the couch. He is pulling my hand up, and then gravity drops it back down. Over and over again. He is trying to wake me up to go to bed… like, in a proper bed. A bed that respectable 35 year olds sleep in.

Before seeing the video, I was going through all the possible excuses to call in to work, as I do most Mondays. But after seeing this, I know that would make me an alcoholic. So in order to not be an alcoholic, I have to spritely enter the kitchen and act casual- as if I was just coming in from a morning run. Well, at least I got the sweating part down.

I walk into the kitchen as my husband is eating his breakfast. He’s not mad at me, or disappointed, but he does tell me that after he stopped recording the video, I did indeed wake up. In fact, I flew into the nursery and started shouting “We gotta get to the beach! Come on, we have to go to the beach!” Now, even if we lived near a beach, this would still be questionable behavior. But since we are hours from any beach, and it was a Sunday night, and I have a baby at home… this was just sad. He wasn’t mad or disappointed in me, but I sure was.

I get to work and go in search of a greasy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. As I sit in my mouse inhabited cubicle eating my 1600 calorie breakfast, while a yogurt sits untouched in my bag, I google, “how to moderate my drinking.” I have searched this a million times, or searched things similar. How do I quit drinking, do I need to quit drinking, do I drink too much, am I an alcoholic? You want to know how to tell if you’re an alcoholic? If you have to google it. My husband enjoys his craft beers, he will even overindulge once or twice a year for St. Paddy’s Day or the first day of vacation, but he can sit down on a Friday evening with our dinner in front of him and grab a glass of water. All while I stare at him in quizzical amazement.

A book appears on my computer screen that I have never seen before. This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace. “Control alcohol, find freedom, discover happiness and change your life”. I’m down. I purchase the audio version, because reading would require the vibration of my eyes to pass a DWI test first. I put in my headphones and start listening. She’s saying all the right things. I don’t have to quit, I can drink as much as I want when I want, but with her help, I won’t want to… Okay Annie, I get that you’re a published author, but is miracle worker on your resume, too?

It takes me two days to finish listening to Annie’s book, and I can honestly say, I felt a little shift after listening. I didn’t drink Monday night, but that might have just been from the shame. Could this shift be enough to change my whole mindset on drinking, forever? I don’t know about that. What about vacations? Holidays? Being that super cool mom with the wine in her coffee mug at the kid’s football games or while trick or treating? Am I supposed to drink seltzer? And stay sober? A.K.A. boring. But Annie assures me that I won’t want to drink at those events… Maybe I need to listen again. Maybe it’s like listening to the Beatle’s album backwards. I just need a little more brainwashing before I’m fully onboard with what Annie is proposing.

The next day at work, I find a community page associated with This Naked Mind. Here, I find people all in the same boat as me. They post things like, “Day 1 again” and then people reply with encouraging comments. Huh, this could be interesting. I put my first post on thisnakedmindcommunity.com and see what happens. And just like that, comments. Reassuring comments that I can do this, I’m not alone, and we have each other’s backs. It’s the dopamine hit that I would normally get from drinking!

I continue to post and comment on other’s posts every day. I also find The Alcohol Experiment, a project Annie Grace runs for free where you quit drinking for 30 days. She sends you really informative emails with videos every day. I continue to listen to This Naked Mind a few more times on my headphones then go on to listen and read other “quit lit” books. (We even have a cute little nickname for our addiction literature! It’s like putting a bow on a wounded bird before handing it to the vet.) I listen to Alcohol Explained by William Porter- dry, but informative. I read Dry, by Augusten Burroughs, which ironically is not Dry, I enjoyed it very much. Then I went on to read The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley. This was a fun read about her account of all the firsts into a sober life. I start listening to podcasts while I’m in the car, washing dishes, vacuuming, taking a walk or pretending to work at my desk. Or doing the laaaauundry. Annie Grace has a podcast for This Naked Mind which is faaaantastic. Did I mention I’m slightly obsessed with this woman and her work???

The most important part of getting sober is filling that void in the evenings. I found being at home (Sundays especially!!) was harder to not drink than being at- say, a Christmas party, with a bunch of drunks. It was my routine to pour that wine when I was home. It was my safe place. It was my, “hey friend, Cabernet, let’s sit together and numb the mind so I don’t have to think about anything, past-present-or future!” The problem is, when you spend every night numbing your mind, and every morning healing from a hangover, and every moment in between thinking about when you can pour that next drink… life tends to fly by and you’re not even with it enough to notice it. It’s kind of like you’re not even living.

My evenings went from drinking wine or martinis and passing out while watching TV, to mixing up mocktails and binge watching Netflix- all the way to the end of the show! My go-to mocktails are seltzer with cranberry, ginger ale, and a lime. The other is seltzer, cranberry, pineapple juice and cherry juice with a couple of cherries thrown in (you know, for that grand finale when the drink is done). I put these in wine glasses with no ice. And they are delicious.

I found some fabulous N/A beers; Bravus Brewing Co. has an Oatmeal Stout, and IPA and an amber ale. Athletic Brewing Co. has an amber ale called Upside Dawn which is delightful. The best part is that these beers are great for men and women. I also really like Clausthaler, it’s like a Heineken. And of course, Heineken 0.0 is great, too. Craft N/A beers are popping up all over, you just have to search for them. Some you can get on amazon, some you have to order directly from the brewery, but even with shipping, it’s still waaaaay less than the $200 I never bat an eyelash for spending at the liquor store in the old days!

Another great alcohol substitute is Kombucha. I love the Brew Dr. brand because they look like fancy beer bottles, like Red Stripe. People often confuse them for beer when I’m drinking them at a party. Some flavored seltzers come in the thinner, taller cans, so they look just like spiked seltzer. These are great options if you’re just looking to fit in and not have to talk about why you have a water in your hand at a party. I’m also a fan of tonic and lime when I’m out. Tonight I am making a fo-jito, a fake mojito. I boiled honey and water to make honey simple syrup. I will muddle mint leaves (probably with a hammer, as I’m fresh out of muddlers here) (what kind of alcoholic was I? jeez!) then I’ll add lime, ice, seltzer, the honey simple syrup and possibly a splash of cranberry.. if I’m feelin’ crazy.

They also make some decent N/A wines. The best I have found is the St. Regis cabernet and St. Regis champagne. The champagne was great on NYE and with mimosas on Christmas morning.

It’s important to fill your ex-drinking time with something you enjoy. Reading, writing, watching television, exercising (take a class at the gym, go for a walk, a run, join a walking group, lift a weight), drawing, painting, knit a freakin’ sweater! Cooking, video games.. pokemon is out there for some sober sap to catch, I’m sure of it! But the point is, when you have filled your time with a different dopamine releaser, and you have filled your glass with anything but alcohol, and you have filled your brain with information from these “quit lit” books and podcasts, it just simply adds up to a recipe that leaves you feeling happy as fuck in the morning that you’re not hungover!!!!

Yes, there are hard times, BUT that’s for another blog. For the day-to-day drinker that just wants to know if life could be better, easier, more fulfilling without filling their glass with cocktails, the answer is yes. But see for yourself, and hopefully these tools will help.

Sending love! Add your story below! And don’t forget to subscribe and share!

Find me on Instagram @thischicksgonesober

 

 

It’s a Clare Pooley Kind of Day

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I wake up at 3:30am, sweat dripping from every crevasses. Hungover? Hah, no. I’m 141 days sober. I’m locked in my house with an 18 month old and the flu. Good week for my husband’s job to send him away… well, good for him at least.

I send a text to my boss at 5am, because I’m still awake in my king size bed with the two foot toddler draped across my chest. I offer to come in at noon, proving to be the good sport that I am, except I have no intention of coming in at all.

I try reaching for my kindle without waking the sleeping beast, eager to continue reading Clare Pooley’s The Sober Diaries. It’s attempt 487 at reading this book, always interrupted by a crying child, a scream from a potentially crying child, or collapsing eyelids, from my day with the crying child.

To be honest, he doesn’t cry a lot. Daycare tells me he’s wonderful, he laughs and shouts in joy with daddy, he loves being with his grandparents and his aunts and uncles… he saves the other side just for me. I’ve been told this is because he feels safe around me. That’s wonderful, but what about when I don’t feel safe around him because his other side leaves bite marks and frequent head concussions when he sleeps next to me.

We’ve been isolated in our home going on five days now. I love him so, but being sick at work is actually more restful than being sick at home with a sick kid.

Our day starts out fine, except every time I sit on our couch I smell the three day old throw up mixed with the clorox wipes that never properly dried and now smells moldy, which was then topped with Febreeze. It’s terrible enough to wish for a poop diaper to brighten the stench.

I post on Facebook that I’m looking for recommendations on places to buy furniture. Someone recommends a process of cleaning the couch. Well, that seems more plausible since I had to charge milk this weekend. It suggested taking baking soda and coffee grinds to the smelly area and let it sit before vacuuming it up twenty minutes later. I search through our cabinet for baking soda, finding three almost empty containers of it. I bring them over to the scene of the crime and throw it at the patch of disgustingness. Except the spot is upright, and the baking soda is just falling to the bottom part of the couch and in between the cracks. Maybe I need the coffee grinds? I walk over to the coffee pot and remove this morning’s used coffee grinds. That’s what she meant, right?

Upon smearing these coffee grinds into the baking soda that is supposed to be sticking to the perpendicular angle, I begin to realize that I may be doing this wrong. I walk the coffee grinds back into the kitchen to chuck in the garbage, but not before I drop the wet grinds all over the floor. It’s as if a ghost with a sick sense of humor follows me around daily causing these sort of antics. As I’m trying to vacuum wet coffee grinds, with no luck, I turn on the carpet brush and the grinds go flying through the kitchen. The baby comes walking into the kitchen with the remote that he is not supposed to have (he has not successfully replaced this with the toy one that santa brought him), but I don’t have time to correct him right now. He looks at the floor and says, “Uh oh, momma” to which I reply, “so now you know your English?” and I carry on, sweeping the wet coffee grinds from the floor.

This leads me to want to make a mocktail from Clare Pooley’s book. She describes a virgin mojito, which sounds amazing. (A “fo-jito, if you will!) I even bought the mint leaves at the store during the two hours I escaped from the house this weekend. I start to make the “honey simple syrup” that I found in the online recipe. It’s a mix: 2 parts water and 1 part honey. Heat on low until honey is dissolved. Ten minutes into the dissolving, nothing looks dissolved. So, I turn it on high for just a moment to get the ball rolling. Through all of this, I have a tissue permanently in hand to wipe the snot from the baby’s face, as it is a never ending flow that could probably fill the Nile River. About thirty seconds into my executive decision of “turning it on high,” I hear the boiling over of water… and not only water, sticky honey syrup water. But I will not drink. I will not drink…

With wet coffee grinds still smeared on the floor, honey simple syrup burned onto my stove, I look over at my son who is taking the magnet that we use as a child safety lock for the doors under the sink (it locks in all the cleaning supplies and is only opened with the magnet from the refrigerator) and he’s lodging it into his mouth. I run over to perform a magnet exorcism and successfully extract -the child safety magnet- from his mouth.

I walk back into the living room and look at the sad mess of wet coffee grinds and baking soda smeared recklessly on my couch and wonder if I have the manpower to push the couch out of the door and just light it on fire.

The baby looks like he’s getting ready to nap. This shows me there is good in the world. I lay him on the non-coffee-grinded-baking-soda chair in an upright position so he can breathe and let him rest. Oh thank god: peace. Now I can do the one thing that provides me so much guilty pleasure, it’s better than any buzz from my days of wine and vodka: watch last night’s episode of The Bachelor. I just have to find the remote. Where’s the remote? Where is the mother-f****ng remote?????

The baby had it last… when I was tending to the coffee grind explosion. So I search.. and I search.. and I search.. With no luck. Of course we don’t have a normal television system where I can just use the dials on the TV. My husband has a whole sound system rigged up so that eighteen remotes are needed to operate our television. I might as well make my virgin mojito now and just pretend I’m getting wasted.

I mix the mint leaves, fresh lime and ice into the cup. Now to muddle. Except I don’t have a muddler. What can I use? A spoon will have to do because I refuse to use anything I have to hand wash. I pour in the seltzer, or “sparking water” if you want to be fancy, and the boiling honey simple syrup… It’s okay. Hmmm Clare, you got my hopes up and this was a lot of work. Okay, let’s think. Let’s throw in some cranberry. Ahhh, that’s better. But this ice, and the mint, it’s all up in my lips and teeth… I need a straw (and don’t even get me started on the ban of plastic straws in New York right now!! Curse you, Cuomo! You should have started with Amazon’s packaging techniques before making me put paper in my mouth to enjoy a freaking mocktail at a restaurant!) (Sorry, rant over.) So with the cranberry, the straw, and all else combined, the virgin mojito (my fojito!) is a lovely drink. I just didn’t need the wine glass, seeing as a straw sitting in a wine glass is like those Christmas reindeer antlers sticking out of the windows of a BMW.

So now I will go in search again for my remote so that I can find out who Pilot Pete decides to let back on the show this week after dumping them already. And if that fails, I will open The Sober Diaries for the 488th time.

P.S. I coffee-grinded the wrong side of the couch cushion…

P.S.S. and then the baby fell head first, fully clothed, into his running bath water while I was peeing.. Great. Day.

To Sink or Swim in Your Whiskey

-A piece from my memoir in progress

dad and daughter

The air is stale. There are numerous machines throughout the floor making the same steady beep, all working with one common goal.

I stare at the sign above the nurse’s station. My eyes trace the letters, “I”, “C”, “U” repeatedly, like a child driving their toy car from one race track to the next, and I wonder if this is a normal behavior or something I got from him.

The chair I sit in is hard, uncomfortable, and I wonder about all the people who have sat in this chair before me. Where are they now? Are their lives better or worse since they’ve been here?

My father is laying in the bed in the middle of the room. He is intubated with a thick tube. He looks calm, peaceful… vulnerable. Expressions I have never seen on him before.

I think about how everything I have asked for when wishing on a star or when the clock hits 2:22 has come true, but never in the way I had intended it to. I suppose my father dying is another wish granted.

Life will certainly be easier.

I suppose it’ll be sad that he’ll never see me go to prom or graduate from high school, he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle or be a grandfather to my kids. But then I laugh at the idea of him in a crowded auditorium or a church, or rolling on the floor with children.

My mother walks in the room, drying her shaky hands with a paper towel. Before she even opens her mouth, the doctor and nurse follow her in.

“Hi, how are we today?” The doctor robotically asks as he looks over my dad’s chart.

“Oh just ducky!” my mom answers, trying to be witty. She’s never grasped the concept of a rhetorical question.

“So John here has been in an induced coma for a few days now. He started waking up a little while ago, so we’re going to take out the tube and see if he can handle breathing on his own. The worst of the detox should be over by now.” The nurse is leaning over my father, checking his vitals and writing numbers down on her clipboard. The doctor continues, “This is going to be pretty touch and go for a while. The tests show that John suffered multiple heart attacks, but we can’t tell when exactly they happened. Chances are,” he looks at me, then back to my mother. His voice lowers, “he just wasn’t aware they were happening.”

The doctor looks toward my father and lets out a sigh, “The liver damage is bad, which makes all the organs suffer. That’s why he has the yellowish color. Realistically,” he purses his lips together and tilts his head from side to side, “he has about a 20% chance of getting out of this.”

Another nurse pokes her head in and asks the doctor for a “minute of his time”.

“Excuse me.” He says to us, halfway out of the room. He’s probably sleeping with her. I’ve seen ER.

“So, a 20% chance of living… those are not good odds.” My mother says as she twists the paper towel she’s been holding onto.

Ironically, I was thinking those are pretty good odds. But then again, our desired outcomes may be different.

“He did it to himself.” I say flatly. I’ve become accustomed to hiding all emotion when I talk to my family, especially my mother.

The nurse that was checking vitals lifts the empty bag of IV fluid off of the metal rod and detaches it from the tube that enters my dad’s arm. She exits the room, giving me a sharp stare out of the corner of her eyes before she goes.

“Well that’s the truth,” my mother says. “I don’t know how he’s going to make it when he gets out of here.” She searches through her purse, probably looking for lipstick that she doesn’t even need but doesn’t know what else to do with her hands.
He’s not getting out of here, I think to myself.

“I’m going to call your sister. She said she’d be up after work, but I think I’m just going to call her now” my mother carries on. “I’m just going to let her know what the doctor said. It’s probably better I call her now before I forget how he worded it. Twenty percent. He said twenty percent, right? That’s not good. I’m just going to let your sister know now.” My mother is a nervous person on a normal day, so given the situation, she’s on high voltage.

As she heads to the nurse’s station to call my sister, I look over at my father. I stare at his bloated face and remember a time when he was trim, handsome even. This could be one of the last times I see his face. If he went out now, he wouldn’t even know it. Death doesn’t seem that scary when you put it like that. It’s really only terrifying when you know it’s coming, even worse to look at your loved ones and think about everything you’re going to miss. If he took his last breath right now, he’d have none of that.

It’s strange to see him face to face with the one thing he has spent every aspect of his life avoiding. I feel a rush of excitement at the thought of finally being able to live in normalcy. Then I feel a bit of remorse, because I know that’s how I’m supposed to feel.

The nurse comes back in the room and hooks up the new IV bag. My mother comes in a moment later saying that she had to leave a message for my sister and listing off all the possible scenarios of why my sister may not have answered the phone. Without warning, the nurse begins pulling at the tube coming out of my father’s throat. My dad’s eyes burst open and he starts to choke. The nurse doesn’t look concerned, but doesn’t look old enough to know if she should be concerned, either.

My mother abruptly stops talking and stares with an open mouth. My dad thrusts his head and neck forward, not knowing what is going on. He can’t catch his breath. He starts to bat his arms around.

“Mr. Thomas, stay still!” the nurse demands.

I shouldn’t care. I don’t care. He did this to himself.

“John, you need to stay still!” the nurse insists.

My mother turns her head to avoid watching the scene.

My dad continues to choke. I see panic in his eyes, like a child looking for his mother in a crowd full of people.

I look for a doctor, but the only worker around is the one performing the exercision on my father.

He gags once more and then hurls back, like his heart has given out.

“STOP!” I yell as I launch towards the nurse and push her out of the way. “You’re hurting him! What the hell is wrong with you? Get away!”

            As the tube is ejected from my father’s throat, the nurse backs up, lifting her hands, as if to prove she’s not a threat. The doctor comes racing in. I’m draped over my father, who feels like a waterbed from all the fluid he’s retained. My mother is standing at the other end of the room with one arm tucked under her ribcage and the other bent up, covering her mouth. My father’s eyes have closed again and I feel the rising and falling of his chest.

Finding Your Reason

shatteredwine

As I approach my 100th day of being alcohol free, I’d like to be shouting from the rooftops how wonderful I feel, how vibrant and alive I am, how I couldn’t imagine life any other way. But, I’m sort of a realist, and I have to be honest that sobriety doesn’t mean you are swinging from light posts while dancing in the rain. It’s tough. I’m still tired, I’m still cranky, I am especially irritable with my husband, and I’ve gained weight because I eat ice cream every night now (okay, and probably a few cookies and donuts in between that).

But, what I can say is that life has more meaning now. I always try to look at situations with, “on my deathbed, will this have mattered?” When that time comes, will the people around me be there because they feel obligated to, counting down the minutes til I croak so they can get on with their lives, or will they be there because they want to absorb every last moment with me that they can, savoring every last memory? What I’ve come up with is that a life consumed by alcohol; being buzzed, drunk, hungover, and thinking about the next drink, is most likely not going to create relationships that leave people wanting more of you.

I am 35 and have a one year old child. You’ve heard it before. The white, middle class American woman who does well at her job, has friends, seems successful, but downs her bottle of wine or two a night. While all of our stories differ when you open the book, the summary on the back is the same for a lot of us. Most of the time, alcohol didn’t create any outright problems, other than ruining my organs and consuming all my thoughts, but there were a few times my husband couldn’t wake me when the baby was crying uncontrollably during the night, and hearing this the next morning scared me.

A few things happened in the last year that I could say spiraled my drinking, but I don’t really know if my drinking itself changed, or the reasons why I drank changed. Instead of being my normal pastime, part of my party-girl routine, it became a reason to numb the thoughts and quiet the fear.

Another thing most of us have in common is that it’s never just one thing that leads us to want to stop drinking. There are a series of catalysts that get us to that point. Just as there were a series of catalysts that caused us to become alcoholics.. sorry- what are we now? Members of the Alcohol Use Disorder tribe? No matter what we call it; we liked being drunk, we liked that alcohol took away our negative emotions, but then we realized that alcohol started creating more problems than it took away.

In the past year, the same thought kept occurring- where does this go for me? Will I cut back once the stress is over? Probably not because new stress will come. Will I cut back when I have more on my plate and won’t have the time to drink? Probably not because I have a lot on my plate now and still find time to down martinis and pop open wine bottles. Will I have an eye opening experience that will remove the craving of alcohol from me so that I only drink on weekends and holidays and always stop at two or three? Get back to me if that has actually worked for you. So do I stop drinking all together? What about vacations? What about retirement on the beaches of Aruba at all-inclusive resorts? Surely, it is not possible to do those things without drinking and enjoy it, is it? New Year’s Eves, my birthdays, hell- my kid’s football games when he’s older.

In the last 100 days, I have found that these big occasions, like open bar weddings and Christmas parties, are the easier places to not drink; more anxiety up front and mourning the loss of anticipation of a night filled with drinking and the unpredictable that comes along with it. However, I have found that the hardest part of not drinking is when I’m at home and have a list of chores; laundry, dishes, groceries, meal prep, and I just want a drink or four to quiet the never ending list in my head of what I have to get done next. These are the times I miss my friend, alcohol, the most.

When I was pregnant, a friend of mine was also expecting. She was loving every moment of her pregnancy, and I was miserable. She went around rubbing her belly and staying away from all lunchmeat, rare steak and alcohol. I hid my pregnant belly and as long as I knew where the meat came from, I indulged and also allowed myself one glass of wine a day in the third trimester, probably a little in the second, too.

After she had her baby, she said she missed being pregnant and couldn’t wait to start trying again. I thought she was nuts, I believe I said on more than one occasion, “People who love being pregnant are people who must not have lives.” My baby was born a few months later and we enjoyed exchanging stories, and even a short trip to the beach in Maine.

Four months ago, when her daughter was 17 months old, I saw on Facebook that a collection was being raised in her daughter’s name. I immediately contacted my friend and asked what was wrong. Her reply was, “She’s brain-dead. We are pulling the plug tomorrow so we can donate her organs. I’m in hell.”

Her beautiful daughter, Violet, suffered a horrific crib accident where she pulled a canvas picture off the wall and it landed on her neck, pinning her between the canvas and the crib rail, leaving her unable to breathe.

This was my catalyst to drink more, as it provoked a fear in me of the unimaginable, plus it numbed the pain and sorrow I felt for my dear friends. But this was also my catalyst to stop drinking. There were drunk nights after I learned of Violet’s death. There were more drunk nights after her funeral. And there were nights I crawled in my son’s crib to lay with him because I was scared he could so easily be taken from me.

After my husband sent me a video of myself passed out on the couch on a Sunday night, unable to be awoken as he called my name and lifted my arm up repeatedly, I knew something had to change. I was drinking to numb the fear that my son could be taken from me, but what I didn’t realize is that I was slowly being taken from my son.

There are two things I know. One: I cannot protect my child from everything. And two: if I continue to drink, I will only increase the chances of something bad happening to him.

I don’t know why Violet died and my son is still alive. I took for granted being pregnant and I spent almost every day of his first year under the influence of at least a glass or two of wine, sometimes more, much more. Maybe we are in some sort of virtual reality world where people don’t exist unless they’re right in front of me and the terrible events that happen to them are just lessons for me to learn… Anything to ease my grief of knowing how much my friends are suffering.

The only thing I can do is change what I put out in the world, and I decided that I don’t want to put a version of me that is under alcohol’s firm grasp. I want to help, not hinder. I want to be dependable, not dependent on. I want to give energy, not steal it. I want to love, and I want to be loved.

Being alcohol free isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing is easy. Is it easy to get a degree? Is it easy going to work every day? Is exercising easy? What about fighting cancer? No. None of it is easy, but it’s all worth it. Sometimes I think, “It’s just a little wine, a beverage, how can it be so bad, deadly even?” But then I think, “It was just a canvas.”

If we spend our dear time on this planet numbing every feeling we have, then what was it all for? Learn from the reasons that caused you to drink and recognize the reasons that will unleash you from the grasp. We’re all here for a reason, but you can’t find it if you’re numb.

Thank you, and I wish you all the best.