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.
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