I became a professional day-drinker in 2020 during the pandemic when I was in lockdown alone for weeks in my studio apartment with my dog and too many bottles of wine. Isolated from people, I socialized with the grape. It didn’t occur to me that I might be an alcoholic until I tried to quit six months into Covid, but that’s when I met my co-habitant on our first socially distanced date and learned that he did not drink alcohol. Not because he’s abstinent, because he doesn’t like how it tastes. You might think such a difference in our preferences would have been a turn-off, but he has a particular set of skills that I really appreciate, and I was due for an epiphany. So I quit. Eyes on the prize.
Quitting alcohol at the same time I was falling in love and moving to a new place to live with a man for the first time in eleven years was a lot of pressure to put on myself. I was cranky. My body did not want to quit. My arms stretched to reach a bottle that wasn’t there. My brain fantasized Grey Goose straight up with two olives as the cure for whatever ailed me. I dreamed of returning to a bar in London where I once fell off my chair taste-testing single malt scotch. Now I don’t even own the glassware to serve a proper drink.
I always thought drinking was just me having fun, indulging myself and enjoying a good buzz. Now I see how the habit began, how I soaked myself daily for years, and I appreciate the dilemma of addicts of all substances because I can feel how my craving is wired into my brain. This summer it’s been three years since I quit the magic sauce and twenty years since I quit smoking cigarettes. My elbow muscles have atrophied, but my lungs and my liver like it. I’m not sure which substance is more difficult to abstain from. I’ll let you know in another ten years. For now, I need to talk about it because sunshine is the best detox.
My slide from being a casual drinker in my youth to a compulsive drinker in my workaholic years to an addict after my husband died followed much the same pattern as my cigarette habit. I started young, and as my income grew and my social life moved toward more affluent adult settings, I upgraded to a more spendy fix and more frequent consumption. Smoking-and-drinking in tandem was glamorous. I once quit smoking for two years and then went on a vacation to Italy where I simply couldn’t enjoy the country without a cigarette between my fingers and a glass in my hand. It took me five years after that to quit again. All counted, I quit cigarettes nine times before it stuck. For me, surplus time and money lead to indulgence. I can see how for others poverty and fear could lead to the same place. Being comfortably numb.
So, if you’re in a similar predicament with your bad habits, let me share some inspiration with you as I set my course for year four of sobriety. Sleep is really nice. Maybe you’ve tried it and it’s not working for you. I remember menopause as the first time in my life that I had trouble sleeping, but that was also my three-martini phase. No one told me alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of menopause. Now whenever I consider drinking again, I remind myself how nice it is to sleep at night and feel refreshed in the morning.
Also, body weight. When I drank, I ate, and when I drank too much, I ate too much. It’s as simple as that. I lost weight when I stopped drinking. Also, money. I’m saving hundreds of dollars every month once spent on very expensive urine. Also, safe driving. I have a few sickening memories of driving drunk, and those are just the times I can remember. Also, home décor. When I drank, I broke things, either in a temper tantrum, like ripping down the shower curtain and using the rod to bash holes in the bathroom wall, or by accident, like tripping over an electric cord at a friend’s house and breaking their lamp.
Bottom line, addiction is biology. Abstinence is overcoming that brain chemistry with sobriety. It isn’t easy, but it is better. Thank you for supporting me. Reach out if you need support for your own big change. It’s worth it.