Two and a half years ago I wrote a post about cutting back on alcohol. Last week I got an email from a reader, about her own struggles and progress in the same endeavor. She included a link to this excellent article in Real Simple.
Seems like I am not alone. Thanks, Olivia Pope.
Two-thirds of American women consume alcohol regularly (having at least one drink within the past week), with most citing wine as their beverage of choice, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. That number has stayed fairly constant over the past two decades, but something more significant has changed: An increasing number of us are overimbibing.
It wasn’t the first email I’ve gotten about the alcohol post, and I’d been thinking about updating you with my current status. Thank you C., for the necessary impetus. So here we go.
The First Stage Of Cutting Back
In case you don’t want to read that first post today, I described a series of methods I’d found to keep myself to one glass of wine a night, or 7 glasses a week. That’s what doctors now recommend for women. More than that, the dangers of alcohol start to outweigh the benefits.
What Did I Learn In That First Stage?
- It’s really hard to find enough will power to consume only one glass, night after night after night. I found, over time, that I was not able to compensate reliably for a night of two glasses by subsequent abstention. This meant I’d drink 8-9 glasses of wine/week. Too much.
- I missed being able to, as I called it in the first post, “Blow myself up.” I’m hard-wired for anxiety. Not depression, not consuming rage, but a too-large flight of butterflies that land in my chest, fluttering dread. Drinking 2+ glasses of wine kills the pests, for a while. I take no anti-anxiety medicine, by the way, except for airplane flights.
Approaching The Second Stage Of Drinking Less
I probably would have remained in that first stage for a long while, but in the summer of 2014 my daughter and I traveled to England. Where we drank a lot. Pub lunches, restaurant wines, and festive dinners with friends.
When I got home I thought, “My liver needs a break.” And I decided on 30 days without drinking. In fact I clocked 28, as I ran into my birthday. Close enough. I was looking for long-term change, not short-term box checking. After that, I decided I’d drink only on the weekends, or if we went out to dinner. Or on vacation.
Life In The Second Stage
And so I’ve done, ever since. Except when I was sick and on medications that didn’t allow alcohol, when I drank nothing for weeks at a time.
How’s it going?
I manage to, reliably, drink no more than 7 glasses of wine/week. I manage to enjoy, because let me say right now that enjoy it I do, a night or two/week in which I drink 2, or even 2.5. And I manage, with a non-breaking of back amount of effort, to drink no alcohol 3-4 nights/week. I confess to sometimes going out to dinner primarily because I want a sanctioned glass of wine. Not virtuous, but effective in terms of my overall goal. I focus on the results rather than my weakness.
Oh, and grapefruit juice, mixed with carbonated water, to drink while cooking. Secret weapon.
Is This A Perfect Mode Of Life?
Of course not.
I wish for a world in which I could drink without the addiction — because I’m clear it is one — kicking in. But that’s not reality. I wish for a world in which I suffered no anxiety, but that’s not reality either. What I have is a world of excellent wines with good food, a reasonable amount of will power exerted, and medical blessing.
Oh, and good sleep. Some nights I even sleep all the way through. All the way through, guys!
Why Am I Telling You This?
That first post stirred up some We Hate Lisa And She Is An Alcoholic And 12-Step Is The Only Way feedback, here and out on the Internet. Oh well. I write now because I know that people find my first post and I want them to know what might come next. I want them to know that for some of us, this is not easy.
And yet, it’s doable, for some of us.
I understand, this may not be you. If you need help, feel no shame. Get it. If you need a program, feel no shame, go.
In fact, nobody should feel shame. Alcohol wants us to drink it. That’s how I look at it. We may not want to drink too much, but the alcohol insists. Shame supports our compliance. When I first started this project, I also began to tell everyone I knew that I drank too much and was working on it.
Why not? Strength in numbers.
I also know than in two years I may write another post in which we learn that the second stage stopped working, and I’ve quit altogether or tried a different approach. I’ll tell you. Like I said, no shame. Benefit of getting older.
Have a wonderful weekend.