Why, oh why?

Today is Day 83 of this alcohol-free journey. Honestly, I had no idea how many days it’s been since that last sip of wine. I had to look it up on the phone app I downloaded on or about Day 3. The app keeps track of the number of days, as well as how much money I’ve saved. So, to date, it’s 83 days and 581 dollars.

Having that 581 dollars in my bank account seems like a pretty good answer to the question I get every time I take a pass on an alcoholic beverage.

But, why?

During the last 83 days, we have been pretty isolated from people. We’ve seen a few friends in the last month or so, but, for the most part, I haven’t had to answer the why question too many times. But, the thing is: I’ve had to answer it every time.

And I wonder, why? Why do I have to offer a reason for quitting? Like what I’m doing is just so crazy that there just has to be a logical reason for doing it? Why do people need to know?

And, more incredulously, why, when I give a reason, do some feel the need to people mock my reason? Scoff at my personal decision to give up drinking. They do, and they have. And… more will. They want to know why, and then if it’s not a reason that they’re expecting or that works for them, they dismiss it.

Which is why… you really don’t need to know why. My why is my own.

I have several friends who are vegetarians, and when they made that choice, I never asked them why. It’s really none of my business why. It’s a decision they made for their own personal reasons. I would never say to them “Oh come on, just one bite of steak. One bite won’t hurt you.” I would never challenge their lifestyle decision. And I support them when they visit my home — ensuring I have meat-free options.

I know that as we venture back out into our social circles, I will attract curious looks and unsettled reactions when I pass the wine bottle to the left or the right without pouring a glass for myself. I’ve already experienced the negative comments when I gave up beer last year. I heard the “Oh, come on, don’t be a party-pooper,” and have had to explain, to incredulous listeners, that I was doing “no beer for a year.” And even then, I had to explain why I would do that. It got old. Very quickly.

Here’s a why question: Why is it socially acceptable to put someone on the spot for not drinking?

But here’s the thing: I don’t care if you drink. I really and truly don’t. So why should you care if I don’t? Why does the WHY matter? I don’t ask people why they drink. I don’t ask them why they drink beer versus wine. I don’t ask them how much they drink or when they started drinking. I. Don’t. Care.

Socially distant

It’s been exactly 2 months since that last glass of wine. I remember it well, as it was Mother’s Day. I enjoyed a few glasses of my favorite wine, while reading a book and sitting on my porch swing. It was lovely. As I put the empty wine glass in the sink, I remember thinking, “Well, that’s it then.” I had been thinking of quitting for a couple years. I spent the weeks prior to Mother’s Day reading everything I could about ditching the drink. So, it was not a bittersweet moment. There were no feelings of loss or regret as I rinsed the drops of cabernet from the bottom of my favorite glass.

I was done.

When I made that decision to quit, we were well into our socially-distant protocols for the pandemic. My husband and I had not seen any of our friends since January. As I sit here now, some 61 days later, I realize that our current socially-distant reality most definitely made my early days of this journey all the easier.

As we navigate our new normal– amid still rising coronavirus cases and moving target guidelines — I find myself apprehensive about re-entering my social scene, even with masks and distancing. I’m having a hard time figuring out whether it’s that I just don’t feel comfortable yet due to the virus, or if there’s a much larger contributor to my anxiety about seeing friends up close and personal.

I’ve been in a pretty sweet bubble for a couple months. I live in a beautiful log home, with mountain breezes that sweet across the porch where I spend hours reading and writing. I have an art studio on our second floor porch that feels like I am floating high about the trees. I play there. There is nothing I could want, except… company. People. Friends. Conversation. Laughter. Storytelling and … wine drinking.

So, yes. There’s the elephant in the room. One hundred percent of my social life with friends has involved wine. Or other forms of drinking. Wineries. Breweries. BBQs with lovely cocktails. Game nights with bourbon tastings.

It’s pretty easy to be this new version of myself (who I love, by the way), when I don’t have to introduce her to anyone who might not like her as much as the old me.

I am smart enough to know that yes, this will happen. When I do finally get out into the world and see more friends again, some will find that this new me doesn’t quite fit within their circle any longer. The invitations will likely drop off and my tribe will be redefined. And, I have to be fine with that. I didn’t do this for anyone else. This new ME is all for me.

For now, I’m doing a day-by-day thing. I’ve spent time with my BFF and it was fine. Weird for her, I think, but fine. She knows me. She accepts me, for sure, no matter what. But it’s still a change in our dynamic. I get it. But I also know I can’t take on those emotions – those feelings others around my not drinking. I have my journey, and I guess, if they want to remain friends, they will have their own.

Until then, I remain socially distant and happily alcohol free.

Nothing to “wine” about

It’s been 47 days since that last glass of wine. For someone who really enjoyed a glass (or 2) of wine to mark the transition from work day to evening, that’s a huge accomplishment. So, yay me. Nearly 50 days without a drop of alcohol.

But here’s the thing: I don’t feel at all like I’m denying myself anything. Every day, when 5 o’clock nears, I allow myself the freedom to choose. Drink or not drink. And every day, for 47 days, I chose not to drink. And the more days that I choose sparkling water or ginger ale over a glass of wine, the less I even think about other options. To be honest, I really haven’t had cravings or been tempted by the sound of a cork popping as my husband opens a bottle on any given night. I’m just not interested.

I talked a little bit in my last entry about that freedom, but today, as we contemplate the idea of signing up for a workkamping gig at a beautiful winery in Wisconsin, I wondered if I would be tempted by hanging out with rows and rows of big fat grapes.

Would I be drawn in by the joyful sounds of carefree wine drinkers clinking glasses across a long wine bar? The pure irony (or cruelty?) of this particular scenario is not lost to me. This time last year, if I was approached with the opportunity to work 20 hours a week at an Italian vineyard, I would immediately research the wine list to see what lovely varietals I had in store for me. Today as we contemplated the idea, I cruised through the online menu and was so excited to see beverages that included San Pellegrino (by the 1/2 or full liter) + a full range of San Pellegrino Sodas, including Limonata and Aranciata Rossa! How fun!

The idea of working at a vineyard is just as intriguing as it was when wine was the big draw but now it’s because I’ve never worked in a winery. I’ve never been to Wisconsin. This “gig” would offer us an opportunity to experience so many new things. Be introduced to a new place, new people. Something entirely different than our day-to-day. An adventure. The work-camping allows RV-ers (like us) to work a few hours a week in exchange for a campsite, and other very cool perks of the job.

There is a particular kind of empowerment that has been percolating within me since quitting. Maybe it’s just my ego on fire with the “I can do anything” chatter, but the idea of leaving my life behind for 2 or 3 months and going on a journey that is completely unknown sounds like just the thing to do.

That’s the thing that’s so great about life, right? The not knowing part. I, for one, am ready to toss out the script and ad-lib a little.

Or maybe I’m already doing that! 🙂

Free and clear

Google says: After 30 days without alcohol, the fog starts to clear from your brain and you finally feel like yourself again. Better hydration and improved sleep will have increased your productivity and daily wellbeing. Your liver, stomach and skin will also have benefitted from not dealing with alcohol.

As I passed the 30-day mark yesterday, I can attest to the fact that since ditching alcohol I’ve lost a little weight, slept so much better, felt less anxious, and just feel happier overall. When talking to a friend today, I found myself almost giddy as I shared my alcohol-free journey. She and I have had plenty of conversations around drinking and wine–of cutting back and maybe even giving it up. I was excited to share my milestone with her and so pleased to hear her say that I had inspired her to consider her own journey toward an alcohol-free life.

There are most certainly some challenges ahead, as I introduce new self to my friends once we are socializing again, but I feel confident in my decision to embrace this new version of myself. I really do like her so much more. She is clear-headed. Calm. Motivated. A little carefree, almost. And she’s still fun. Well, no LESS fun than she was when she was drinking!

The freedom that comes with choosing not to drink is really motivating for me. I’m free from the self-talk (wine or no-wine tonight?) I’m free from the Sunday hangovers. I’m free from the self-shaming the day after a few glasses too many. I am free from falling asleep on the couch before the movie ends and free from waking up in the middle of the night with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth due to hydration.

I’m just plain free.

Thinking about drinking

Day 23. I haven’t spent this many days without wine in decades. That sounds awful, just writing that, but even when I was a newbie wine drinker, I drank wine a few days a week — so yea, 23 days without a drop of alcohol feels very liberating!

I started this personal blog so that I could track the changes to my life — the way I felt, etc — along this journey. As I don’t plan on going back to drinking, the number of days don’t really matter to me as much as the way my life is changing without alcohol in it. But there IS something about ticking off days on the calendar. Everyone likes to track success, right? I think it’s motivating to know those numbers.

The biggest change I’ve found now that I’ve surpassed three weeks is that I don’t think about drinking anymore. Not at all. Not at 4 o’clock, when happy hour was on the horizon. And not at 5 o’clock when the workday is done.

The last few years, I’ve spent a lot of hours thinking about drinking. Thinking about whether I should have a glass of wine on a Tuesday. Thinking about whether I should have a good bottle of wine with our Italian dinner on a Wednesday. Thinking about whether I should NOT drink on a Thursday. Thinking that it probably wouldn’t be any fun to go out for date night at the local bar we love and order just a club soda.

So much thinking…about drinking.

It seemed like all I ever did was think about not drinking. Even in the morning, when chatting with a friend, our conversations of late have turned to the topic of drinking. Both of us on the same page that we really felt like the two or three glasses of wine most days of the week was probably not helping us, health-wise. Neither of us would be classified as “alcoholics” (though, I have tons of thoughts on that whole term…), but it had become clear to us that drinking was a big part of our everyday lives.

And what did we really THINK about that?

We talked about how I wanted to change my relationship with alcohol so often that I think both of us were sick of talking about it. We talked about not drinking Mon – Thurs. And I tried to stick to that. We talked about arthritis and aches and pains we were feeling in our post 50-year-old bodies — blaming alcohol as a likely culprit. And yet, when 5 pm rolled around, I popped the cork on an everyday Cabernet and all conversations about the perils of alcohol were abandoned.

The next morning, foggy-headed after drinking that third glass of red, I’d feel that regret. Why didn’t I just have one glass of wine with dinner and be done with it? I remember one time even looking in the mirror and calling myself an idiot. It didn’t feel good to feel like a failure.

So, today on Day 23, I woke up again at 6:30, jumped out of bed and within an hour had taken our dog for a walk AND enjoyed a bike ride with my husband. And tonight, when 5 pm rolls around, I’ll be sipping a Perrier Lime, knowing that tomorrow morning I wake up with a clear head and a positive attitude.

No more thinking about drinking.

Day 17 and it’s all so good

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and it was a beautiful, peaceful hangover-free weekend. We celebrated my husband’s 62nd birthday — social distancing with our son and his wife — and it was so great to spend time with them without the haze of two or three glasses of wine.

Before I decided to embark on this AF journey, I pictured birthdays and other gatherings as a events where I would feel left out if I wasn’t drinking. But this past weekend — one that is typically marked by cocktails and empty wine bottles — included writing time, creating art, reading on my porch swing, family time and so many more peaceful moments.

It’s nuts, but when the bottle of wine was opened for my husband and DIL, I didn’t feel compelled to join them. And in a kind of sadistic way, I felt quite the opposite. Not totally judging (not totally… but subconsciously??), I still almost felt that it was unfortunate that they even wanted to drink the wine.

It so hard to explain how little I want to drink, now, just 17 days after my last glass of wine. Having read so many books lately about the effects of alcohol to the body, it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut when someone cracks open a beer or pours another glass of wine.

And I REALLY don’t want to be that person. We all have our own journeys and I have to remember that this is mine and mine alone.

But still…

As I share all of the amazing benefits I’m experiencing from not drinking, there’s a part of me that is hoping that my husband will have a lightbulb moment and want to join me. Be my AF partner. Experience this amazing new, clear reality together. We’ve built such an amazing life together and what if there’s EVEN more we can do if we were both AF?

As a whiskey connoisseur, it’s unlikely, but there’s a definite feeling of camaraderie that makes that idea appealing to me.

Today is Day 17 and here’s a short list of some of the changes I’ve noticed:

  • Bright eyes
  • Softer, blotch-free skin
  • A more positive attitude
  • A sense of calm
  • Sleeping like a log (9 whole hours straight last night!)
  • Clear-headed and motivated

The big change I’m feeling, I can’t even explain. I just feel more ME. I feel present in my life. Calmer and living more in the moment. I guess you’d call it being mindful?

The popular mindfulness app, Headspace, says mindfulness is “…the ability to be fully present in the moment,” and that’s exactly how I’m feeling. Present. Happy. Peaceful. Hopeful. Life is so much better when you’re not spending your time waiting for a hangover to pass or watching the clock for happy hour. If I’m being real, yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time on both those things.

Today, I am living right here, in this exact moment and it’s glorious.

Waistlines and wine bellies

It’s been two weeks since that last glass of wine, and I’m feeling like an entirely different person. I kid you not. Like a whole new, clear-headed, positive-vibing, glowy-skinned, jump-out-of-bed-with-smile-at-7am new person.

Except that when I stepped on the scale two days ago (fully expecting to have dropped 10 pounds of wine fat), I was surprised to see the number creep well above the last check in. WELL above. Given the fact that I have not checked in with my current weight situation since pre-COVID-19 days, I really couldn’t say what that number looked like two weeks ago, but dammit, I was really and truly expecting a whole different number to flash on that dumb screen.

As part of this journey, I am fully anticipating extreme weight loss to be one of those things I add to the PROs column of the “why I quit drinking” spreadsheet. Given the fact that I was drinking in excess of the “moderate” consumption guidelines for women (which is one drink a day), and with one glass of red wine equaling about 125 calories, my weekly calorie intake should reduce by at least 2000 – 2500 calories a week.

So, they say that patience is a virtue… so I’ll check back in at the 30-day mark to see if those numbers on the scale reflect my anticipated weight drop, but for now, I think I’ll focus on not baking any more sheet cakes, cheese bread, scones, muffins, cookies, or any of the other quarantine-inspired goodies I’ve been whipping up during the last 72 days of isolation.

Yes, it’s been 72 days! Doing that actual day count on the calendar just now was a bit crazy. 72 days of not socializing. 72 days of being in the house. 72 days of recipes shared on Facebook that I “just have to try!” including:

The BEST Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.

Homemade Cheese Bread

Kitchen Sink Cookies


It’s no wonder the pounds have packed on. I’m certain I’m not alone here. This pandemic has many of us digging through the pantry in search of the one yeast packet that hasn’t expired in 2008.

So I will give myself some slack, stop filling my face with sheet cake, drink more water and check in on day 30 to see if I’m making any dent in the wine weight.

Seeing friends & COVID-19

We have been in lockdown since sometime in March. I think it’s over 60 days now, but I’ve honestly lost count. This COVID-19 pandemic has forced people from around the globe to retreat into the safety of their homes, seeing friends and family only through Zoom calls and FaceTime chat-ups. To say it’s been weird would be an understatement.

I began my AF journey late into our shelter-in-place order, and now as states are opening up and my friends are ditching Netflix and jammies and venturing out into “socially-distant” venues, the next chapter begins. Both as it relates to living in a world where the coronavirus is still a real threat to our society and for me to adapt to socializing with friends without a glass of wine in my hand.

And yesterday was my first experiment with both.

A friend visiting the area from out of town, who we had not seen all year, invited us to meet her at the winery near our house. Sitting outside seemed safe enough –though again, it was the first time we had literally spent time with anyone except our son. When we pulled up, the parking lot was packed. So many people. So many damn people.

I sat in the car, my anxiety levels rising, and seriously considered calling my friend from the parking lot and telling her that we couldn’t make it and hightailing it the hell out of there and back to the safety of my cabin in the woods.

Just so many people.

People not wearing masks.

People just walking around, gathering as though there wasn’t a real threat here.

I wasn’t ready. Clearly. But I sucked it up and headed to the patio, where… there were, again… SO MANY PEOPLE. I literally held my breath as I made my way to the corner table where my friend was waving madly.

No hugs hello (which is fine), I sat and pulled my chair a little further away from the table.

We spent a good 90 minutes there, me drinking my NA beer and water while keeping a close eye on all the people coming and going from the patio. It honestly was not fun. Not one bit of it. I enjoyed seeing her, of course, but I spent the whole time feeling anxious. And I know it has a lot to do with the current environment we’re in with this goddamn coronavirus, but I haven’t felt that stressed in a long time.

I’m not ready.

Not ready to be around friends.

And maybe if I was powering through a bottle of wine, I would feel less tense about the whole deal, but that’s not where I want this journey to end.

So, what I learned is that it’s not that much fun yet to be out with friends. Because of this pandemic and the risks involved, I’m just too nervous. And because I’m not medicating myself, there’s nothing to take the edge off that nervousness. And as much as that sucks, but I’m not willing to go backward. Everyone has to create their own version of what’s normal to them right now and sitting outside at a people-filled winery just isn’t it.

Not that I won’t try other ways to get back out into the world, but out of respect for my AF journey, I need to find other things to do.

This is new. I’m committed to this. And, unfortunately, I’m having to navigate not only being with friends and not drinking, but being with friends and being anxious about being with friends, while not partaking.

As I proudly stride into Day 12, I have to be kind to myself and remember I’m not the only one looking for a new normal. We’re all trying to figure it out, alcohol-free or not.

Sleep

One of the benefits of not drinking, according to every source I’ve read, is improved sleep. And that fact alone was one of the key factors in my decision to stop drinking altogether. I was tired…or being tired. I was sick of waking up feeling foggy, sluggish and basically underwhelmed about facing the day. If I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I since I’m the only one reading this blog — it took me a good 30 minutes to really wake up. And then, the motivation was just blah most days.

And then there’s the whole waking up several times a night to pee and the night sweats (menopause + wine = covers on, covers off, covers on, covers off). Sure, a couple glasses of wine in the evening did the trick when it came to GETTING to sleep –since being drugged will typically put you out–but it was the staying asleep longer than 3 hours that posed a problem. And so, almost every day I was waking up after a shit night’s sleep feeling, basically, like shit.

I’ve read that it really doesn’t take a lot of alcohol to disrupt your sleep, so even if I only drank one glass of wine, I didn’t feel super motivated to hop out of bed in the morning.

And now… dear God I feel fantastically rested! In the past week, I’ve been sleeping a solid 6 or 7 hours and waking up at 6:30 or 7 am well rested and… get this…in a great mood! Smiling. Happy. Jumping out of bed. I even caught myself humming a tune on Friday morning!

Sleep, and the lack of it, does make a huge difference to pretty much everything in your day. I find myself having more energy this past week and being less snappy — and I’m convinced that has to do with the amount of shut-eye I’m getting. When you are well-rested, you are just all-around better equipped for life. And I don’t think I’ve been well-rested for quite a while.

So, here I am almost to the end of Day 8 and I couldn’t be more thrilled that sleep is one of the gifts of this journey.

Self care

As “buzzy” terms go, this new-ish one “self-care” has really been getting on my nerves. The question of “how are you practicing self care?” has come up in varied situations over the past year and quite honestly, I really didn’t know what the “right” answer was…until this past week, that is.

When asked this question during a women’s inspirational gathering via Zoom about a month ago, I found myself searching the other women on my screen — wondering what self care activities these youngsters were participating in that made them look so much calmer and less anxious than myself. (Bit of an aside here, but as this was my first experience with a sacred circle gathering, I was a wee bit on the nervous side and was pretty damn proud of myself for hitting that Zoom link and showing up. Thank you very much. ) So, when that self care questions popped up, the first thing I thought about was not what my answer WAS, but what my answer SHOULD BE. I didn’t actually feel like I was doing a very good job taking good care of self, not lately anyway.

“During this time of isolation during the pandemic, I have spent a lot of time reflecting. With my mind quiet, I find it easier to tap into my creativity” I say (what the what?)

I see nods across the 5 gallery boxes on my computer screen. The women approve. I’m in. I breathe. Must have been a good self-care type response, I figure.

The hour goes by more quickly than I anticipated, and it was quite lovely in the end, but that whole self care question nagged at me even as I hit “leave meeting.”

Fast forward to last week. It was the day before Day 1. I was talking to my younger sister on the phone and she mentioned her skin care routine. A light facial peel a few times a week; facial cream twice a day; this great new hand cream that works wonders, etc. And I’m intrigued. I know there’s a lot of ways to practice self care (trust me, I’ve read about all of them), but my sister was REALLY caring for herself. She had created a routine where she spent time caring for her skin. Like, every single day.

Then I thought about what my before bed routine looked like, (too) many nights: Wake up after falling asleep on the couch because I had that third glass of red; gulp down 1/2 glass of water (good to hydrate); upstairs to the bath, brush teeth, bed. Sometimes a squirt of hand cream if I’m lucky. On the odd night, if I hadn’t actually drifted off before heading to bed, I would remember to use the oil-based makeup remover to smudge off the mascara and called that basically a face-washing. And that was definitely not the norm.

My actual SELF CARE needed some SERIOUS CARING of it’s own.

As I was talking to her on the phone, I ordered every single item she uses for her personal skin care routine.

While I knew I was going on this journey toward an alcohol-free lifestyle, that is just part of the 2020 personal transformation plan. Other items on the list include:

  • Taking better care of my skin
  • Getting to a healthy weight
  • Ditching the dye jobs and letting my natural hair color grow out

And that’s just the physical stuff.

So here I am on Day 6 and my face has not felt smoother. My skin practically glows! I LOVE the facial peel, aptly named Drops of Youth, and the facial cream is the lightest, most wonderful feeling cream ever.

I’m only guessing here, but it’s probable that with my new routine of washing my face and actually taking care of it — coupled with the fact that I’m not dehydrating my entire body with gallons of liquor — my skin may actually start to look better in time. It’s kind of exciting to think about real physical transformations this year.

So, when asked that question about self care, I plan on responding with “I’m spending every waking hour of my day doing everything I can to be kind to my body.”