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 my new self to friends once we are socializing again, but I feel confident in my decision to embrace this new version of me. 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. 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 a plan for 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 events where I would feel left out. 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, sitting around a fire, family time and so many more peaceful moments.

It’s nuts, but when the bottle of wine was opened for my husband and daughter-in-law, I didn’t feel at all compelled to join them. And in a kind of sadistic way, I felt quite the opposite.

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 join me. Be my alcohol-free 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 PRO 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 as I 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 were expected or given. The new norm, I imagine, for quite some time. I sat and pulled my chair a little further from the table.

We spent a good 90 minutes there, me drinking my (smuggled in) NA beer and water while keeping a close eye on all the people coming and going around me. 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, when the time is right, but out of respect for my alcohol-fee 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. Thank you COVID-19.

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.


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…of being tired. I was sick of waking up feeling foggy, sluggish and basically underwhelmed about facing the day. If I’m being honest, 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 a month ago, I found myself scanning the faces of 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. Seriously. 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.”

And so it begins…

Four days ago I decided to make a change. It’s not the first time I’ve planned on giving up alcohol, but I’m hoping that it will be the last.

So there’s this common misbelief that if you give up alcohol, well, then you must of course be a raging alcoholic. Because why would someone who is not an alcoholic choose to ditch the booze if they weren’t sick with the disease?

Maybe because they’re tired of waking up feeling just a little bit fragile? Or foggy?

Maybe because of the weight gain, tired eyes, sleep interruption and overall feeling of blah on those days after they’ve swallowed a gut-full of wine?

Maybe because I read that when you drink too much, your brain gets dehydrated and literally shrinks. Yes, shrinks!! And, well, I kind of like my brain the size that it is, thank you very much.

For me, it was all of the above (especially the brain thing), plus more. I’m just plain tired of the cycle: Drink wine. Sleep (poorly.) Wake up feeling groggy, plus guilty for having drank that one more glass. Telling myself at 8 am that today I will abstain. Today will be a zero wine day. And then, when 5 o’clock rolls around, giving in to the wine witch who quietly whispers, “You’ve had a long day. Pop open a bottle. Yea, pick a good one. You deserve it!”

I don’t care about whether I fit anyone’s definition of alcohol addict or whatever other label there is around drinking just a little too much. The point is that I didn’t like what alcohol was doing for me. And what it was taking from me. The bottles of wine I was consuming were definitely having some negative physical consequences. And yet…I continued, in spite of them.

So, four days ago I decided ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I banished the conniving wine witch and embarked on this journey to get healthy. I’m going to be 55 years old in a few months, and I want to look in that mirror and see a strong, confident woman who is healthy and happy and in control of her life.

And so, if you have stumbled across this online journal, please wish me luck, and check in to see how I’m doing. Thanks!