Anne found that cocktail hour was taking over every aspect of her life. She’d take breaks only to drink again. Read how This Naked Mind shifted her thinking once and for all.
I have been alcohol free since October 26, 2019 and Annie Grace’s work has been a major factor in my success. I am so grateful. The book This Naked Mind helped me decide that alcohol was not an option for me any longer and the podcast reinforces my decision with every episode.
The First Drink
My first experience with drinking was on my 14th birthday. My friends made me a dinner and gave me what they said was “Near Beer” but then told me later was real beer. We thought this was hilarious, and I remember running around my friend’s vast property together afterwards, falling down, laughing hard, and having a ton of fun. It felt rebellious and freeing.
After that night, I didn’t really drink again for a couple years. My high school boyfriend junior year would give me a wine cooler now and then, or I might have had maybe half a beer at a party. Once in a while I’d sneak beers out of my parents’ basement fridge and bring along with me to a get together at someone’s house or to enjoy with friends high up on a mountain ridge overlooking the Bay. I’d also smoke pot occasionally, but just one hit. I liked to feel in control, and wanted to be part of it all but maintain my wits.
Just Part of the Scene
I grew up in Marin County, a wealthy community north of San Francisco. Drinking and drugs were very normalized, at least among my circle of friends. Partying was a good time, often taking place poolside at barbecues, apres ski at someone’s Lake Tahoe house, at Stinson Beach on a sunny day, listening to Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin at the light show at the Planetarium in Golden Gate Park. The scenery was beautiful, everyone had money and successful parents, drove expensive cars…what was the harm in enhancing our fun with a little something. It was just something everyone seemed to do without any consequences. And if someone got in trouble, parents would smooth it over and keep it quiet.
Out of Place
My drinking increased when I left for college. I went to Northwestern, far from California, at my parents’ strong suggestion. I felt homesick and disoriented. Northwestern is a good school, and again, I was surrounded by seemingly smart and successful students who also were partying in their free time. My freshman year, I’d go to frat parties and socials and drink. A few times I’d drink too much and end up throwing up or not being able to get out of bed the next day. But this only happened a few times before I figured out how not to get to that point and what my tolerance was.
In the years that followed, I moved back to California for grad school, established my career, married my college sweetheart, and started a family. I’d have an occasional glass of wine or beer at a party or out to dinner, but certainly not every day. It was more a once in a while thing. When my daughter was almost one, we moved from Berkeley, California to Plymouth, Michigan for my husband’s job.
Out of Place and Alone Again
It was quite a shock to my system. My whole world changed…I’d just found out I was pregnant again, surprise!, I had a one year old, my parents were still in California, as were all my friends. I had no support system. I’d given up a job I loved for my husband’s career, and to stay home with my babies. Once my second daughter was born, I started drinking more habitually. It was hard being home all day with two small children, in the long Michigan winters. I started having a glass of wine at 4pm when Oprah would come on. That would help me get through the dinnertime and bath time to bedtime when I’d finally have the house to myself.
Still In Control
We made friends with couples with kids our kids’ ages in Michigan and would have many family get togethers and barbecues. All the adults would drink. I’d usually stick to two, knowing that no matter how I was feeling the next morning, my kids would be up at the crack of dawn.
Years passed quickly, and we had a third baby, moved to a larger house, and I went back to work as a therapist when my youngest reached kindergarten. At this point, drinking wine was becoming more of a daily habit, but still seemed like a harmless treat. I’d love to have a glass or two of wine while cooking dinner. It was always part of social gatherings. I’d experiment with different recipes for cocktails and margaritas, and have my friends over to sample with me.
Working Around Cocktail Hour
When I went back to work, I remember having some misgivings about scheduling clients in the early evening. That would cut into my cocktail hour! I remember thinking to myself, hmm. I love my work and was so excited to be back in my career again. Honestly, I surprised myself with this thought. I went ahead and scheduled those evening clients anyway, thinking that I really should do so to get out of that wine o’clock habit. Well, I got around myself on that when I’d simply pour myself a glass of wine when I got home, even if it was late. This was my reward for working hard and helped me unwind.
The Decision Maker
Then, I started to notice other ways my cocktail hour was insidiously informing other decisions. Always volleying to be the drop off person for my kids’ numerous sports practice carpools. Avoiding being the pick up person at all costs….I couldn’t pick up my kids and other peoples’ kids at 8pm or 9pm…by then I’d have had my drinks. Same went for meetings and events that happened in the evenings at my kids’ schools. I would dread these events because I wouldn’t be able to relax with my glass of wine as usual.
Why Was It So Important?
Suddenly there seemed to be this focus on it. I would have a glass of wine before a social event to feel less anxious and ready to party. When going to someone’s house for dinner or to hang out, I couldn’t really relax until I had a glass of wine in my hand. I’ve always had some social anxiety and shyness, and I thought alcohol was helping me feel more confident and relaxed.
This needy feeling wasn’t sitting right with me, so I would go through phases of not drinking. It would last for one or two months, and I would be surprised at how good I felt. However, quitting forever never seemed like an option.
A vacation to Jazz Fest in New Orleans with friends would come up, or a family reunion, and I’d start again.
Alcohol, in my mind, seemed to be a non-negotiable part of these experiences. I would start slowly, but before long I’d be back in my daily habit of two to three drinks again.
Functional But Not Fun
At this point I’d like to say that I could probably have gone on like this forever…moving through life as a fully functional drinker. I can’t say I’ve ever lost control, become ill since college, blacked out, or put anyone in danger. Family members and friends close to me use alcohol in this way and are extremely high functioning and successful people.
So, life went on, me taking periodic breaks from drinking only to start up again and be right back to where I was. Then, my husband’s company transferred us to Atlanta, Georgia. After 14 years of putting down roots in Michigan, we were going to start all over again.
Here We Go Again
We moved to a beautiful town north of Atlanta. I loved our new house, the warmer climate, spending more time outdoors. It seemed like a healthier lifestyle. However, I was isolated again. My kids quickly acclimated, to my great relief, with new schools, new sports teams, and easily made new friends. I was lonely though. Not having a license to work in Georgia and not having any friends was hard. My shyness kept me from joining committees or putting myself out there.
From Cocktail Hour to Cocktail Afternoons
My drinking ramped up again. I would start drinking prosecco at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I had a ritual around it…putting the bottle in the freezer so it was ice cold, bringing a glass out to the swinging beds in our garden, and reading and drinking in the shade. I still wasn’t drinking any more than two or three glasses, but that was enough to numb me out through the kids coming home, making dinner, and getting to bed. Again, I avoided any evening commitments to maintain this ritual, which didn’t help me meet new friends or become involved in my new community.
This Isn’t Working
The first winter in our new home, I tried to quit again. I knew this behavior was weird for me. Not only that, I felt like my anxiety and shyness were getting worse. My whole energy felt off…and fell off! I had no energy for anything. In fact, I would be ready for bed by 8 or 9pm. I didn’t want to go out with friends or see anyone. I’d lost interest in my career. I didn’t feel confident. I’d gained weight…weighing more than I had at nine months pregnant with my first baby! I just didn’t feel like myself.
I’d wake up in the middle of the night too, feeling anxious. I had a quiet belief that drinking wasn’t helping me out, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. Drinking was my friend…providing reward and relief. My cocktail hour was necessary. We went home to California for Christmas, and there was plenty of vacation drinking and parties, reuniting with family and old friends. However, at the end of that trip, my body just felt toxic. I knew I needed to take another break and I did.
A Reason To Drink
I managed about four months of sobriety until our annual trip to New Orleans with our friends for Jazz Fest. I fully planned on enjoying cocktails with dinner on the trip. Knowing I couldn’t handle day drinking anymore, it was easy to stick to one or two drinks in the evenings. However, after I finished my second drink, the rest of my friends and my husband would want to keep drinking! I would be crashing and tired, resolved not to drink more, and would often leave the group to return to the hotel and fall asleep. I was becoming the party pooper, which didn’t feel so good.
Back To My Cocktail Hour
Then, when we got home, I started the regular drinking again. The weather was warmer, which for me is a trigger. A signal to relax and enjoy life. I tried only drinking on the weekends which worked for a while. But then, I would have half a bottle of wine left open from the weekend on Monday. What would be the harm in just finishing off the last little bit? Then my husband would come home, see me drinking, and open another bottle so he could have a glass too. And so it went.
In the fall of last year, I was listening to a podcast in which the host was explaining that she chose not to drink because her system was too sensitive to it and alcohol dimmed her intuition and other gifts. This struck a such a chord with me. I had been feeling dim for so long, like my light was barely flickering. Then, I read This Naked Mind, and the way I thought about alcohol started shifting rapidly. I started to read everything I could get my hands on about people’s journeys into sobriety.
Is your cocktail hour taking over your life? Ready to shift your thinking? Start reading This Naked Mind for free today!
Not an Alcoholic but Not Happy
Annie’s book resonated with me because although I didn’t identify as an alcoholic, she spoke to my desire to stop drinking, and helped explained what alcohol was doing to my mind and body. I finally got why I was feeling the way I’d been feeling. I also finally understood why moderation didn’t work. When she describes the process of having one drink, and then the buzz you experience for about 20 minutes that leads to wanting another to maintain it, it clicked. That explained why I’d feel so depleted and ready for sleep after two drinks and stopping, and how my friends could keep going on and on.
The chapter about all the health risks associated with regular alcohol use also really hit home. Why was I doing this to myself? Was a twenty-minute buzz worth all of the energy I’d been investing thinking about this? Was it worth depressing my mental health? Risking cancer or high blood pressure? NO!
A Reason to Change
On September 26, my oldest daughter turned sixteen and got her driver’s license. She had a couple of mishaps, as do many new drivers, in her first month of driving on her own. Luckily it was nothing serious, but I realized how easily she could be hurt and how I would have to be available to respond and help with all my senses in place. The stakes seemed higher still for my tuning out of life with alcohol every night.
Cocktail Hour Ends
On October 26, I poured my last glass of prosecco, finishing the half bottle left in the fridge from the night before. I knew this was it. I didn’t really savor it, just drank it down in a few sips. Honestly, thanks to This Naked Mind, it wasn’t a struggle. I had made up my mind. Alcohol was too toxic for me. It wasn’t even doing the things for me I had been giving it credit for so long. I asked my husband to not drink in front of me at home for the first week, but after that, I was fine with him enjoying a cocktail whenever he wanted.
Since then, I’ve gone through the holidays and the COVID pandemic alcohol free. However, there are two nights in these six months that I did drink. The first was New Year’s Eve. We were again in California for the holidays. I’d gone on a sixteen-mile hike over Mt. Tam to the beach with my husband. When we got back to my dad’s house, he’d opened a bottle of really nice champagne. Why not, I thought. I can handle it. It’s New Years and I just hiked sixteen miles. I enjoyed some, and it was lovely. However, that night I woke up and could not sleep. The next day I felt tired and cranky. And lo and behold, I craved something to drink at 5pm. It wasn’t worth it.
The next drink I had was on Valentine’s Day. Some good friends we hadn’t seen in years made a last minute to trip to visit us and we went out to dinner. For some reason, I put pressure on myself to have a drink with everyone not wanting to explain I wasn’t drinking. I ordered a glass of prosecco and didn’t really enjoy it. Again, just one glass and I didn’t sleep well.
And that’s it. During the last six months, I’ve felt like I’m becoming myself again. At times, I’ve even felt euphoric! My confidence is coming back. I applied for a job and accepted an offer. I’ve lost weight, and my favorite jeans fit again. I feel more present with my kids and know I’m a better mom and wife. The benefits are endless. I’m less irritable. Sleep is amazing. I am putting myself out there more…volunteering, playing tennis, talking to other parents at my kids’ games.
I go to the games and practices to watch in the evenings instead of holing up with my wine and sending my husband! Now, I have so much energy and a new interest in life. I thank God I am doing this now so I can fully enjoy the last years my high schoolers are at home! One of my regrets is how much time I wasted numbing out.
It hasn’t always been easy. I crave sugar and I’m working on that. My emotions have been volatile at times now that I’m letting myself feel things like anger and sadness instead of numbing them. I am learning to face my problems head on, which is actually easier to do sober and with a clear head. Sometimes I still struggle to explain that I’m not drinking to friends and family although this is getting easier with time. I know when I start my new job, I will have to find ways to decompress and relax that don’t involve alcohol.
Cocktail Hour Never Brought Me This
Mostly I feel immense joy. I feel as though my body is screaming “Thank You!!!” I am proud of myself for doing this for myself. Annie usually asks her podcast guests what they would say to themselves now from the other side. I would tell myself that all the problems I was using alcohol to help me with; my anxiety, my low energy, numbing my emotions, my lack of confidence, my sleep, were actually being enhanced and perpetuated by using alcohol. There is so much relief and freedom on the other side!
Share Your Story
Thank you, Annie Grace and the This Naked Mind Community! You’ve been a big part of my success. Has This Naked Mind helped you end cocktail hour? Please share your stories so you can help others!