Kat was caught up in a cycle of heavy stress and heavy drinking. Committing to not drinking has taught her that self care doesn’t come in a wine bottle.
I am one of the few Americans who never drank in high school. I grew up in a conservative Christian church, and I was a rule follower. I went to a Christian college, and again didn’t drink. I married young and alcohol was not part of our early marriage. After we started having children, we became friends with people who drank socially. It became an acceptable way to rebel against the conservative Christian culture that most of us had been raised in. Throughout my 30’s, I drank socially and rarely, if ever, at home or alone.
My Family’s Story
The other part of my story is my family history. My grandfather died of alcohol use in his mid-thirties. My father almost did – he lost his family and his law practice before going into treatment and recovering (he is now over 40 years sober).
What this did for me, is make me think that since I had been able to drink “normally” for 15 years, I was immune. In my thinking, you are either someone who, from the first drink is an alcoholic, or you are fine. No gray area.
As my children got older, I went back to work. I chose an incredibly stressful career. I got my law license and became a divorce lawyer. I remember studying for the bar exam in my early forties, and figuring out that I was fine with one glass of wine before I started, then could have one or two after I finished. I think I even drank a glass or two the nights of the test.
After I (miraculously) passed the bar, I started drinking more and more. I was using it as a stress reliever after work, to celebrate, and probably having more disposable income didn’t help.
My husband is a heavy drinker, as well, but he does not have as hard of a time skipping a day or a week. I became a daily drinker and eventually, in the last few years, was up to a full bottle every night, and more on the weekends. Back to that alcoholic gene thing.
In April last year, my oldest was arrested for DUI – at 11 a.m. on a Monday. She had been at our house all weekend, finishing her Master’s Thesis. She started drinking on Sunday, and apparently did not stop. We since discovered that she started drinking as soon as she went to college and joined a sorority. She is more like my dad – had a problem from the first drink.
We did not see her often enough to realize the extent of the problem and thought she just drank heavily around us to deal with the family drama. She was able to graduate from a prestigious university with two majors and a minor in 3 years and then get a Master’s Degree, all while drinking copious amounts of alcohol. My father had also graduated 2nd in his class in law school while doing the same (and was student body president).
Because my drinking problem happened so gradually, and did not cause a true “rock bottom,” it took me awhile to face it.
Committing to Not Drinking
I would wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about my health and tell myself I was committing to not drinking the following day. I started to forget details in conversations at night, then I forgot whole conversations had even happened. That was scary. I am ashamed to admit that when my daughter had her problem, she moved back home and we stopped drinking at home for awhile. That was the first time I had ever snuck alcohol. I found myself stopping on the way home from work, and even drinking at lunch. Eventually we started drinking again like normal.
A Reason to Stop
In June, my youngest told me that she was worried about the effect of my drinking on my health. She is extremely health conscious, a college athlete, and we are very close. This made me think. I had been reading some sober blogs, and my sister had stopped drinking and talked to me about it some, but we don’t talk often. So at the end of June, I stopped drinking. I had no withdrawal symptoms and immediately felt better. I could not keep it a secret, so most of my friends knew about it. I made it through July 4th, my birthday, and many graduation parties last summer.
When my youngest went back to school, I started again. I stopped again at the beginning of December because I wanted to be sober through Christmas break. Unfortunately, I made a doctor’s appointment right after that, finally getting my courage up to have my liver levels checked and I also had not been feeling too good. They were fine, which led me to start again. Then I found your book. I read it quickly and decided to quit. I am now on day 31.
Thinking about committing to not drinking? Start reading This Naked Mind for free today. <div class=”cfoptin”> </div>
Here are a few things I have learned in no particular order. Alcohol really does increase anxiety. For me, it was a very short numbing followed by lots of anxiety. I realize that because I had been turning to alcohol, I had not developed other skills to deal with my anxiety. It is garden-variety anxiety coupled with an incredibly high-stress job. I am now conscious about it, getting regular massages (still cheaper than wine), exercising, talking to friends when I need too, and sometimes just going to bed….all of the things.
I was also habitually leaving work early in order to start drinking and leaving things undone that would then keep me up at night. Smart, huh? Now I am able to finish my work day, feel good about it, and get enough sleep every night. It is amazing.
I have also figured out that my worst time is not when I get home from work. It is when I am on my way home from work. That is when not drinking is the hardest.
Not that I was drinking in the car, but that is when I started thinking about it and wanting it and planning it and making sure I had enough.
I am learning that if I can just make it by the last store, I am fine after I get home. Nights are pleasant, I can remember TV shows and books, leave the kitchen clean and brush my teeth every night!
No More Neglect
I have chosen to treat this kind of like a diet with the people in my life. Many have commented that I look so much better and I just say it’s due to no booze. It really is remarkable the difference it makes in your appearance, especially at my age. I also have time and energy for self care that I was neglecting. The only “self-care” I was indulging in at the end was drinking. I had stopped all of my hobbies, was often skipping social events, was not cooking good meals, and had become very isolated. I wasn’t keeping my house as clean as I like it either. No landing in a gutter, but still ugly with sad consequences.
At this point I am committing to not drinking for 100 days. That helps me get through a hard night. But I know in my heart I have to keep this up until I don’t want to drink anymore, which seems like it means forever. Oh – and once in awhile – I think I may start again when I am 80. Tonight on the way home, I had a tough day at work and really wanted a glass of wine. I started thinking about the fact that it really is an unregulated poison. I made it home just fine and had a delicious salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, cranberries and balsamic fig dressing. So much better than wine.
Share Your Story
Thank you for all of the work that went into your book, and all that you continue to do to encourage and educate. It is such important work.
Are you committing to not drinking? Please share your story and help others!