Like Annie Grace, Barbara was a late drinker but she made up for it quickly. From teetotal to too much all too quickly, This Naked Mind helped Barbara find freedom.
Alcohol wasn’t really a part of my life until some time in my thirties. I grew up in Switzerland in a household of only occasional drinkers. Wine was served for special events, and drinking “more than 2 glasses” was quickly labeled as having an alcohol problem.
I never wanted to drink, it didn’t appeal to me. Drugs didn’t appeal to me in general, and I absolutely identified with not being “the addictive type.”
At 16 I worked as an Au-Pair to learn French and a year later in Florence to learn Italian. Between 18 and 21 I went through midwifery school in Switzerland. Then I worked at a small hospital as a brand-new young midwife. I climbed mountains passionately, and in general was high on life. In love and excited with and about most possibilities that came my way. Alcohol crossed my path and I tried some at many occasions. It was always just a couple of drinks, enough to feel a little tipsy and relaxed but not enough to make a big difference. In general life was too full and exciting as it was to be distracted by drinking.
At 23, I decided to learn English in the US and go rock climbing in California’s national and state parks. It was a magical time of discovery and adventure and of being in love with life and youth in general. I also met my husband during that time. Coming to the realization that it was probably possible to die of “being in love.” My husband was an amazing climber, a true phenom when it came to elegance, power, and athleticism. He was intense and deep and troubled – and he liked his drinks. Somehow, I was drawn to that textured and complex personality, everything that I hadn’t experienced in perfect Switzerland. His drinking sometimes bothered me but not enough to deter me.
We married a couple of years later and lived a life of climbing and traveling and seasonal working. I started getting more used to having a beer or two, or some wine at the end of a day. It wasn’t habitual, not connected to my emotions yet, just a way to enhance an evening, to laugh a little louder, to cuddle longer, to feel more sentimental, to dream more openly, to relax into softness and “just let go.” I’d still say a late drinker because it was take it or leave it thing for me.
By 33 I had started working part time as a mountain guide which I absolutely loved. At 35 I switched companies and began guiding more consistently. I went to South America with my husband and guided bigger mountains. I taught myself Spanish and once again loved the adventure of life. And there was alcohol everywhere I went. It still felt like nothing more than an enhancer, a fun addition to a celebration, an evening reward, an expander to a moment that was already great. My husband probably drank less than when we first met, and I drank more regularly and comfortably, but never considered myself at risk, “just a beer and maybe a glass or two of wine, never more than a few drinks.”
From Late Drinker To Needing To Drink
Then I got pregnant with our daughter, best and hardest thing I could ever do. Alcohol tasted terrible during pregnancy and not drinking was easy. By the time our daughter was a few weeks old it became very apparent that she was colicky – she cried A LOT. Drinking a big Stout beer in the evening would maybe help calming her down, and had the beautiful side effect of relaxing me. Parenting was hard. It hadn’t been a conscious mutual decision to have a baby and I went into it with an attitude of, “I got this, don’t worry it will be easy, I can do it all, I can take care of everything.” Needless to say, it wasn’t easy, and there were times it pushed me to my breaking point – all the while loving our daughter more than anything or anyone, I ever thought was possible. She was sensitive and emotional and demanding and intense and needy, and so very tightly attached to me. I managed and adapted and I grew into Super Mom, because I had to and because it was my nature as a care taker.
And I had my daily beer and my daily wine to let off pressure, to withdraw into that sacred space of “fuzziness.” I developed a routine of pushing hard every day with working out, doing house stuff, taking care of clients (I started to work as a labor doula), and being the all present and available mother. By 5 p.m. my energy was so revved up that having a beer felt like releasing pressure through the valve of a pressure cooker which otherwise would have exploded.
Just To Relax
By the time my daughter was 10 I had a very clear habit of working hard all day and then finally letting go into that pool of warm softness. For a short while I felt like nobody and nothing could “want from me.” First an IPA (the way that hit my brain was like heaven every time). Then wine while cooking and wine with dinner, it was never optional.
At 52 (5 years ago) I met with menopause and drinking became more challenging, which didn’t keep me from doing it. Waking up every night around 2 a.m. with hot flashes and anxious thoughts, with my heart pounding and my stomach unsettled. I would have those conversations with myself. “Drink less, don’t drink, it’s stupid to drink when it makes you feel bad, you are an alcoholic, you are wasting your life, what happened to your old self, why can’t you get yourself together …” By morning I would get up and exercise and push and mobilize my energies. The wheel would keep turning and the routine repeating itself. I never drank more than a bottle but that was mostly because my body just couldn’t handle it. Typically, it was one beer and 2-3 glasses of wine. Always enough to help me check out, and later to interfere with my sleep and my energy and mood in general.
Tired of Drinking
I got tired of drinking and of feeling exhausted long before I quit. I just didn’t know how to break the cycle. Every evening my brain was screaming for the dopamine to be released. It felt like listening to Homer’s Sirens, and the pull was always stronger than any rational thought.
In early January 2020 we had a family dinner. My 35-year-old niece and husband were doing a “dry January” month. Wow, I thought, that’s impressive. A couple of weeks later there was an article in the Seattle Times about “Sober Curious” and how “Dry Bars” were becoming more popular and common. I thought: I want to be that! That night I didn’t drink. The next day I happened to be at a book store and your book was waiting there on a shelf just for me😊. I started reading the first chapter and knew right away, “this is it!”
Wish you could start reading This Naked Mind like our late drinker, Barbara, did? Download the first chapter for free right now!
From Late Drinker to Non-Drinker
Day 4 (after a rough day), I had a strong craving and decided that this wasn’t going to work for me. That I needed my beer and wine to survive everyday life. I opened the beer and had a few sips – it tasted strange. The way it hit my brain was unpleasant, almost an instant headache between my eyes. I sat down to dinner and finished the beer but corked the “ready for consumption” wine and put it back in the cupboard. Could this really be happening? Could my body and mind really not want to drink anymore?
The next day I went back to reading the book. Finishing it within about 10 days – one chapter at a time. Then I started listening to podcasts, mostly yours as they are by far the best, until the urges and cravings faded into the background of my thinking. Sometimes I listened daily and then weekly. Until I only listened because they were interesting and informative and done so well.
It’s been close to 5 months and I really do not feel like drinking – ever again, so amazing! I don’t say that out loud as I know too well how the brain is a tricky fellow. Absolutes have never worked out in the past. But as you have mentioned in one of your episodes or in the book, I call myself “retired.” Retired from a habit that didn’t serve me anymore, retired from a “me” that I didn’t recognize as myself anymore.
Mostly, I’m taken aback by what I have learned about the brain and the power of underlying beliefs we hold. If I can quit drinking by changing my understanding and beliefs about alcohol, then I can change and achieve just about anything! After listening to your episode with Molly Carmel on sugar, I ordered her book for my daughter. She had been struggling with restricting food and then overcompensating for some time. A “survivor” of competitive training for indoor rock climbing at a national level she had developed a mindset of control and drive and self-loathing.
It broke my heart to watch her go through the cycle of disciplining her food intake and then breaking down and eating everything in sight. Inevitably hating herself for it. She is almost 20 now and it’s amazing that she showed interest in reading the book. She is usually pretty critical of all self-help literature. To make it easier, I started the no sugar and no flour eating plan with her. The results have been quite amazing. It’s not a cure-all but a great staring point. I also found a slightly outdated book on Self-Talk by Shad Helmstetter. Another step in the direction for changing the brain’s programming. It all has made a huge difference for her – in only 2 months.
A Better Life
It’s been such a journey! My heart arrhythmia has completely gone away since I quit sugar and flour and of course, alcohol. I feel like my gut microbiome has totally renewed itself and with it my emotional balance. My daughter is starting to recognize her mental programming patterns and is working on rephrasing her self-talk.
There is so much more to explore! All because I found your book and went through the transformation😊.
Thank you Annie Grace for having made this possible!
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