Melina shares how she went from a heavy drinker to someone who will never want to drink again thanks to This Naked Mind.
I quit drinking in August 2016 after listening to the audio version of This Naked Mind. I’m happy to say I haven’t had a drink in almost two years, and for the vast majority of the time, haven’t wanted one. Prior to that, I had been a daily drinker for years. When I considered drinking less or stopping altogether, I thought about how miserable and deprived I felt when I tried to limit myself. I envisioned a future of this, day after day of exhausting mental battle, and decided I was stuck.
I could keep drinking, even though there was a lot about it that I didn’t like anymore, or I could suffer horrible daily deprivation. Both options sounded terrible until I listened to This Naked Mind and realized there was another choice. At the time I didn’t realize a day would come where I could say – “I never want to drink again.”
On The Outside
I am a 39 year old woman living in Virginia. I have a master’s degree and a great job. I have a happy marriage and a nice home. I run half marathons. No one thought I had a drinking problem. Three different therapists I saw over the years, all believed I could drink in moderation if I tried. I now realize that yes, technically I can drink in moderation. But I can’t enjoy it. I hate the struggle for moderation. It feels very punishing. I appreciate knowing that this is not because something is wrong with me. Consuming an addictive substance logically evokes a desire for more of the substance.
It’s funny to me now that I was afraid of the struggle and deprivation I would face if I quit drinking, because that was already my life. As someone with a professional career and pretty good self-discipline overall, I often couldn’t drink as much as I wanted. I was having around three drinks each night and more on weekends. It was always a battle of how to have as much as I could without crossing the line to where I’d be hungover the next day. Sometimes I successfully flirted with that line and other times I crossed it and suffered the consequences.
I tried strategies like starting to drink early so I’d have time to drink lots of water and sober up before bed. I looked forward to weekends when I could drink as much as I wanted. Often, I felt let down when the weekend actually arrived. Drinking had become an empty promise. The excitement and anticipation were wonderful, but the reality was just that I was drunk again.
My world got smaller as I drank more. It’s easy these days to make a serious hobby of drinking. I went to beer festivals, wineries, and even went on vacation to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail one spring. My husband was right there with me – it was an interest and a hobby we shared. We learned a ton about production of all types of booze and were proud of our knowledge. But we were missing out on a lot of other things. I didn’t feel like participating in any evening activities where drinking wasn’t an option. Because I was serious about not drinking and driving, I did a lot of drinking at home. When we went out to dinner, the location was determined as much by the food as by whether there was affordable alcohol.
It didn’t take a detective to notice that I was gradually consuming more alcohol. I never developed a physical addiction, but it took more to give me a buzz. I actually tracked the number of drinks I consumed for several years (hoping, I guess, that bringing awareness to the problem would make it go away). I consumed 25 to 30 drinks a week for these years. A couple of times I quit for a week or even a month. Each time it was a terrible struggle, counting down the days. I had the magical idea that when I started up again, I’d only want to drink a little bit and moderation would naturally be my way. This was not the case.
The Only Way
It’s crazy, but I thought I couldn’t quit drinking unless I “hit bottom” and had some real consequences. After all, I didn’t believe I was an alcoholic (and still don’t), and how could I get help or stop if I wasn’t an alcoholic? Hitting bottom is something that never happened for me. In retrospect, I can see that being less happy, more flat, and more separate from the world, was a serious consequence.
I was disconnected and isolated, killing time, getting through each day until I could start drinking. I wasn’t fully enjoying my life. I often felt tired and annoyed at my job. I struggled with depressed moods. I even considered seeking out anti-depressants, but assumed any good doctor would tell me not to mix them with alcohol, which would mean I probably wouldn’t take them.
I felt like a train wreck waiting to happen, like a deer in headlights. Occasionally I’d experience a situation that would make me think I never want to drink again (getting totally smashed and embarrassing myself at a wedding, for example) but the painful memories would fade and the urge to drink would not. It felt like a huge problem that I couldn’t tell anyone about my drinking problem and also felt like maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. I couldn’t shake the idea that I should just be able to get control of it and obviously I hadn’t tried hard enough. As I mentally struggled with whether I had a drinking problem, and what it meant to have a drinking problem, the years went by and I continued on the same destructive path.
And what was my future? If I was having three drinks a night in my 30s with no serious health consequences, what about in five years? In ten years? And what if the amount I needed kept going up? I couldn’t envision a happy future in which I continued my habit but I also couldn’t imagine how I would change. And I didn’t believe I was an alcoholic. I still don’t. I believed the paradox that either I could admit to being an alcoholic and get sober, or I could deny being an alcoholic and keep drinking.
This Naked Mind was an incredible breath of fresh air. It was so empowering to put the blame on the substance instead of on a personal defect of character. You smoke enough cigarettes, you get addicted to nicotine. Same with most drugs. Alcohol is a drug. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a physical addiction. I finally saw that I was being controlled by a drug, that it was damaging my life, and that I wanted out. I never want to drink again.
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I loved Annie’s message that quitting drinking isn’t about sitting around feeling sad and left out. It’s not about focusing on your flaws and trying to recover. It’s about fully embracing life. I thought about what I had been missing and decided to move forward with pursuing it.
My husband was incredibly supportive. He agreed to quit with me. Especially after we did some math. How much did our drinking habit cost? I’ll probably never know, but here’s my best guess. Generally, we were spending around $10 for six packs, $10 to $15 for bottles of wine, and buying pretty good hard liquor. Mostly we drank at home but at least a couple of times a week we’d have a drink or two out. I decided to average that we spent $5 each on alcohol per day, or $10 for both of us each day. That’s probably a low estimate. And yet it totaled $3,650. Isn’t that shocking?
After we quit drinking, we rewarded ourselves with a tropical vacation. We spent 10 days on a gorgeous Caribbean island without a single worry of where to get a drink or whether we’d be hungover. When we got home, we bought nice bikes. We started playing disc golf. In the last two years, we’ve had a lot of fun together. We both lost weight effortlessly from being more active and not consuming the thousands of empty calories that used to be part of our routine.
Never Want To Drink Again
I can’t say I’ve never had an urge to drink in the last two years. On rare occasion, I’ve had urges. But they have been mild, fleeting, and incredibly manageable. It’s nothing like the daily struggle I used to have of making myself stop so I wouldn’t be hungover the next day. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much of anything by not drinking. But I was definitely missing out on a lot when alcohol was the center of my life.
It’s wonderful to be free of a habit that was bringing me down, a habit that gave me the illusion of being free but only made me stuck. I’m incredibly grateful for Annie’s work and happy to have the opportunity to share my story with others.
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