Lee could no longer be a regular drinker. The time had come to start living a Naked Life.
My mom, who I love dearly, is a functional alcoholic. When sober, she’s a fantastic person. Unfortunately, when intoxicated, she can range from happy to weepy to downright confrontational. This was a constant source of stress while growing up and from an early age I vowed to never touch the stuff.
But by late high school, I was sharing Smirnoff Ice drinks (ugh, so gross now) with my best friend at their house. Never binging, never driving. I was a rare teenager, in that unlike most, I did not think I was invincible or untouchable. Into my early 20’s, I wasn’t a regular drinker, but more of a very light drinker. A six pack would last a week or longer. I could get a slight buzz from two beers and stop there with no desire to keep drinking. I was also in the first few years of a career in Emergency Medical Services and saw daily, first-hand =he effects of alcoholism on people’s health and safety. At that time, my future wife was unable to drink due to the meds she took so I had little desire to drink alone. I associated that with “problem drinking”.
Then in 2008, my grandmother (who I was very close to) had a severe stroke, leaving her dominant side paralyzed and unable to speak. She would require 24-hour care. It was devastating for the entire family. I took it especially hard and decided the right thing to do was to transition to part-time status at work and provide care for her in her home. After the first few busy months of frequent therapy and doctor’s appointments, we all settled into a routine of care that, looking back on it, left me feeling bored and unchallenged. Don’t get me wrong, caring for my grandmother taught me a great deal of patience and compassion, but it also resulted in a sense of hopelessness.
She wasn’t going to get any better and we would all have to manage as best we could. It was around this time that my drinking began to increase. It became a source of happiness after a day spent feeling depressed and frustrated. For four years the family and I cared for her until another stroke placed her in hospice care and she spent her last few months in a well-staffed and well-maintained care facility. Following this, I returned to working on the ambulance full-time and was now a regular drinker by this time, enjoying beer on my days off.
I also found myself becoming immersed in the craft beer culture. I became adept at brewing my own and all of my social engagements revolved around visiting the numerous breweries popping up around town and trying out different brews. At this time I also began playing softball, which was basically another excuse to drink. It permeated my daily activities. Through my twenties and into my thirties, I moved onto wine, moonshine, and all sorts of liquor. A restaurant within walking distance to the house made the most robust and tasty margaritas. We’d go there almost weekly. By this time, my wife was able to drink and it became a hobby of ours. Drinking two 750ml bottles of wine between us on an average evening became normal. We’d have drinks while cooking dinner, out on the lake, at any gathering.
By age 30, it was beginning to catch up with me. After a night of several drinks, I’d cure the hangover with mimosas. In the back of my mind I knew that this was a warning sign, but I always had an excuse at the ready. I worked hard and was responsible. Obviously I deserved to drink if I felt like it. I was not the weepy drunk, the jackass or the confrontational type. I was not my mother. To prove my point, I even asked my wife if my personality changed while I drank. She said no. All of this shored up and validated my choices. I was just a regular drinker.
But just the same, concern kept creeping in. Much like you, Annie, I would wake up in the wee hours with dry brain and question if it was worth it. I began trying moderation. That was remarkably difficult. I began to notice that my anxiety was increasing, even when drinking. I would feel argumentative and have to squash the impulse. My wife and I had a couple of stupid disagreements while we were both intoxicated. More factors led me to question my drinking habits.
I take preparedness seriously and as a part of that belief, my wife and I obtained our concealed carry permits. In the coursework I learned that if I used my weapon in self defense, even in my own home, and I had been drinking, I was almost guaranteed to go to jail. In addition, I recognized that if an emergency of any variety did occur, I would need my full facilities to protect my wife, pets and home.
As I approached 35, I developed and embraced an increased sense of responsibility. I took a shift that paid far more money than I had been making and it allowed my wife to quit her job and stay home to pursue her interests, something that was important to me. That meant that I really needed to take care of myself as I was now our main source of income. I began a strength training program and we decided to make the month of July alcohol lite. We also began a major diet change for health reasons. We had two glasses of wine on my birthday and I had a couple drinks with family on the 4th. Otherwise, we stayed dry. August rolled around and I basically resumed being a regular drinker. Then the morning of 8/30, I decided I was done.
Are you a regular drinker? Curious about living alcohol free? Start reading This Naked Mind today!
Wake Up Call
After an evening of house cleaning while having wine then an alcohol spritzer mixed with moonshine (good god!), I had the morning shakes. And I had to go to work. I felt like hell. A patient we took care of that day (one of the well known alcoholics) slurred to me “you remind me of myself when I was younger”. I had already made my decision, but that cemented it. A few bad decisions and I could have been in that man’s place. It’s been about 40 days alcohol free. My wife quit as well. She had no trouble knowing when to stop, but I told her any booze in the house would make it very hard for me. So we’re in this together, just like everything else.
No Longer A Regular Drinker
My anxiety is almost gone and I wake up every day feeling decent. The beer belly that was beginning to be prominent is nearly gone. I’m still re-navigating friendships that involved alcohol, but fortunately those friends are the type to congratulate my choice and never pressure me. My work partner has never drank so he is another source of support. I’m glad I got started on this road now so I can soberly manage the holiday family gatherings that will certainly involve much drinking. I’ve shared your book with several people. I need to share it with mom. She was surprised but supportive of my decision. Hopefully it’ll help her as well. I’m so grateful I found This Naked Mind. I never thought I had much power over alcohol, but I’ve proven myself wrong in the best way. Thank you for all you’ve shared and taking the time to hear my story.
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Were you a regular drinker that stopped with This Naked Mind? Please share your story to help others!