All the people I have met that are or want to be sober talk about “the other” in their life. Some borrow the name “Wine Witch” from a popular “Quit Lit” book. Some call her by other names. I have heard her called “Booze Bitch,” “Champaign Cunt,” and even “Zelda.” I call mine ALA. The Alcohol Loving Asshole. I hope you can relate and I don’t sound like a complete psychopath – but the ALA is that little voice that craves alcohol and politely brings it up with you all the time. It is that little voice that tells you to get another beer or you’re going to fall behind. Or that the person you are sharing the bottle with got a larger pour than you (so best open another bottle to make it even). She is the one that says “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” or “it’s wine o’clock.” In short, she’s a part of my lower self. The alcohol-loving-good-time-girl that doesn’t worry too much about consequences or tomorrow. She just wants to be fed today. Forget. Revel.
So recently, the ALA has been chatting with me a bit. She has been implying that I am really over reacting with this whole “alcohol free lifestyle” thing. She has been reasoning with me that a few bad nights do not equal an “alcohol problem.” Reminding me that my therapist thinks nothing of my most recent alcohol-fueled explosion except that it was a reasonable response to a very negative stimuli and that of course I wanted to “blow off some steam.” She reminds me that my boyfriend is supportive, but he does like to drink and I may become a little too boring for him, if I keep this shit up.
As I said, I haven’t lost a job, or had a DUI, or done anything irreparable to my relationships or finances due to alcohol. It seems reasonable that I may be knee-jerk responding with guilt to a few negative experiences with alcohol, but with practice and a level head, I probably could moderate. So, the ALA was not WRONG in the assertion that I might be over reacting to a few bad nights. But as I understand it, rationalizing drinking again at around day 21 is also very normal in this journey. So it could be that I’m on the right track and the ALA is just full of shit. Thank the internet-gods for for those interwebs, audible, and facebook groups, and the combined knowledge of the human experience at my fingertips!
Instead of drinking, I did what I needed to do. I called a friend. I talked it out with someone. I was reminded that I wanted this for a reason and I needed to go back and figure out that reason and see if it was still true. I was also reminded that I have said many times that I do feel so much better sober. I feel better sober the night-of AND the next day. I was reminded that I’m not REALLY missing out on anything. I was also reminded that I may feel differently tomorrow. I was reminded to hold on. Thank goodness for good friends.
I went over to my boyfriend’s house later that evening. I drank n/a beer, ordered take- out Thai food, and and relaxed. When his daughter wanted to go to the store to get milk for cereal, I was able to drive her there and didn’t have to do any mental beer math (how many have I had? can I drive? etc.). This, in of itself, was a new development that took us all by surprise, I think. Usually it’s a matter of “sorry kiddo” once the adults are drinking – no driving. The night was fun, even without alcohol, or maybe because I wasn’t drinking. I laughed more than I have a long time. I danced and taught his little girl some line dances. I goofed off and didn’t worry about getting any “you’re acting silly because you’re drunk” looks. I was just being me. Wonderfully weird. I felt like me. No, a better version of me – relaxed, resolved. It was joyous. I slept like a baby and woke early with a clear head.
In alcohol cessation programs you are instructed to find your “why’s.” Why you choose not to drink. Please forgive me, but it occurs to me that not all “why’s” matter in equal measure. I believe the “why’s” are weighted. The positive why’s and the negative why’s are not equal.
I believe the why-I-don’t-drink’s, when based in negatives, will get less impactful with time. I believe they lose teeth over time when they are negative. For instance:
“I don’t drink because I don’t want to ever be hungover again.”
I have drunk alcohol MANY, MANY times and not been hungover and can see a point where I convince myself that I can moderate consumption to avoid hangovers. I can see this, because… well, it has happened. Repeating “Day 1” like it’s fucking Groundhog Day is evidence of that.
I can also see a time when I viscerally forget how a hangover actually feels. Sometimes the memory of a pain lessens with time. This point of view also works on the pretense that some alcohol = good, but too much alcohol = bad. Not being able to find the “sweet spot” for consumption can lead to a lifetime of trial and error with plenty of “bad nights” on the books. It also gives a false sense of “failure.” Why can’t I get this right? When really, the problem was never you- it’s the alcohol itself. It is mild-altering poison. Titrating the exact correct dose of poison (while mentally altered) to self administer for only a slight mental alteration without negative side effects is a fool’s errand. I also know this from experience.
In order to trick the ALA into shutting up and giving me some peace (at least temporarily), I have devised a new strategy. Reframe my thinking about my alcohol-free lifestyle. I am trying to look at this like a grand experiment. A challenge. I can ALWAYS go back to drinking if it doesn’t work or if nothing positive happens. But I cannot be alcohol-free and see how my life can change while being alcohol-free unless I commit to alcohol-free. Was that enough positive reinforcement of alcohol-free, or what?
When I lost 50 lbs, a part of that weight loss came from intermittent fasting. I wanted to do it, but I also was terrified of how it would feel to intermittent fast and if I would get sick, or light-headed, or have any negative side effects. I got over the fear of it and the hurdle of the heavy lift by telling myself that I could always eat. Food was gonna be there. If I decided I didn’t want to fast for the 16-18, or 24 hours, I didn’t have to. But guess what? I did. Once I got the hang of it, I fasted 4-5 days per week for 16-18 hours per day and once per week for 24 hours! I shed 21 lb in 7 wks and it stayed off for almost 2 years. I have since fallen off the intermittent fasting wagon, and will get back on… but for now, one thing at time. So, back to the alcohol-fast…
“I don’t drink because I want to see what my life can be without it.”
Going forward, I am going to try and see this as an alcohol fast. I don’t NEED alcohol to live, as I do food. So, going one year without it is going to be my challenge. One year to see what lovely changes I can make in my life personally, professionally, emotionally, and financially just by changing this one small thing. This one little thing that doesn’t add to my life, but seems to subtract from it occasionally. It’s an experiment. Let’s see what happens. And, after a year, if I see no change or if my life isn’t positively impacted by NOT drinking, I can always go back to it. For shit’s sake, it’s not like there is a limited quantity of booze around the world. It will be there in a year if I want it, I am sure.
Day 21 of 365. But for now… Also day 4 of Sober October (one bite at a time, friends…one bite at a time).🐘
Fighting the short-term desire to drink to see what the long term effects of sobriety can be! If you are struggling, reach out to a friend. Reach out to an online group. I wish you all the success in the world.
Thanks for going on this grand adventure with me!
Much love. Stay Healthy. Stay Sober.