An alcoholic, apparently. At least as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], who applies that label to women whose "alcohol consumption exceeds 7 standard drinks per week or 3 drinks per day." No one ever really likes to admit how much they drink, not people who DRINK anyway. But if I only have 3 drinks in a night, I consider that a GOOD night. That's... sobriety. I often have "sober" nights like that, sure, but mostly I have a "drunk" night here or there and lots and lots of "lushy" nights in between. (I only ever drink during the day on Mimosa Sundays.)
Definitions aside, I clearly drink too much. Which isn't a newsflash to anyone who has ever met me. I don't hide it. I rarely even TRY to hide it, not even from myself. I'm human. Flawed. Weak. I love my liquor. It smooths out the wrinkles of an otherwise lumpy life. It makes me happy. It makes me sad. It makes me more... me. A stiff drink is very much like the word "fuck" - sometimes it's the only intensifier that works. It's certainly my favorite exaggerative.
Which is why I have ZERO intention of quitting. I will never join a 12-step program. I will never surrender my addiction to a higher power. I think AA is horse shit. I don't think it works because life isn't black and white. I don't agree that just because I happen to love booze more than the average person that for me DRINKING = BAD and that NOT DRINKING = GOOD. Drinking is as much about MORALITY as whether or not you eat carbs.
Most people would advise me to simply quit. It's seems like that would be a lot easier than trying to manage the slippery slope of my quest for the perfect gin martini, but if I tell myself I'm not allowed to drink ever again for the rest of my life, THAT is when I'll go from just being a drunk to being a drunk who wakes up in the gutter. Tell me I can't have something and it's the only thing I'll be able to think about. Instead I'd rather work on harm reduction - never EVER driving after drinking. Never drinking with strangers or on first dates. Staying "sober" around my kids. Always making sure someone else is around who can help if needed. Taking a thousand vitamins a day, drinking my body weight in water and pounding as many antioxidants as I can to counteract the physical effects. Eating well. Running.
The beautiful thing about self-awareness is that once you accept yourself AS IS, you can mitigate a lot of damage. "I know I'm going to drink too much while dancing tonight, so I'm going to arrange for some cab rides" is a lot healthier than "Oh, I'll just be good at the club tonight! I'll only have two drinks! I'll be fine to drive!" Denial is dangerous. Acceptance is freeing, even if you're accepting things you're not proud of.
So why quit for November if I have no intention of permanently quitting? I have my reasons:
- to see if I can actually do it!
- to shut up that part of my brain that constantly tells me I'm a fuckup for my drinking (I think that part of my brain is WRONG, btw. I'm NOT a fuckup. But I'm willing to quit drinking for a month just to prove it.)
- to give my liver a rest (October was particularly lushy)
- to save money (for Christmas)
- to reset my alcohol tolerance (which is higher than that of your average linebacker)
- to see if any interesting emotional shit comes up for me (which is why I've scheduled an extra large side of Ramona to go with my month of sobriety)
- to actually EXPERIENCE sobriety (am I as deep inside the moment as I can be or am I too busy fixing my next cocktail to notice?)
But mostly there is one BIG reason - I've gained weight. My clothes don't fit. It's making me uncomfortable. It's that simple. And oddly enough, it's not even the calories in the booze that I worry about. The real problem is what I eat AFTER I start drinking. My restraint weakens and I wake up the next morning wondering what the hell happened to the crackers. Oh yeah. I ATE THEM ALL. That has to stop.
It's only day four, but I'm doing remarkably fine. This isn't my first rodeo, so I'm not naive enough to think I'm over the difficult part yet. Aside from not sleeping very well, I've had zero physical withdrawal symptoms. Not so much as a headache. That was something I'd been scared about, honestly, so it's a big relief that my body isn't chemically dependent on Vitamin V.
Instead of drinking, I've been watching what I eat and working out like a crazy woman (I ran 21 miles last week, swam a mile, did my weightlifting circuit twice and spent over two hours on the elliptical.) I forgot how much fun it can be to geek out on fitness and how much better my mental health is when I'm taking care of my body. (You can't really feel bad about your weight when you've done EVERYFUCKINGTHING you can to be healthy.)
Even Mimosa Sunday was no challenge to my NoBriety. We had at least a dozen people over and somehow four bottles of champagne magically disappeared without my help. All I drank was a liter of water and a pot of coffee. Aside from not wanting to play bartender, I was totally fine. I was honestly more tempted by the double-batch of Paula Deen Cinnamon Rolls I had made the day before, so I woke up early and ran across the St. John's Bridge as a preemptive strike. It worked. I only had ONE.
My next challenge is to see how long I can go before I start to think it's not a big deal anymore. Because THAT's when I'll be tempted to drink again. It's why I haven't made it longer than a week in, well, YEARS. So if YOU'VE quit drinking before, I'd love to hear your experience. Might be good to know what I'm up against, even if it's only for a month.