I don’t mean to sound dramatic but red wine is my love. The problem was that my love turned into an unconscious obsession. I looked to wine after a bad day, after a great day, celebrations and random Tuesdays. I usually give wine as gifts, I drink wine post workout, pre-dinner drinks, post dinner drinks, It has even become my ritual before I board a flight to get a glass of wine. You get the point. I was able to weave drinking into every facet of my life. Drinking became my comfort food, my security blanket, my partner-in-crime.
In New York, drinking is a socially acceptable addiction, habit or what I like to call vice. I used to think it was completely normal to drink everyday because that’s just what everyone does. If you talk to any New Yorker, drinking appears in some way in his/her everyday lives. It started to occur to me that it’s not like this everywhere. When I went to San Francisco last Fall, many of my coworkers said they go on hikes on the weekends and spend a lot of time outdoors. Not to say that they don’t indulge in some spirits as well but it’s not the main event. Drinking is an after-thought. It really hit me when I was in Central America this past December. I was drinking everyday because I was on vacation and I was just not feeling well. I have to make one thing clear. I’ve never blacked out from alcohol in my life nor am I a sloppy drunk. I’m a very tame drinker which is why I never thought I had a problem. A lot of my friends told me that I wasn’t considered an alcoholic even though my mother would disagree. She had a mini intervention with me when we went to Santa Fe together back in October. She was astounded that I could have a bottle of wine to myself and not be stumbling back to the hotel (I thought this was pretty impressive on my part).
I was in Miami for New Years Eve and I wasn’t even in the mood to drink. I made the decision right then and there to not drink during the month of January. Surely, I could make it a month. I’m not saying I’m a raging alcoholic because it is a disease and people really do struggle with it but I just wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t drink for a month. In the beginning when I told my friends that I wasn’t drinking, I got a lot of shit for it. You would think I would get a down pour of support like wow that’s awesome Laura or you can do it! Nope, nope and nope. As the month went on and I was confident enough to just say no to drinks, it didn’t matter that I was getting hassled by my friends. The amazing feeling that I felt outweighed the nagging. I kept a journal during the month to remember the journey. Here are the entries…
Day 1 of my no drinking month. It’s Friday night and even though I could definitely have a glass of wine, I’m not going to drink on day 1 that’s just pathetic.
I made it 3 whole days of not drinking. That’s the longest I’ve gone without alcohol in the last hmm…I don’t remember. The last booze free week I can remember was last January when I had the flu. When I come home from work the first thing I do is pour myself a glass of wine. Since I’m not drinking, I feel a little lost. Should I work out? Make dinner already? Instead, I make myself a cup of tea (fun times).
It’s Wednesday and time to make plans with friends for the weekend. My best friend texts me to ask if I want to go to a museum, brunch then drinks. I reply that I’m not drinking and she replies that I have to because it’s when we have our best chats. Hmm…am I boring when I’m not drinking?!?!
It’s Thursday night which I usually go out and meet friends for drinks. I tell my 2 girlfriends that I’m not drinking but I’m happy to still go to a bar. I will just be drinking club soda but they happily oblige to go to a café instead. I don’t know why I feel like I need to put a disclaimer out there but I just don’t want to disappoint people. They do ask however why I’m not drinking and how long I plan to keep this up for. It is a weird feeling catching up with girlfriends over tea and not a cocktail. It feels unnatural.
I made it one whole week without drinking. Most of my coworkers and friends are talking about their plans for the weekend, boozy brunches, going to a cozy bar, and dinners. The problem is all these activities revolve around alcohol. I’m starting to feel guilty. Because I’m not drinking I’m not spending quality time with my friends but worst of all thoughts, it will not be the same without alcohol! I schedule myself yoga classes in the morning and I am stocking my fridge with healthy foods. I also have to be more creative in the activities I chose to do since it’s the winter.
My girlfriend (who will be unnamed but you know who you are!) is giving me a lot of shit for not drinking. She basically said that I’m lame. I didn’t know that at age 33, I could still be hazed for drinking. Why do I feel guilty about it? The question I want to know is why do people care what I do? The text exchange about how lame I am and how it’s not worth giving up alcohol goes on for a good 30 minutes. I didn’t know that me not drinking could have such an emotional effect on people.
I survived the weekend and am officially 18 days without my special sauce. I do have to say, I keep getting compliments on how my skin is glowing. Because I’m not going out, I have a lot of free time. I’ve already edited and shared all my Central America photos, which usually takes me months to do. I already finished 1 book and almost done with the 2nd. These are 500 pagers mind you. I’m not hungover on Fridays which I usually am from my Thursday nights out. Because I’m not hungover, I have enough energy to go to a yoga or barre class before work. I have so much energy in general that I haven’t needed to drink coffee or have that carb-heavy breakfast to cure my hangover. My stomach looks flatter and I’ve already lost 5 pounds. What is happening to me? I think doing a non-alcohol cleanse in January sort of worked in my favor because nobody wants to do anything anyway. It’s Winter and everyone is a hermit like me so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. I feel amazing!!
We’re getting pounded by a blizzard and normally when I hunker down, I have a bottle of red and a Netflix marathon going. I’ve been binge watching Making a Murderer and movies all day without a fun beverage. This is depressing. I got my lazy ass off the couch and went to the gym. I really miss the taste of pinot on my lips. Gotta stay strong though quitting now would mean I’m an incredible loser.
I’m one week away from being alcohol free for a month and I can’t help but feel tremendous pride and the fact that I feel amazing. I do think about the fact that when the month ends, if I will go back to my old habits. I talked to a couple of my girlfriends about my concerns and they were actually really supportive. Look at that! My girlfriend Brooke suggested we do activities after work that don’t involve alcohol like climbing a rock wall. My other girlfriend Amanda invited me to a new dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This one conversation reminded me that I do live in New York City which has so much to offer sans alcohol.
Last day! I can’t believe I made it! Red wine which was once my love had become second fiddle to all the other wonderful things in my life that became front and center. I never thought I would be able to give up the one thing I loved so much for a month. I’m not saying I will give up drinking forever but it’s empowering to know that I’m not dependent on it. It wasn’t an easy month to get through especially since I have virtually no social life but I’m glad I started 2016 with a healthy start. Here are the final stats: Weeks without alcohol = 4, money saved = about $1,000 (don’t judge), lbs lost = 7, books read = 2.5, sober shaming by friends = 3, hangovers = 0