2017 is coming to a close – and while I’m excited about the fresh start that a new year brings, I’m a little sad to see it go. It was a year of personal growth and challenges, finding out what I’m made of and what I need to work on, and the realization that I can do hard things. I apologize in advance for the long winded-ness. I’ve been sitting here the last month compelled to share and have tried rewriting this to make it short and succinct several times, to no avail. I mean, I shaved quite a bit off and it’s still a lot of babbling on, BUT I guess that’s just what I do, so here you go!
A little back story: I decided in November of 2016 that 2017 was going to be the year of ‘me’. I was turning 38, done having kids and I was just at the point where I was sick & tired of feeling less than my best, most of the time. My typical answer to anyone ever asking, "How are things going/How are you doing?" over the past few years has always been, “Oh good, just busy, you know?" Never going much deeper, not wanting to admit that a lot of the time, I feel like I’m failing at something. Name a day and it’s either my business, my parenting, my marriage or my health that’s on the chopping block. I was feeling frazzled and anxious – for no BIG reason, it was just my constant state. I knew that to stop these feelings from continually circling, or getting even worse, something had to change. What’s the saying, “Change starts with you me,” right? (Ugh. I really wanted to put the responsibility of changing on anyone/anything else but me.) But, that wasn’t going to work, so I made a list and wrote down what I thought I needed to do to make this happen. Below were the main components:
2017 SELF CARE LIST
Exercise : I am committing to five days a week. I want to be strong. I’m going to lift heavy weights and do yoga (bc they both scare me) and if I have a bad day and only do a 20-minute walk (or nothing at all), it’s ok. Endorphins = mood boosters, and I always feel accomplished and happier when I leave the gym, even if I’m cursing in the middle of a workout.
Sugar : I can stop eating so much, I CAN. Be quiet, brain.
Sleep : probably going to have to skip this one for now, with two kids who wake up in the night, and no more cribs to contain either of them.
Read : If I don’t fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I miss getting lost in a good book.
Skincare : Let’s work on reverse aging…I can buy fancy creams or maybe try Botox? y/n? (I’d really be interested in anyone’s opinions on their favorite skincare - routines that take less than 2 min at night preferably) and if they do Botox…seriously.
Girls Night : make time for friends outside of the house at least once a month
Errands Alone : nothing like a mindless walk around Marshalls/Homegoods to boost my mood.
Meditate : I keep hearing about how calming your mind and learning to be still is good for you so I should try. Maybe it would help me be more patient (especially with my children)
Hmmm, what else, what else. I mean, I guess I could stop drinking alcohol.
Alcohol. The elephant in the room. The one thing that had been a constant in my life since becoming an ‘adult.’ What would I do to unwind? Have fun? Deal with hard days? Celebrate? Survive a long day with tantruming children? Commiserate with other moms? Mask my social anxiety when confronted with new situations. (Oh hi, 2017 – thanks for teaching me that I really am much more of an introvert than I realized) What would life be like without any alcohol whatsoever? WHAT?! WHY? HOW?! I could not fathom it.
And those thoughts, right there, were screaming in my brain saying YESSSS THIS. THIS. THIS. This is what you have to do. This is what you need to do (and what you desperately don’t want to do, because, life.) How will you deal? What will people think? Will my friends stop wanting to hang out with me? Will I be even less patient with my kids? What will I miss out on? What will I say? Will I be boring? How will I get through the long, cold winter without wine by the fire and gorgeous summer without cocktails on the patio and, and, and. You see where I’m going with this? I could’ve made a 5-page list with all the ‘cons’ I believed there were to giving it up. If you’re still with me at this point, you’re probably wondering how my ‘year of self-care’ story spun out on this tangent about giving up alcohol. But in all honesty, the self-care wouldn’t have happened if I had continued to drink.
Saying bye to booze was, hands down, the biggest gift I have ever given myself, and in turn, my loved ones. It is the reason that I consider 2017 to be a 100% success in the self-care department, even if my skincare routine is sub-par, I still have very little patience (for the love, put on your SHOES!!) annnnnnnd my sugar dragon has reared its ugly head this month and I’ve been shoveling chocolate in my mouth like a kid sneaking candy from their parents (Joey, stop judging me!) It was the year that I proved to myself that I can do really hard things. The year that I finally, finally started to see glimpses of the person I want to be, the real me. As of tonight (at midnight) I will have gone 365 days without one sip of alcohol. Not one sip. I KNOW. I can hardly believe it. I’m an adult woman; a 38-year-old mother of two, ages 2 & 6 and I don’t drink. What?!? Am I crazy? I certainly would’ve thought that about anyone else a year ago, if they said they didn’t.
I’ll say this, my drinking after having kids was different than it was before. In all honesty, it became much more frequent and much less social (more wine on the couch with Netflix by myself or with my husband v. nights out with friends). Most days it was a (large) glass or two to ‘get through’ dinner/bath/bedtime routines, other times a lot more. Almost every time though, I’d sleep terribly, wake up at 3 am with a feeling of guilt/shame/regret and vow to myself that tomorrow would be different. It rarely was.
“But you don’t have a problem,” I kept hearing. And yes, while I have no rock bottom story or some other earth-shattering event that was the catalyst for giving up alcohol - nor do I identify as an alcoholic or whatever else society deems worthy of ‘problem’ status - the fact that this was waking me up daily meant that it was a problem...for me. (whew, run on sentence much?) It was a growing realization that maybe I could be happier without alcohol. That the things I wanted to try and accomplish might be attainable if I let go of this thing that held me back. That to truly DO ‘self-care’ justice this year I needed to be real honest and work hard to rid myself of the habits that were not serving me. How I fought against this revelation – anything but the wine!
I am not writing this in judgment of anyone who does drink or doesn’t have these thoughts. There are many people out there who don’t feel this internal struggle and can easily stop drinking after having just one glass of wine (that was not me). I actually don’t know anyone personally that doesn’t drink, although my close friends and family couldn’t be more supportive of my decision. BUT, if any of you are reading this and relate at all to my story, please know you are not alone.
I realize now that alcohol in my life was a distraction. Wine was my escape, my ‘adult’ treat, something the kids couldn’t share with me and something that helped me ease into the evening transition when my brain and patience were fried. It was a band-aid to my anxious brain, a very poor quality one that kept falling off. You get what I’m saying?
Do I still get stressed out or anxious now that I don’t drink? Of course. But now I’m better equipped to work through the feelings rather than try to bandage them up and hope they go away on their own. My mind isn’t fuzzy from a little too much wine and my brain isn’t sending me the ‘guilt’ talk every morning. Just the knowledge that I don’t have to figure out if I will or will not have a glass of wine in the evening has lessened my anxiety 1000%. And no hangovers, ever? Well, that’s just icing on the cake.
I would search the internet when I first started contemplating giving up alcohol as part of my year of self-care looking for stories from women who had done this. Other moms especially, who didn’t necessarily have a rock bottom story, just a desire to stop drinking, even if it wasn’t forever. They were not easy to find. You know what was easy to find? A thousand mommy/wine memes. (Which I fully admit I have laughed along with and high fived friends about in the past) You see what you want to see, right? Then I stumbled across an Instagram account @thesoberglow. Mia was unapologetically talking about living a healthy life – minus the booze. #soberfortheHEALTHofit. YES. That’s it. Through her, I found @drybeclub, run by Aidan, a mom in her late 30’s (like me!) who was starting conversations about this ‘gray area’ of drinking, and providing a space for people to ask questions or say ‘me too’ and find support online. And from there I found more (happy to share, just email me).
Finding these was like a wall coming down. I wasn’t the only one who was wrestling with how alcohol was making them feel. How drinking had been fun until it wasn’t anymore. How you didn’t have to be an alcoholic to decide to stop. MIND BLOWN. I can do this. And, here we are, and I’ve done it. And although saying the word ‘forever’ seems so FINAL and daunting, I don’t think that I’ll drink again. Right now, in this minute, I have no desire to drink at all. It took me awhile to get here, but it feels good. I feel GOOD.
If you’re like me, you also want to know what the tangible results are. I know I’ve talked about how much better I feel now that I’m not drinking but here are some other things that happened along the way:
1. I lost 10 pounds. I did make the goal at the beginning of the year to go to the gym 5 days a week and I pretty much stuck to that, so exercise played a part, but not drinking those extra calories and then eating the bad food that comes along with it has definitely helped eliminate the ‘wine weight,' I’ll call it. And honestly, I wasn't looking to lose that much weight. I was looking to feel strong and tone my body, so that was a little bonus.
2. My workouts! Everything about them has improved – strength, flexibility, speed, etc. I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m so proud of myself. Plus, I now look forward to my exercise time and don’t think of it as a punishment. I turned my daily wine drinking habit into a gym habit, and I’m not mad about it.
3. I have fun. A lot of fun, actually. I thought life would be SO BORING if I took alcohol out of the equation. Turns out it’s not, who knew?! I still enjoy dinners out, going out with friends, relaxing on the couch with Netflix – AND I’m less likely to fall asleep during whatever movie we may be watching on the weekend. I have realized that wine was a social lubricant for me, and the only time I ever miss it has been when I’m in a situation where I have to make small talk with people I don’t know. You guys, I am awkward. It pains me to even write that but it’s true.
4. I sleep soundly (between the couple times a night that I’m woken up by the kids) One day I’ll get a full night’s sleep again, I hope. But until then, I’m comforted that at least I don’t wake up feeling ugh from the effects of alcohol. If I’m dragging at all in the morning it’s because one of the little people wasn’t sleeping, that’s it. And no more anxiety wake ups at 3 am ever. Thank you, Lord!
5. I’m happier. I feel good in my skin, I don’t wake up with regrets and I know I’m making choices to benefit my health. I think a lot about my children and what kind of example I’m setting for them. I’m showing them that you don’t need wine to unwind at the end of the day. To ‘get through’ the evening. To turn to when you have a bad day or crack open to celebrate a good one. Those little eyes are constantly watching, quietly observing our mannerisms, habits – so much of what we teach them is learned this way – not through what we say, but what we do. And while I’m sure I’m messing up in lots of ways, I’m thankful that I am not teaching them the narrative that you need alcohol to cope with life.
6. I’m present. Present for the good and bad, the awkward and uncomfortable and the oh so very wonderful. This quote from Brene Brown just hits it home for me:
‘We cannot selectively numb emotions. Numb the dark and you numb the light.’
I don't want to numb the joy, that I know for sure. I'll sit in the hard moments if it means I get to show up for 100% of the good.
I am just so grateful for this year. The hard work was worth it. I have gained more from giving up alcohol than anything I may have lost. And to all of you, thank you for taking the time to read this. I get uncomfortable sharing anything that is really personal, and even before I posted this I felt the start of a vulnerability hangover. But like I said in the beginning, I have been feeling compelled to write this down and share. I felt so alone when I started having these thoughts and if I can give any of you comfort that that is NOT the case, then it’s all worth it. I wish you all a wonderful 2018 and if testing out the alcohol-free lifestyle is one of your goals for the new year I hope you’ll share with me so I can be rooting for you.