When you say that you're giving up alcohol, people assume you have a drinking problem. After all, why give it up, if it's not a problem? It takes a lot to really examine your drinking patterns and their implications, currently and over time.
In my thirties, I would opt for one or two bottles of wine (shared) on a Friday and/or Saturday night. It was time to relax, get reacquainted with my spouse after a busy week, and reconnect socially with friends. In my forties, and as the kids were older, my friends and I started going out on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Girls Night Out and Bunco were popular. The "weekend" now stretched from Wednesday through Sunday. In my fifties, I stretched my enjoyment to most nights of the week. I learned to "savor" a glass of wine with dinner or enjoy a summertime cocktail, like a Mojito, Manhattan, or a Dark and Stormy. I rewarded a hard days work with a cold beer, glass of wine, or cocktail. CONCLUSION: I was consuming alcohol on more days of the week.
What's the buzz about?
I knew my limit. One glass of wine could give me a warm glow and a "good feeling". Two glasses of wine and I was "buzzed" and feeling loose. Three and I was impaired. (Legally, one should never drink and drive. Even with a legal limit, the "good feeling" achieved with one drink is sufficient to cause an accident behind the wheel.) Recently, I found myself seeking the "buzz" often achieved with alcohol and a couple drinks (one or two, typically, and rarely, three). CONCLUSION: I was consuming alcohol for the "buzz".
When is it a problem?I'm certainly not an expert on alcoholism, but I am smart enough to recognize when drinking becomes a problem. These are my own thoughts and observations when there might be a problem (pick any or all):
- When you drink alone
- When you always have more than one
- When you drink quickly
- When you don't taste the quality of the drink
- When you drink because you're angry
- When you drink because you're lonely
- When you drink because you're bored
- When you drink because youre're sad or depressed
- When your decision making is impaired
- When you have "morning-after regrets" for your behavior
- When you have "morning-after regrets" about the quantity
- When you start stumbling
- When you start slurring
- When your social relationships change
- When you drink for the buzz
- When you drink to numb the pain
- When you blame your drinking on someone else
The decision to not drink came from my own desire to feel better about myself. I recognized that I didn't like how alcohol made me feel, while I was drinking, especially when I was alone. I never drank enough to give me a hangover, or to feel poorly the next morning. My realization came while I was having a glass of wine, or a cocktail, typically by myself. I found that I couldn't taste that really expensive oaky chardonnay anymore. It wasn't my taste buds that were gone. It wasn't that my consumption was excessive. It was that the "experience" of "tasting" that good glass of chardonnay was lost. Maybe it was (is) the loss of sharing that experience with someone who appreciated it as much as I.
Alcohol is a "diet buster".
When you take a close look at your diet, a glass of alcohol is no better than a small bowl of ice-cream, about 125 calories for 5 oz of wine, versus 140 calories for a 1/2 cup of ice-cream. Both are what we call "empty" calories; meaning - they have no nutritional significance. And, both are high in sugars. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you slowly gaining weight?
- Are you trying to lose weight, but can't?
- Are you testing "borderline" for diabetes?
Do the math. How many calories do you consume a day (a week) just from alcohol? (Be sure to measure your alcohol in ounces and watch for oversize wine glasses, generous pours, and sugary mixes.) A half-bottle of wine is 12 oz and roughly 300 calories, give or take. It takes only two generous pours and you can consume a half bottle of wine easily.
Let's look at a "Jane", a fictitious woman, age 55, who loves her wine:
- Monday - 1 regular glass of wine (5 oz) 125 calories
- Tuesday - "Tipsy Tuesday" 2 generous glasses of wine (7 oz each) 350 calories
- Wednesday - 2 regular glasses of wine (5 oz each) 250 calories
- Thursday - "Girls Night Out" 3 regular glasses of wine (5 oz) 375 calories
- Friday - Half bottle of wine (12 oz) 300 calories
- Saturday - 3 generous glasses of wine (7 oz each) 525 calories
- Sunday - 1 regular glass of wine (5 oz) 125 calories
- Weekly Total: 1,930 calories = approximately 1/2 pound
- Monthly Total: 7,720 calories = approximately 2 pounds
- Yearly Total: 92,640 calories = approximately 26 pounds
- (1 pound = 3,500 calories)
- Monday - nothing
- Tuesday - 1 regular beer, (150 calories each) 150 calories
- Wednesday - 2 regular beers, 300 calories
- Thursday - "Guys Night Out" 3 regular beers, 450 calories
- Friday - "Weekend!" - 4 regular beers - 600 calories
- Saturday - "College Football" - 6 regular beers - 900 calories
- Sunday - "Professional Football" - 4 regular beers - 600 calories
- Weekly Total: 3,000 calories = approximately 3/4 pound
- Monthly Total: 12,000 calories = approximately 3 pounds
- Yearly Total: 144,000 calories = 41 pounds
My point is - it all adds up. If you're trying to lose weight and you're not, look at your alcohol consumption. If you don't want to give it all up, choose moderation, and cut back. That is, if you really do want to lose weight. If you don't, and you aren't diabetic (or pre-diabetic), continue as you are. I've done the math for myself, and I stand to lose 1-2 pounds/month as a result of cutting out alcohol. I should be five pounds lighter when I put on my bikini in a couple months.
Fear of Failing
When you put it out there that you are not drinking, people take bets. "Odds are 10:1 that she can't do it." "I'll bet she lasts only 2 weeks." "No way. There's no way she can go out and not drink with her friends!" But, I chose to put it out there for several reasons.
I hope to educate others about the caloric consequences of consumption.
I hope to raise awareness in those who consume too much, and want to change.
I hope to inspire others, that it is possible to eliminate or simply cut back on consumption.
I hope to provide motivation to change, for those who find solace in alcohol.
I hope to empower people to find healthier ways to deal with their emotions, and lead by example.
Am I afraid of failing? No. For me, this is not about sobriety or even losing weight. It's more about finding myself again, emotionally. It's more about finding that connection that was lost. And, that connection is not with a glass of wine, but with myself. As of now, I'm not sure when I'll allow myself to have a drink. I would like to think that one day, I will be able to appreciate again, the quality of that fine glass of oaky chardonnay, as well as the experience it brings. Not, in what it helps hide.