For thirty years, I regularly drank alcohol. I loved R’s rite getting the boys to bed, into the quiet kitchen and pouring cold wine into a white wine. The high acidity indicated a shift from a work day to a quiet afternoon, with adult conversation and perhaps a Frasier recovery (that Niles!). A glass was a prize for the parents of two walnut children and it was a way to turn off my brain vortex immediately.
I also loved learning about wine; it’s exciting to be a fan! I taught myself how to navigate restaurant wine lists. I learned to distinguish between the grassy Sauvingnon Blanc and a Vermentino peach. I befriended the guys at the wine shop and continued to have fun wine columnists.
Also, the wine seemed to make for a longer life. A glass of rosé on a summer evening, a cold grüner before a meal with chips, a champagne flute at a friend’s wedding. What’s better? “People who really love wine think it’s an ordinary part of meals, like salt or bread,” he wrote. Eric Asimov In the New York Times. “Regular consumption is the most important characteristic of trusted lovers.” That was me!
But, as time went on, his addiction to alcohol became slippery. I noticed that I drank two glasses of wine every night – more if we went to dinner or a party. I felt like the alcohol wasn’t under my control, but I drove away. Again and again, I tried to rest, but I would only spend a couple of evenings before treating myself with a single spill, which led to a second, maybe a third. I reassured myself that at least I wasn’t drinking side effects, like headaches or hangovers. It’s also chic and European! I come from British stock! It’s part of my family’s larger culture. All right.
Cut to 2021. During the winter pandemic, wine bottles filled the recycling bin. In February, however, my phone was turned off. “Who’s up for the three-week health challenge?” my friend Jordan I sent it to us and some other women. His proposal was simple: eat healthy food, take 10K + steps a day and cut out the alcohol. I put my nerves aside and wrote a response: “I’m in.”
The first night was the hardest. Around 8pm, I wanted a drink; I felt angry reading a book in my bedroom and walking away from the fridge. (I also poured a glass of bright water so I could drink something.) But really I knew I was responsible in front of the text group. Every night we would text each other, “I did it today!” The team was counting on you.
On the second night, I felt less tempted; the third night, still less; until somehow a week or so later, alcohol, which was so constant in my adult life, until I thought a lot about it. (That didn’t surprise me any more.)
At the same time, something else was happening. Without daily drinking, I felt much more alert, more energetic and clear-headed. When the boys came to wake me up in the morning, my eyes would open – good morning, world! Writer Sarah Levy he said that not using alcohol feels like “waking up on clean sheets every day,” and he said it was true.
I suddenly asked myself: all the time, when I thought alcohol didn’t affect me, I was actually hanging out every day years?
Today, I haven’t had much to drink since February. Sometimes I make exceptions. Last month, my dad visited, and we handed out a bottle of Italian wine my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood. We tasted honey and pineapple flavors, and our cheeks turned pink and warm. I still love the flavors and feel. So I can occasionally eat wine at dinners or at special times. But for now, for this time in my life, the decision feels good.
I’m curious: how do you relate to your alcohol? How do you feel about that? I would love to hear it.
(Photo by Sophia Hsin / Stocksy.)