For me, being a moderate drinker is possible, even after years of struggling with alcohol addiction. Enjoying a few drinks only now and again is something I never thought I could do. Yet here I am, after over a year of effort and self-discipline (and plenty of self-defeat) I find myself able to have just on or two glasses of wine – or none at all – in a social occasion.
I was a daily drinker for over two decades. I carved my days around when I could get my hands on first of many cold glasses of wine. Now, I can get through the day without the white-knuckling at 5:00 p.m. I can go to a party and drink sparkling water without feeling anxious. I can go to a concert or sporting event and have one beer, and leave it at that. I can be around others who imbibe in their normal fashion without judging their behavior or secretly monitoring how much they’re drinking.
Since becoming a moderate drinker, my productivity in general and my mental and physical health have improved drastically.
This change didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of soul-searching, trial and error, and the sort of brutal honesty with myself I hadn’t allowed myself in years.
Best perk of all is that I am a “morning person” now and can wake up with a clear head and good intentions that actually have a chance in the world.
What is also helping me work through moderation is the belief that any attempt to get at the root of one’s addiction must take into account how chemicals behave in the brain. After reading more on this subject, I realize that for me, recovery and change are not dependent upon some internal struggle with moral failure and the surrender of my will to a higher power. For me, the gradual but substantial reduction of alcohol restored the normal functioning of my brain.
By starving it from its regular hit every day at the same time, my brain recovered. Was it hard? Did I “fail” on some days? For sure. I still struggle. But I am able to keep going – and still have a drink or two now and again – without reverting back to my daily habit of drinking way too much.
Up until very recently over the past two decades my constant nightly companion came in the shape of a bottle of crisp, dry white wine. After I cleared the bare minimum obligations from my day, I took the bottle from the fridge, grabbed my favorite large glass, and poured myself the first of many drinks, which usually led to the entire bottle, sometimes more. Over the years my consumption stayed the same, and I rarely switched to red wine or any other kind of drink.
Wine had become the most important part of my existence. Day in and day out, it was the elephant in the room, the cause of so much underlying anxiety and stress and stops and starts in my life. The cause of inertia, indecision, or bad decisions. Achingly low self-esteem. Impatience, intolerance, cynicism, and even mild misanthropy. To feel positive about anything seemed false. I trudged through the days. The only time I stopped completely was when I was pregnant. Thankfully, even though I was still in denial at that point, my addiction could be tamed when I was with child. But within months after giving birth and when breastfeeding ceased, my habit returned.
My desire to quit drinking in the way I had been doing for several decades was not triggered by some dramatic embarrassing blackout or rock bottom episode, but from what I now understand was a deep and true desire to change. Facing an empty house, changing relationships, and news of my brother’s alcohol-related illnesses subconsciously moved me, perhaps, to where I am now. I am finally facing up to my addiction. I am trying to get at the why.
After years of daily drinking, early last year I finally began to take apart the causes and conditions my addiction, and I started this blog.
It’s been about 18 months since I’ve stopped the daily habit, and I’ve come a long way. I wrote a short memoir about this experience as I went through the process of recovery and moderation.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I could go on the moderate path, but I am doing it! I know many readers out there will not agree that moderation is a solution, but in my case it works. My relationship with alcohol no longer takes over my life.
Raised in a large family where alcohol was always present, and then living independently within a culture of drinking and excess, I took a few months to examine my past through mostly journal entries, both old and new. Along the way I began to understand the science of addiction as well as the environmental aspects that contributed to my habit.
Without AA or any other formal recovery program, I went from consuming one bottle of wine or more per day to less than a bottle per week. I continue to gain wisdom and strength from other memoirs written by women who have overcome alcohol addiction.
This is an ongoing journey. I have found the courage to examine and explore my creativity and sense of self-worth after years of denial and destructive behavior. I now try to live each day fully in the present, seizing opportunities and finding new paths toward a healthy life.
What stage are you in your journey to wellness and recovery? The single thing that has helped me the most is knowing I have kindreds out there – like you – who want to be better, do better. Don’t give up. And remember – you are not alone!