Why abstinence?

I am a reformed smoker.  Haven’t taken a drag since February of 1986, right before I got pregnant with my youngest.  Do I ever miss it? Never.  So glad I finally got that piano off my back.  What does this have to do with abstinence from alcohol?  Nothing.  Or everything.  Depends on your viewpoint.  For me, it was everything in terms of continuing to struggle with moderation as opposed to just.  Quitting.  For good. I totally suck at moderation, in direction proportion to how much I love the object in question.  A book I’m reading?  I will read until I’m practically cross eyed, coming up only for food, water, and bathroom breaks.  A food I love – Triscuit thins? Fuggedaboudit.  An open box is an empty box.  You get the idea.

I started smoking at 15.  Both of my parents were smokers so I figured they had no business telling me to quit.  I was married before I turned 20; got pregnant very shortly thereafter and my OB at the time didn’t care so much if I smoked while I was pregnant.  As long as I didn’t gain more than 20 pounds, it was all good. (Needless to say this was more than 30 years ago.) Anyway, money was very tight and my little guy was starting to pull himself to standing when I realized I really needed to quit.  We were barely scraping by financially and cigarettes were $7.00 a carton – a fortune to us at the time.  That, combined with the very real fear of my baby pulling an ashtray onto himself and/or getting burned by a lit cigarette helped make the decision a no-brainer.  Fast forward a few years…. baby #2 was a toddler and we began to have opportunities to socialize with my husband’s sisters (who were both smokers at the time).  Before I knew it, I was smoking socially with them.  Then I began to create opportunities to smoke more and more often….. and – you get the picture.  I was well on my way to becoming hooked again.

I’ve been asked, since embarking upon this alcohol-free sojourn, what about a glass of wine on a birthday?  Christmas, or New Year’s Eve? It took me some thought to hit upon the right answer: it’s the event that’s special, not the beverage it’s celebrated with.  I recently marked a ‘special’ birthday.  My husband took me to one of the nicest restaurants in our fair city to mark the occasion.  The maitre’d was all set to pour two complimentary flutes of champagne when I completely let the wind out of his sails by saying, apologetically, “I’m sorry. I don’t drink.” (My husband felt very uncomfortable for me – based on the gentleman’s reaction – which was kind of to look at me as if I smelled bad or something.)  But that’s a topic for another post.

The bottom line is, knowing myself as well as I do, it would only be a matter of time before my habits returned to what was making me so conflicted and worried and full of shame and self-loathing.

“And ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Day 71…. who’da thunk it?

Sorry I’ve been remiss in posting…. Busy couple of weeks.  This past weekend was filled with babies, babies, and more babies – our three precious granddaughters.  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.  It was also the first weekend I missed drinking, in the 10 weekends since I stopped.  I wasn’t tempted, didn’t struggle, but – BUT. There were a few moments when I thought, “Shit.  I would REALLY love a drink right about now.”  To de-stress, relax, socialize.  These were passing thoughts that zipped through my brain.  I still feel as committed to being alcohol free as I did from the beginning.  It just kind of surprised me to have these thoughts float up to the surface, unbidden. Like my brain is an 8 ball, like I used to play with when I was a kid.

8 ball, am I going to have a drink?

“All signs point to ‘no’.”


Why I decided to stop drinking

Some years ago, my husband and I were vacationing in New York City.  One of our very favorite tourist-y things to do while on vacation in big cities is to go on walking food tours. Our tour guide was an engaging young man who led us though Greenwich Village, I believe, telling us ‘behind the scenes’ stories of celebrities who lived in the neighborhood, little-known facts about the architecture of various buildings, etc.  All was interspersed with stops at various eateries for different types of pizza, cookies, cheeses – all in all, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  One of the buildings we strolled by was the Cherry Lane Theater that Edna St. Vincent Millay’s contemporaries founded.  Apparently, she was a raging alcoholic/addict.  Our guide cheerfully described her as someone who was “a whole lot of fun until she wasn’t.”  That, my friends, is what alcohol became to me, in a nutshell. A whole lot of fun until I realized, first with trepidation, then sadness, and, finally, stone-cold clarity – alcohol no longer contributed anything positive to my day to day existence. It negatively affected my mood, the quality of my sleep – the quality of my life.  I knew that I would be so much happier if I just quit. Having alcohol in the house doesn’t bother or tempt me. I can purchase wine or my husband’s favorite, Maker’s Mark – without batting an eyelash. But – I was seeing a pattern of behavior I became increasingly uncomfortable with. And I no longer felt particularly proud of the woman staring back at me in the mirror. As Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you always did, you’re always going to get what you always got.”  Something had to change.

I plan to delve into this topic in greater detail in future posts.  For now, I invite you to share why you decided to stop.  Was it a specific event/crisis? An epiphany? Did you set a ‘quit date’?  Email me at: lifewithoutvodkarocks@gmail.com or post a comment!  I’d love to hear from you.