I’ve always been a drinker. Since I turned 19, I’ve loved wine with dinner, cocktail parties, happy hour, St. Patrick’s Day (which I jokingly refer to as the High Holiday because of my distant Irish heritage), birthday bashes, boozy mimosa-fuelled Sunday brunches, and lazy Christmas Days with a whisky.
I come from a place of drinkers. It’s not abnormal. This is how we all live.
Because I used to get pretty violent hangovers in college, my current moderation usually limits it to a little headache now and again, or a bit of brain fog. No big deal, or so I thought.
Three weeks ago I was sitting at my desk, slugging back a large coffee and trying to focus. My heart was pounding.
Several years ago I told my doctor my heart was racing and I thought it was skipping beats. I envisioned heart monitors and stress tests and having to keep a diary of my activity. He told me to cut down on the coffee. So I did, for a while. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it still didn’t feel right.
And here I was again, years later, same problem. But I knew caffeine could only be a small part of the problem on this day. It was a Monday, and the day before we had gone for brunch at the pub, watched some soccer, had a few pints. Visited my family, had a few glasses of wine. Stopped at another pub on the way home because the night was beautiful and a nightcap seemed fitting.
I was hungover as shit. Not violently ill. Just every other symptom. Crabby, irritable, headache…and those heart palpitations. No more. I decided then and there, sitting at my desk, to stop drinking for a month.
On Tuesday I was still hungover.
By Wednesday, I was feeling better. And more than the physical effects, I felt pretty pleased at the decision. Friends were supportive. Encouraging, even. I drank Perrier at parties and my husband didn’t have to think about a cab home, because I was driving.
Three weeks in, and here’s a short list of what’s happened:
- My skin is gorgeous. I mean, after years of the hell that is teenage/early twenties acne, it’s had a nice even tone for the last few years. But in the last three weeks little traces of redness are gone and there’s a nice glow happening.
- The anxiety. I used to lie awake in bed at night, panicking about death. It felt like a small, existential panic attack three times a week or so. Now I don’t have it. My brain might land on a scary thought, but it just sweeps it away. Which also relates to…
- The sleep. Sweet mother of god. I used to get envious of my husband’s ability to just slip into unconsciousness. Now I curl up with a book at night and eventually just turn off the lamp and fall into slumber. And I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, or sleep lightly. It’s a very sound snooze.
- My pants are loose. I know, I know, weight loss is everywhere and it’s too much. But I’ve just had some old clothes I’ve missed wearing, and I may not have to get rid of them now. There are no wine calories and nothing telling me to eat poutine at two o’clock in the morning. Poutine is also not cheap at the place around the corner. It adds up.
- Speaking of which, money on alcohol really adds up. I’m saving a pile of cash.
- Productivity. I’m up reasonably early in the mornings, because I sleep so well. I work a night shift, but I can still wake up at 7:30 or 8 and get hours of writing/errands/cooking out of the way before work. Or lie on the couch and not feel bad about it. There’s just a lot more time in the day for stuff.
- General joyfulness. I’m happy. Really happy. Spring is helping, for sure. But it’s not just that, because I was happy yesterday and we had a windchill of minus 27. And I couldn’t stop smiling on the way to work.
- Caffeine is a pleasant afterthought. I have a coffee very occasionally. Usually I can’t finish it. Mostly, I’m back to my favourite childhood beverage: Tea. There are a lot of blends that have been sitting in my cupboard for a while, and I’m starting to make a dent in the supply. Heart palpitations have stopped, and my persistent daily headaches are gone.
Alcoholism is pervasive in my family tree. Do I think I am one? No. Did I drink too much? Most definitely. As for drinking again…I don’t know. This has been a more successful experiment than I ever could have imagined. I could see a celebratory glass of champagne at some point, or a nice cocktail at a restaurant. I still have some nice whiskies at my house I might want to taste again – but in extreme moderation. The box of wine is gone off the kitchen counter. Mocktails have replaced cocktails, and there’s just not that much I miss. Now I just want to sit up and look at the stars, with a cup of tea, instead of sipping a glass of wine. And I’m finding my life is richer for it.