I didn’t understand what an alcohol-induced blackout was until I read Sarah Hepola’s book Blackout : Remembering the things I Drank to Forget. Before I stopped drinking I had actually had many blackouts, I just didn’t realize that when I woke up with no memory of going to sleep, and no memory of the conversations I’d had the night before, that it was because the part of my brain that processed long term memory had shut down to protect itself from the alcohol blast. It’s like your brain is turning off the lights in the kitchen to save energy… in self-defense.
My blackouts weren’t dramatic public events like the ones Sarah describes in her book, but quiet at home affairs. I’d pour a glass of wine after work rather than picking up a snack, and a couple of hours later I’d be through a bottle and a bit on an empty stomach. After a while my tolerance to alcohol was so high that I wasn’t visibly drunk even after a bottle of wine. I was articulate, clear headed, a bit bossy and overly dramatic, but no one was home behind my red cheeks and feverish eyes. When you drink a lot, quickly, on an empty stomach, blacked out evenings can become routine.
What did I say? Who did I text? What did I do ?
It has worked exceedingly well for the alcohol industry to sell booze as self-care. When I was drinking, my evenings were all about juggling duties frenetically while numbing my resentment with copious quantities of wine. I was the quintessential high power mom after work with kitchen implements, school books and laundry flying about in a flurry. I identified my wine o’ clock time as me-time and became very defensive about my right to shut down with wine. What I didn’t understand at the time was that genuine self-care was well within my grasp. When I waved the white flag and stopped drinking I was surprised to find that my family was happy to take more responsibility in the evenings. They were happy to handle most of their own issues on their own, in exchange for a truly present, peaceful me.
There is a gray area between what we’ve been taught is health-conscious, moderate, daily drinking and what we know is alcohol abuse. That gray area has been broadening and deepening these past thirty years since red wine became the recommended go-to for everything from heart health to weight loss. Many women of my generation have fallen into a hole of ambiguity about the role alcohol should play in their lives. We have been sold the idea that moderate daily drinking is good for our health and that Wine o’ Clock is a harmless and essential downtime activity. Women who were born in the 1960’s and 1970’s are dying of alcohol related diseases early and in record numbers . The statistics don’t begin to show the full range of devastation on many of our lives.
Is there a healthy dose of alcohol and if so how do you use it daily without becoming addicted? With our wine glasses getting bigger and the alcohol content in our wine increasing, clear answers to those questions have been blurred.
I fell into that confusing gray area between drinker and drunk for a while, but it was becoming obvious to me by my mid forties that I was losing control. I was terrified that I might be an alcoholic, wasting days recovering from unintended binges, my self- esteem washing away bit by bit. The thought of losing my wine crutch was unimaginable and every time I turned on my television for a bit of mindless entertainment, the message came across that drinking like I did was funny and normal. There was a lot of pain and frustration that might have been avoided in those years between my fortieth and fiftieth birthdays if I’d known a few simple things. If you think you’re drinking too much too often you are not alone. Stopping can be a challenge but it is not the dramatic loss that you may expect it to be. Most people are afraid that without an occasional drink here and there the color will drain from their lives, but for me, ending my long and illustrious drinking career has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
I think you have a choice about how you view stopping drinking. You can view it as something you are forced to do or you can view it with curiosity and as a good thing. You can view your life without booze as a lesser life or you can view it as something that will bring new untainted highs, open new opportunities, and inspire you to learn new things. If you’re feeling scared that’s natural as you have most likely relied on drink for a long time. Feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and negativity are common among people who are habitual drinkers. The alcohol works on your brain and body to bring you down and often the best solution seems to be another drink. When you are ready to stop you’ll find it takes a while to work through those emotions but if you stick to it you will come out the other side before you know it. Most of us find our self-esteem down around our ankles as we begin but with each clear headed morning confidence builds.
If you’re ready, stopping drinking may be easier and more fun than you expect. The resources in this post are among the favorites of our online community BOOM. Our Community is one of many free resources on the internet, full of people who are helping each other get sober and stay that way. Sobriety is not the torture that I expected but a gift to be shared generously, and you’ll find many people out there doing just that.
This article on the stages of alcohol withdrawal, Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms From Day 1 to Day 30 and Beyond will help you know what to expect physically and psychologically as you move off Day 1.
I always assumed that people who were not physically addicted would not suffer withdrawal from alcohol but that is incorrect. The struggles that most of us face when we stop drinking have nothing to do with the intense physical withdrawal that is associated with acute alcoholism. The challenge for me was a neurological one. Everytime I tried to stop drinking the battle in my brain took me down within a week, until I finally found the tools I needed to fight back in a blog called Tired of Thinking about Drinking by Belle. Belle wrote a book that is based on her blog that you can find in this link Tired of Thinking About Drinking. If you’d like a sample of her thoughts you can access free one minute audio messages from Belle here One minute Audio Messages.
In addition to Belle’s thoughts on the struggle that was going on in my mind, one of the simplest most important lessons I’ve learned is that there is a connection between low blood sugar and alcohol cravings in the late afternoon. If you’re in the early months of kicking a drinking routine, be prepared for low blood sugar to trigger alcohol cravings and make sure that you plan to eat before your usual drinking time. Try using L-Glutamine powder as explained in these posts by two of our members
Our resource section is full of links with posts from members on what worked for them and why. You’re welcome to come in and check it out.
Some of the best resources on the internet are by Annie Grace, author of the book This Naked Mind. Like Belle, Annie offers a variety of free and paid resources. Her book and her pod casts are a big piece to the puzzle for many.
There are groups on the internet and in the “real” world that can offer support when you’re trying to stop drinking. It helps tremendously to have a community of people, who understand from personal experience, how difficult it can be to dry out in a wet world. I started out in a community called Hello Sunday Morning. Our group BOOM is modeled after the format there. We’re private and independent of social media which works well for quiet, focused discussions. Readily available, community support from people who know what you’re going through can be the difference between holding on and letting go in the early days of not drinking.
There are as many different experiences as there are people trying to stop drinking. All are valid. There is no specific addictive personality or absolute cure. When I was drinking myself numb I lost track of who I was. Sobriety has been about re- discovering me. Only you can figure out what’s best for you.
If you want to stop drinking come up with a plan and share it. Work with a community online, or in the tangible world, or both. If you make sobriety your number one priority for a while you will find your way out of that ambiguous, gray area hole, before it becomes a bottomless pit.
Open a Book, open a browser, open your mind. The keys are out there.
You don’t HAVE to drink.
If you’d like to add our community to your tool box you’ll find us tucked away from the busy commercial noise of social media. We’re private, anonymous, independent and free.