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QUIT LIKE A WOMAN
December 31, 2019
Today marks 120 days sober for me. Wow, right? I have a friend who just hit 4 years sober and says she’s the happiest she’s ever been. I’m over here like…
What I miss about alcohol: the first sip, the first hour of pleasant numbness, the idea that I’m doing something even though I’m not really, the 5pm ritual of “ah, relief is finally here,” the social bonding and purpose that comes with drinking in groups.
What I don’t miss: everything after the first hour, the racing heartbeat, the mild nausea, the upset tummy, the dry and patchy skin, the stupid shit I do/say/purchase while drunk, the money wasted on booze, the very loud and shaming sound of dumping all my empty wine bottles in the recycling, the sadness that follows me around for two days after I drink.
Will I ever drink again? I don’t know. But even when I consider it, I can’t help but think of the book Quit Like a Woman. Author Holly Whitaker has really helped me see the issue more clearly, and I don’t know that there’s any turning back now. We put so much emphasis on “Can I handle alcohol? Am I an alcoholic?” But the better question is, “Is this serving me? Is alcohol getting in the way of my life, dreams, positive self-esteem? Does it make me feel bad more than it makes me feel good?” Alcohol is a way to escape, for sure, but it doesn’t actually help. In fact, it usually makes my life harder in the not-so-long term.
The even better question: How can I create a life for myself that I don’t need to escape?
And that question brings up all kinds of stuff—like what should I be doing?, how should I be acting?, what should my personality be like? It’s remarkable to me how much of my day revolves around what other people want for me, what they want of me. Whitaker makes an astute observation when she says that we tend to use alcohol in situations we don’t want to be in in the first place. So what do I actually want to do? Who do I actually want to hang out with? Turns out being sober is an easy way to find out.
One of the most empowering parts of this process for me has been learning to say no. No, I don’t feel like volunteering this year. No, I don’t feel like hanging out. No, I don’t feel like talking. No, your “ask” isn’t my “emergency.” No, I’d rather take a nap. No, you can fold your own laundry. No, I don’t feel like cooking tonight. No, I don’t like that plan, so I’ll create another one that works for me. No, you can’t interrupt me while I’m studying. And through all these NOs, I’m starting to feel more in control over my own life.
You are entirely up to you.Tessa Forrest
The last thing I’ll say is that this book also has helped me understand that I need to take care of myself and manage my energy throughout the day so that I don’t create the 5 o’clock shit show in the first place. She rightly observes that many of us slam into our days the second we wake up, pumping ourselves full of stimulants like news, email, social media, caffeine, and carbs. And then we keep that pace up for the next 10 hours so that by the time the end of the day rolls around, we’re so overstimulated and fried that the only thing we can think of to do to calm ourselves down is drink a gallon of Merlot.
We’re clearly better off managing our energy more evenly throughout the day. This means slowing down and paying attention to how we feel. Take some breaths every once in a while, eat a snack, drink some tea, put down that seventh cup of coffee, meditate, get a massage (this back massager was my favorite Christmas present), read a book, go for a walk, stretch, look up at the trees, or treat yourself to a lavender heating pad. Another good one: let that rage/sadness/disappointment pass. No emotion lasts longer than 90 seconds if we just name it, feel it, set aside the “story,” and move on. (I thought this was bullshit at first, too, but it actually works.)
So yeah. This book is pretty powerful, dare I say life-changing. I had already sobered-up when I read it, but some of Whitaker’s points still keep me going today. If you’re interested in reading more about her or Tempest, the digital recovery program she founded, you can check out her website and insta.