The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

84 days and counting

I have been sober for 84 consecutive days.

It was February 22 when I gave up my beloved wine for Lent. I was hoping it might just be the one change I needed to kick start a series of other healthy changes. It had been a long, sedentary winter and my chronic depression was rearing its ugly head. I knew in my heart that my daily wine habit was only making things worse.

Well, I’m happy to report that indeed, giving up the hooch has made a huge difference in my mental and physical health.

The first few weeks were pretty ugly. Looking back, my body was clearly in withdrawal. And even though my daily consumption was never the kind of thing that anyone would ever question (1-2 glasses, max), it was obviously enough for my body to become dependent.

I tried to be gentle with myself by making healthy substitutions like a cup of green tea every afternoon instead of wine. Focusing on all the good I was doing for my heart and skin with that green tea made me think less about my wine, whose loss I was definitely grieving.

I also ate jellybeans by the fistful those first 6 weeks to keep my sugar cravings at bay. I’m pretty sure that’s why jellybeans are associated with Easter…to keep all the struggling Lenten promise-makers alive.

And then came Easter, the ultimate celebration on the Christian liturgical calendar, and the exciting conclusion to all our Lenten sacrifices.

Only, by the time Easter arrived, I felt so much healthier and less depressed by just giving up my daily wine habit, that I decided to stay the course.

So here we are. Eighty-four days later.

The extreme sugar cravings are finally gone. My temper and sleep patterns seem to have improved as well. And oh my God, what is this strange feeling? Is it happiness? I think it is! Shut the front door! I am happy.

I haven’t started consistently exercising yet. But I do find myself drinking a lot more water every day and not spending so much time in front of the TV. As a result, I’ve lost about 5 pounds. Now my former muffintop is more like a small dinner roll, which makes me feel so much less depressed. I was right! One small healthy choice begets other healthy choices. Well, what do you know!

Last month, my In the Powder Room colleague Heidi wrote a poignant post “Why I’m a better mother when I don’t drink” that really resonated with me. Heidi found that not only did her relationships improve while she tee-totaled, but her capacity for joy increased as well. I couldn’t agree more. The feelings! Good God, the feelings I have now that I’m not so comfortably numb every afternoon…so worth it.

So I take it back. Turns out, I’m not a better mother on the sauce. I was just too numb to know it.

I can’t say for certain that this is the path I will walk forever…I’m just taking it one day at a time. But I will say this: it’s working for me right now, and that is all I need to know.

Originally published at In the Powder Room, May 15, 2012. 

13 Comments

  1. You are a brave woman. I don’t think I could quit drinking at this point. Maybe once the kiddo moves out. After all, I only really took up drinking once he came along. Well, ‘professional’ level drinking, anyway. Before that I was a talented amateur.

    • Ha! I can relate. I don’t know about the brave thing, just ready for a change and fed up with nothing else working. Thanks for being here, Kathy.

  2. Good for you, lady. Really. It’s wonderful to read about your happiness now, no matter what the future holds for you and “the sauce.”

    I couldn’t help wondering how your friends and husband feel about your not drinking wine these days. A couple of years ago I gave up alcohol for a single month and felt great; I had no trouble doing it, actually, and kind of liked how I felt not drinking.

    But the people around me? Did not know how to handle it. I suppose our lives revolve too much around the Friday Happy Hour or the Saturday night BBQ with booze?

    I don’t know. But I do know that ever since then, they “jokingly” ask me to never give up wine completely again. And I’m not sure what to make of that….

    • Oh yes indeedy-do. There is nothing so frightening to other drinkers as having one of their fun buddies abandon ship. It makes people evaluate their own lives and most people simply don’t want to do that. I have a lot to say about this, actually. Probably too much for a comment reply. But I sure do appreciate you asking me about it and taking the time to cheer me on. You are a gem, Julie. XO.

  3. I’m in the opposite boat. I almost never ever drink, but I really REALLY need to add regular imbibing to my repertoire of go to kid-stress defenses.

  4. HIGH FIVE to 84 days and counting momma!! Pa. roud. of. YOU! xoxoxo

  5. Elixir is a great word.

    And no, I’m not high.

  6. It’s rare to get a serious post from you, but apparently they are worth waiting for. (Who knew?!) Good for you for making a change and going public. I’m a big fan of the coping through alcohol jokes, but it doesn’t always work that smoothly in real life. It take some guts to come out and tell your truth…

    okay, that’s about all the serious I can take for one night!! Blessings to you.

  7. It’s hard to believe that “Iris” struggles with the Black Dog of depression, as Winston Churchill named it. You seem so strong & feisty ~ always finding humor in the everyday nonsense of Life. How wonderful, then, it must have felt to type “I AM HAPPY” and know it was true! I stopped with the social drinking ten+ years ago, and nothing has helped with that damn mangy dog. He follows me everywhere, despite yoga, meditation, therapy, sunlight, vitamins … if only tenacity & stubbornness were enough to send him packing, because I am so tired, Iris. So, so tired. Thanks for helping us fight the good fight every day with your words, wit, and honesty. You truly are walking the walk! xoxo Terrie

  8. way to go Iris!
    Reading the comments I couldn’t help but think of Fun Bobby from Friends. Do you remember that?

  9. no hooch, no problem.
    cooch jokes are your fun currency.

  10. Thank you for keeping it real. It is so important for folks that struggle with depression to know they are not alone! And no matter who you are out there in the world, someone cares about you. You may not know it; you may not feel it, but someone cares.

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