Women, Wine, and What Nobody is Talking About
With “Dry January” upon us, and many people recovering from overindulging this holiday season, I thought it would be a good idea to resurrect this post from 2016. I am once again taking a break from alcohol. I don’t have any hard rules around it, but I know I need a time out to get my mind and body in check. If you are considering the same, or even just exploring your relationship with it, then this post may be for you…
When I moved out on my own after my big breakup in 2008, I had a bit of a rebirth (read: I went fucking crazy). And by fucking crazy, I mean embracing a newfound freedom to be myself, understand myself, and love myself. I spent age 21-28 in the throes of a serious, committed, often toxic relationship, so you can imagine there were some wild oats to sew as I was rapidly approaching 30 as a newly single woman in New York City.
I began sewing those oats by spending night after night with my girlfriends in my tiny little Brooklyn apartment. The apartment that was all mine. My besties and I spent hours recounting my breakup, going over every single detail, every single email, and every single text; you know, the stuff girlfriends do together after something major goes down with a guy. As painful and confusing as that time was, I knew one thing: I was going to be alright. I had great friends who knew how to make me laugh my ass off through my tears, and I am forever grateful to the ones who showed up when I needed them most. Aside from my girlfriends, one very special companion was by my side during these intimate nights of overanalyzation, laughter, and tears. Her name was wine.
Prior to my breakup, I really never drank on a regular basis. I never touched drugs. I wasn’t particularly wild. I wasn’t a prude either, but I knew how to keep my cool and never got into any big trouble. Party nights were reserved for bars, where we all wound up drunk on vodka cranberries (gross), and I didn’t drink again until the next time there was some sort of social outing. Wine with dinner wasn’t a thing. And wine home alone on the couch really wasn’t a thing. But as I embraced being a single girl in New York City, making relatively good money, my lifestyle began changing. Suddenly wild party nights were traded for amazing restaurants with phenomenal wine lists and four-hour long dinners. Rather than dealing with the singles scene in a dirty dive bar, I much preferred cocktails with girlfriends in a swanky hotel lounge or at someone’s apartment. And when my girlfriends weren’t around, I spent many nights curled up to Sex and the City with a bottle of Pinot Noir next to me. I mean, that’s what you do when you’re single and in New York, right?
Soon I was indulging in a glass — or three — of wine a few times a week. I didn’t think much of it, as I never really got drunk or felt hungover the next day. But I did notice one thing: I was thinking less about my ex, less about the breakup, and less about a lot of things. Wine soon became my numbing agent, helping me escape a shitty day at work, helping me sleep when my mind was racing at night, and helping me feel less alone in that tiny little Brooklyn apartment when my girlfriends weren’t around.
As the years went on, my relationship with wine did not waver. She was my trusty right-hand woman, helping me navigate all of life’s moments: traveling alone, toasting to a promotion, nursing a break-up, celebrating a new relationship, attending social functions, joining me on awkward first dates, and more. Wine represented many things to me: comfort, escape, reward, companionship, reliability, happiness, sadness, relief, the list goes on.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for much of my life. I’m not quite sure when it began, but I can vividly recall many situations where I felt shortness of breath, pins and needles, and mind racing panic. Most of these situations were brought on by things like flying, overthinking, or for no clear reason at all. But with wine, the anxiety seemed to lessen. I could suddenly fly to another country by myself. I could feel more at ease in a social situation where I might have felt uptight in the past. Wine went from being a fun treat, to being my “shut off” and my way to cope with dis-ease.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that wine was also shutting off parts of me that shouldn’t have been shut off. My passion, my creativity, and my high energy were all being muted as well.
I knew in the back of my mind that my relationship with wine was changing — and it was different than most people’s. I knew it wasn’t healthy to walk into a party or event and immediately scour the room for the nearest glass of something. I knew it wasn’t healthy to routinely pour myself a glass of wine before calling a car service to go to dinner, only to drink more wine. I knew it wasn’t healthy to book my flights in the afternoon to ensure the airport bar would be open.
I also knew that the momentary relief I was getting from drinking wasn’t worth the way I felt afterwards. I can’t think of anything more miserable than a hangover, or the emptiness and depression you feel after a night of drinking. I started coming to the realization that I wanted to cut back on drinking, but I honestly wasn’t sure I was capable. I truly thought I needed it. Keyword there: thought. As a master life coach, I also know how powerful our minds are, so I began trying to “think” I didn’t need it as much as I had convinced myself. This was a process.
I thought long and hard for a while about whether or not I thought I had a “problem” with alcohol. And after much research and consideration, I realized I did not have a problem in the traditional sense. I didn’t need AA. I didn’t need to never drink again. I just did not like the relationship I had formed with it, and that was reason enough for me to want to change.
There were other reasons, too, however. I knew that my relationship with wine was holding me back from my full potential in so many areas, like losing weight for example. Yes, a glass of champagne or wine is fine, in fact many studies suggest its actually healthy (and believe me, I was the first one to whip out those studies to prove that I was actually doing myself a favor by drinking each night!) That is what inspired The Champagne Diet blog in the first place. My innocent days of indulging in a glass of bubbly here or there instead of a fattening, sugary piece of cake for dessert were fine. But wine and champagne are only “healthy” when the reasons you’re drinking them are, and mine had become anything but. Drinking is fine, in most cases, in moderation. But what is moderation, anyway? Whatever it is, I wasn’t experiencing it.
There was a point where I got my diet down to such a science, I was working out hard 5 times a week, and the scale wasn’t budging. When you tack on a few glasses of wine per night, that’s on average, 300 additional calories you’re consuming per day (cause come on, let’s be real, I wasn’t stopping at 1 glass). And on top of that, your body prioritizes alcohol when burning off what you’ve ingested, so before you even process the rest of your food, your metabolism is working overtime to get rid of those empty, boozy calories. Even on the most structured weight loss plans, you’re surely giving up calories that you could be “spending” on a piece of fruit or some veggies, or any nutritious food, for that matter. Trading calories in for wine that literally does nothing for your system except make you tired and slow. Again, once a week or so? Probably fine. Every night? Not so fine.
Speaking of slow, have enough vino the night before, and chances are you’re brushing off your workout the next day more often than you’d prefer. Who wants to SoulCycle with a hangover? I’ve done it, it’s not fun. Who wants to do much of anything with that sluggish, unmotivated vibe that a night of drinking most certainly brings on? And if I’m totally honest here, SoulCycle did play a huge role in my desire to stop drinking. And I am so grateful for it. As I became more involved with my workouts, I realized that the real work involved is less about the physical and much more about the mental. And not drinking made me feel more present, more fit, and so much stronger in every way. You can read more about my SoulCycle journey here if you’re curious.
So how did I get here? How did I finally realize that me and wine needed a little space? I’m really not sure. I can’t really recall the series of events that led to me wanting to cut back significantly on drinking. There was no “a ha” moment where I announced to the world that I was changing. It was more of a slow burn. Boredom, mainly. When you allow yourself to indulge any time you want, it becomes less indulgent. And when indulgence ultimately makes you feel blah, you start getting over it. Maybe its also my age. Maybe I also found something more in my life that is worth being present for. Actually, I know that I did.
I also want to mention that I have not quit alcohol cold turkey. I changed my relationship status with wine on November 7th, 2015, and during the month of November I drank moderately about 4 times. During the month of December, I drank 3 times. And in January, I’ve drank once. And each time I did, I felt less and less connected to it. I only got “drunk” one of those nights, and the way I felt the next day just wasn’t worth it. The biggest accomplishment for me was not drinking on any of the holidays — especially New Years Eve. Instead, I celebrated on a bike at my SoulCycle class, had the best sleep of my life that night, and woke up and rode a 90 minute class on New Years Day. And I loved every second of it.
The benefits I’ve experienced from not drinking are endless:
- I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past 2 months (combined w/eating healthy + working out)
- I’m sleeping better than I have in years
- I feel more at peace, I’m less anxious (how’s that for irony?)
- I’m insanely productive
- My SoulCycle rides are better than I ever imagined they’d be
- My confidence has soared
- I love getting dressed
- My face looks so much prettier
- I’m happy all the time. No, really. All the time.
- I have more clarity
- My skin glows
- My business has soared and I am generating more income than ever before
The things I was afraid of (not sleeping well, feeling socially anxious) have actually become some of the best parts of not drinking. I sleep like a baby and I actually prefer going out and spending time with friends without a drink. Pellegrino in a beautiful wine glass with some lemon and lime is my new “mocktail” of choice.
Again, I want to stress that this is a very personal trade off. Not everyone feels the way I do after drinking, or, not drinking. I’m not sitting here on a high horse preaching anything to you other than my own personal experiences. I mean, let’s be real, about 3 months ago I was nearly peeling myself off the floor in Tokyo after 78 glasses of champagne. I am not better than anyone because I chose to take a break from drinking. I may even drink again more regularly. But for right now, this feels damn good. And why would I want to ruin that “buzz?”
I’m sure you’re thinking, but what about The Champagne Diet? Isn’t champagne your thing? The answer is yes. It is my thing. And it will be, whether or not I choose to drink it. Champagne has always been a metaphor for me. The Champagne Diet has and always will be a lifestyle; a state of mind, and an opportunity to fall in love with your life and celebrate the hell out of it every chance you get. And you can do that with or without booze. I’ve finally proved that to myself.
If you’re thinking about taking a break from drinking, or reevaluating your relationship with it, I’ll give you this piece of advice: rather than looking at it as deprivation, or focusing on what you’re missing out on, (which we all know never works), try to focus on the positives and how much you’ll gain. I now associate alcohol with all the crappy ways it makes me feel. And I associate not drinking with feeling more fabulous than I ever have in my life. That simple mindset shift works wonders.
The reason I’m sharing all of this is because I think — actually, I know — so many women are feeling the same way about their relationship with wine and just not talking about it. Alcohol is glorified in our culture. It’s sexy to go out and have fancy cocktails. It’s chic to come home and pour yourself a glass of champagne. But when that glass of champagne or those fancy cocktails take you to a place you don’t feel so sexy or chic about, it’s time to take a good hard look at what’s going on and explore it.
I hope that if you’ve questioned your relationship with wine, this post will help you feel less alone. I hope that if you’ve needed a little courage to look in the mirror and face some big stuff, you’ve found it. And I hope that if you needed a reason to make your health and well-being a priority, this will be it.
PS – I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know there are many sober women in my Facebook girl gang, The Slay Baby Collective, as well as “sober curious” women or women like me who take breaks from time to time to evaluate their relationship with alcohol. We are all in different stages, different realizations, different places. We have all been affected in different ways. I decided to create a space space and judgment-free zone to talk about sobriety and moderation. Whether you stopped drinking 10 years ago, or you just want to cut back a few days a week, I invite you to join me, and each other, on this journey. Let’s use this space to support, uplift, vent, cry, celebrate, and everything in between. Click here to join us.
PPS — Read the follow-up post here. Me Wine. An Update: 5 Months Later