I’ve wanted to write about my relationship with alcohol for quite some time but I hadn’t fully gotten a grasp on it until this last year.
I had my last drink - a glass of white wine - on August 1, 2017...one year + 6 months ago. I was with 2 of my girlfriends - family friends. We had gotten together so I could share how my life, my daughters’ lives and my husband’s life were all about to change dramatically. Brian and I had decided to separate and I needed that drink to help ease my nerves. I was a mess and that drink definitely helped...
After my diagnosis in 2014 I created some much needed space around my consumption of alcohol. I had been drinking wine - daily - for almost 12 years prior to the diagnosis. Sometimes just 1 glass but usually 2 or more. If we had friends over on the weekend or it was a holiday/special occasion I’d easily drink bottle(s) worth of wine or sparkling wine - all on my own. Our friends all loved to drink too; most of them owned wineries or were in the food/wine business. Most everyone in my family drank. My husband loved it, his older kids and family too. It complimented the food we ate, it relaxed me, it was a way to connect with all the friends and family we spent our time with. It was everywhere and I loved it but my body didn’t. It never really had.
I didn’t like alcohol or how it made me feel in my 20s but I was a bartender thru college and would occasionally find something that tasted okay and usually over indulge. Hang overs were awful...entire days spent on the bathroom floor with brutal headaches, swollen eyes, unable to move. Over time I was able to build up a bit of a tolerance and I learned how to pace myself but I still never really enjoyed drinking. I tried wine but didn’t like it. People would say it was an acquired taste and I should keep trying it. That never made any sense to me...why would I keep trying something that tasted so bad to me? Nonetheless I eventually was introduced to a sweet boxed wine called Delicious Red by a friend in North Carolina and I actually liked it. From there I tried other sweet wines and after a few years slowly started developing a taste for less sweet wines. I branched out into higher quality red wines when I started dating Brian in 2002 and thus began my 12 year daily romance with wine. For the first 10 years or so the hangovers weren’t as bad (with wine) unless I mixed reds with whites or bubbles but over time they started to worsen. I was nauseous a lot, had low grade headaches and low energy. Some days I could have more than one glass and feel great the next day but little by little even just one glass could make me feel bad. There were times I’d even get a headache after just taking a few sips.
I also had read lots on cancer prevention and knew that alcohol wasn’t a good choice for someone - especially a woman - with a family history of cancer. But then I’d be sure to read all the positive articles I could find about the health benefits of drinking red wine and pour myself another glass that evening.
Waking up feeling badly finally got old and I’d tell myself … promise myself, “Robynn, tonight you are not going to drink any wine!” but then I’d start making dinner and see the opened bottle on the counter from the night before and rationalize just having an ounce or maybe two ounces at the most. I knew I had a problem when I started measuring those ounces out. Brian would come home, pour us a glass with our dinner and I’d forget all about the promise I’d made myself that morning until the next morning when I woke feeling badly again. This went on for longer than I care to admit but I finally created some space around it all when I found a lump in my breast.
It was still difficult though with friends, family, clients & co-workers constantly creating entire get togethers with alcohol as our focus. Sure it might have been an event (excuse) to celebrate someone or something but alcohol was ALWAYS the real guest of honor.
I also had doctors -even holistic doctors- tell me it was okay to still drink a few glasses of red wine a week while healing from breast cancer. So I did. This was a huge reduction for me and it made me feel so much better. It felt great to be without it. It also felt great to be able to have it socially but not continue to have it on the daily. But the more I crowded out the wine and the cleaner I got, the more sensitive I became to it. I started to see things more clearly and realized that drinking was a true emotional & physical dependency… it was an addiction.
I had an addiction that society is completely okay with. It’s all good as long as you can’t really see the damage you are doing to yourself. We live in a world absorbed in all things alcohol...I know I’m not alone in seeing that. The pressure on women (and men too) to drink is everywhere! Mommy Sippy Cups, Mommy needs Wine...Wine & Yoga, Wine and Art, Wine & Working Out...150 beers on tap...craft beers, wine and beer at Starbucks! It’s insane. I am not judging anyone...I completely get it. I see you and understand the weight of it all. We’ve created this impossible to achieve illusion that women should be doing it all, with ease and don’t forget that smile, and be sure you are looking at least 10 years younger than you really are! It’s never ending and it’s not the example I’m looking to create for my daughters. I look back at pictures of myself from that span of time when I was trying to do it all while literally marinating in wine. I look sad, puffy and like I’m carrying several extra layers. 18 months later I can say those toxic layers are officially gone and I’m finally at peace. The light in my eyes is back!
I’ve made some pretty dramatic life changes since I had that last glass of white wine. I obviously had to let go of other toxic patterns in order to escape the grip alcohol had on me. It’s been a daily dance lesson - as I learn this new routine - living a rich life without a dependency. I’m navigating thru a divorce, a new healthy relationship - a true partnership. I’m learning a new way of raising our daughters in 2 - positive & nurturing homes. We all moved, our girls have been in 3 new schools, I have a new business. It hasn’t been easy...my emotions continually swing from one side of the spectrum to the next but I wake up every day and feel clear & good about myself. And now that I've established new healthier patterns - I look myself in the mirror and I see a face I missed seeing for those 12 long years and I say….
“I see you…I honor you...I thank you” and.....I mean it.