Mind, Quitting Alcohol

A Tonic for Self-Loathing

The first two days of quitting alcohol were a failure.  I wanted to pay attention to my feelings and thoughts as 4:30 came around.  That seems the time of day as I am anticipating going home, that I start craving a glass of wine.

Here is where my mind went:  Are you sure you want to quit? Is it really necessary? Why not just slow down a bit?

I was surprised by this.  I thought that what I would be thinking would be more along the lines of ‘this is too hard’ or ‘I really want a glass of wine’. I was questioning myself as to why I wanted to quit.  This was a very valuable discovery.

What it tells me is that I need to know why I’m doing this.  It  has to be a strong why.  I need to be able to answer my brain definitely and with conviction that this is the right choice for me.  But what if I don’t have a strong ‘why’?

The universe handed me the answer like magic.  It wasn’t pretty.  Let me start at the beginning.

After work I was driving home as usual and I was trying to concentrate on pinpointing my thoughts about quitting alcohol.  I wanted to take note of what my thoughts were that triggered my desire to drink when I got home.  I was being super diligent paying attention to my thoughts.  As I mentioned earlier, what I was thinking was ‘do I really want to quit’?  Frankly, I could not answer that question with conviction.

As I walked in the door at home, I poured myself half a glass and promised I would only have a little bit.  I didn’t sleep that night as I was too busy beating myself up and berating myself for not being stronger. I woke up the next day with a vow to do better and a big bundle of self-loathing.

Day two came and 4:30 rolled around.  I started to have a lot of anxiety.  I didn’t want to go home.  I didn’t want to face the chatter in my brain about whether or not I would drink.

I walked in the door and poured myself a glass of wine.  Then I had a second.  Then I started to act like a complete ass to my family.  I started to make my discontent their fault.  I was making it everyone else’s fault that I was feeling like a failure. I was deep into shame and self-loathing and lashing out.  My kids were looking at me like they didn’t know who I was.  I’m not usually a yeller.

I was feeling such a deep sense of failure and shame.  I drank when I got home because I didn’t want to feel my feelings, but drinking amplified them and made them even worse.  I drank to go numb, but it made my negative feelings even stronger.

At least I had the courage to go to my room and close my door and go to bed before I said anything worse than I already had.

What I learned is this: alcohol (for me) does not numb me out.  It actually brings more negative stuff to the surface.  It makes me feel worse about myself than if I was sober. When I’m sober I can handle my feeling.

So for now, my ‘why’ looks something like this: I don’t want to hate on myself. I don’t want to ever make it my families fault that I messed up.  I’m stronger emotionally when I’m sober.

Quitting Alcohol

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere

For the past year I have struggled to quit drinking.  I would not classify myself as an alcoholic.  I drink large quantifies and don’t binge on the weekends.  My reason for wanting to quit is mostly curiosity.  How would my life be different if I didn’t partake of alcohol?

Over the past year I have tried various programs, support groups and apps with very little success.  The longest I went without a glass of wine was 5 days.

The one theme that keeps coming up for me is that there is a window of time where I am the most likely to start drinking.  If I can get past this window of time, I can usually skip the drink and be clear the rest of the evening.

The moment I get home,  I catch myself thinking about a glass of wine.  Actually, it goes back before I get home.  I usually start thinking about wine around 4:30 as I am anticipating going home.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, I start to salivate anticipating my reward.

What is interesting about this 4:30 time period is that this is where I start arguing with myself.  My thoughts go something like this:

“I’m not going to drink tonight.  But I’ve worked so hard.  One glass is not going to make any difference. If it won’t make a difference, why not not have one. This is exhausting. I hate arguing with myself every day. I think I’ll have a drink when I get home.  One won’t hurt.”

I get in a thought loop.  It follows me all the way home.  In my effort to not pour a glass of wine I sometimes (most of the time) chow down on a bunch of snacks and junk food.  I immediately regret my choice and as punishment pour myself a glass of wine.  I’m blowing it anyway.  I might as well have a glass.

I hate the chatter.  I hate the indecision.  I hate on myself when I fail.  It’s like a dog chasing it’s tail.  I go around and around and around.

I believe the key to any chance of success is figuring out this window of time from 4:30 until around 6:30 when the urge seems overwhelming.

What is it about this particular time of day that is stressful or overwhelming that drives me to numb out?

That is the questions I will need to ask myself every day until I figure it out.  I want to lay this out there.  Be willing to fail and keep trying.  There are other questions I have, too.  Is it important to have a ‘why’? What if I don’t? Am I fully committed to quitting or am I just taking a break? Do I need to decide that now?  Why am I waffling on this?

Just for today I will commit to not drink.  Just today I will pay attention to what I am thinking around 4:30.  Just today.