Today is July 8th, 2017 and I have made what I think will be a life changing decision for myself for the better.
This might come as a surprise to many, or maybe not. Maybe you could see it coming better than I could. I would not classify myself as an alcoholic, but I have progressed from light social drinker to heavy drinker in the past 5 years or so. I’ve decided it’s time to give it up.
I don’t expect much difficulty moving forward with this decision. I’m not someone who is tied to the sauce to the point where I would need to enter a rehab facility to get dry or anything like that. I’m just someone who has finally realized that it’s not in the best interests of my health to continue. There is a family history of addiction in my family, and I’ve noticed that in myself there are just some things that are difficult for me to moderate.
Diet soda was one for example. I haven’t consumed a diet soda in about 4 years, but when I did drink diet soda, I was an over the top consumer of it. I could easily go through a 12 pack of cans a day, or an 8 pack of the 20 oz. Pepsi bottles. Every day. I knew it was getting bad when I practically had to carry around a 2 liter container with me everywhere I went. I’d had this issue since childhood. When I became an adult and was responsible for buying my own groceries, there were just no limits. I was pretty conscious of my weight back then and I saw it as a way to try to stay full with zero calorie beverages and manage weight that way. Ironically what everyone eventually learns is that it stimulates cravings for sugar, which is the root problem anyway. So it makes it harder to manage weight, not easier. Having stressful jobs along the way doesn’t help either. The caffeine becomes necessary to work the hours required. Pretty soon you depend on it. I had given up diet soda probably 20? 30? times in my adult life and failed every single time, complete with massive headaches during the come-down phase where I became lethargic and pretty much useless for 2 days before my body adjusted. But eventually I prevailed in 2014 – knock on wood.
Wine/Beer is different. For the vast majority of the time I drank, I never felt the need to get drunk. That would usually happen if I was somewhere and having a good time and not thinking about the choices I was making and then all of the sudden it would catch up to me, but overall, pretty rare. I was usually good with a couple of beers or, a couple of classes of wine and that’s it. But lately, it’s been a half a bottle of wine per day. Or like last night, 4 beers because I was having a good time. I rarely woke up hungover. It did cause me to get sleepy early however, and I think it messes with my sleeping patterns, which is never helpful to one’s health.
After a pretty fun-filled week with a good combination of social events, and physical events (a challenging hike and a few really long walks), I began to feel like I’d overdone it. My clothes were getting tighter than usual. That’s usually a signal to me that something major is going to need to change pretty soon because that’s not sustainable. I was feeling uncomfortable from the moment I got out of bed and for the rest of the day. In the morning I read an article on CNN about how alcohol is the worst contributor to belly fat because it’s just all empty calories. It has no health benefit whatsoever and sure, if I could moderate a few drinks a week and work out more, I probably would not be writing this. But that’s not how it’s been working for me. A few drinks per week has turned into a few drinks per day. Not all the time, but more often than I should.
The CNN article was not news to me. I, like a lot of people had read that many times. I just conveniently forget about these things until some other factor comes into play and then it’s like, oh, right. Not such a good idea.
With 2 days of vacation left and feeling like I’d had a little too much fun for the week, I’d made the decision my Saturday was going to include a longer walk of about 5 miles or so. When walking long distances by myself, I get in my head as my wife likes to say, and thoughts start running deeper than normal. Having read the article on CNN just before I left, some what-if scenarios started going through my mind.
What if wine/beer is just like diet soda to me and I’ll never be able to moderate it? What if I just quit altogether — what would that look like? I started thinking of all the positive benefits that would result and the list started to get pretty long. After a short while, the answer just seemed pretty obvious. Do it. You’re 57. Your quality of life will improve noticeably if you take this step, based on the benefits that just came to mind.
These included things like weight loss — I’m positive it will result in some but it isn’t the only contributor to the extra flab, but certainly managing weight will become much, much simpler. Sleep patterns will improve. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to get up at 3am to go to the bathroom and then not be able to get back to sleep. I’d frequently lose 1, 2, even 3 hours of sleep because of this interruption (admittedly, my affection for Twitter doesn’t help in getting back to sleep either). More energy overall, and with that more likely that I’ll feel like getting some exercise and pursuing the hobbies I supposedly love, but haven’t felt like doing lately. Will look better and feel better. Not that I got completely drunk very often but never having to experience a hangover again is a definite plus. Not having to ever worry about a DUI is also something I’ve thought about. It will probably increase my life-span. I’m almost positive of it. I’ll save a ton of money. At this point I can’t think of a reason not to do it.
I did consider the downside of it. It will make some social situations a little more awkward. Right now a big part of our social life is centered around food, drink, and friends. But I think this change is manageable there. I probably won’t get invited to do any wine tours and those opportunities come up once in awhile living in the middle of wine country. Or if I do go, I’m not sure how I’ll contribute to the conversation much. Last but not least, I think it will be a bit of an adjustment for my wife Donna, but I’m hoping she’ll understand the upside and get behind the new me.
Another factor I almost forgot to mention is the overall ‘path to better health’ I have been supposedly been on since my stroke in 2014. Because it was determined that I had extremely high cholesterol, I/we have made some food changes for the better. We consume a lot of fish and chicken and a I don’t eat red meat. I try to stay away from dairy, especially cheese and eggs. I was a heavy consumer of dairy for a while there. You’d think such fundamental changes would result in a healthier Bill, but if you combine a set of positive changes with a big negative change – like an increase in alcohol intake, then you’ve just negated that hard word. And that’s exactly what I was doing. My path to better health includes some weight loss and more exercise. Weight loss is extremely difficult to accomplish if you consume as many empty calories as I was doing. It’s nearly impossible. Exercise is also more difficult if you’re a heavy drinker because the number of hours a day at your disposal for exercise is decreased. After 2-3 glasses of wine in the evening there’s no way I’m working out on the weights or getting some aerobic exercise. My day ends before I get the chance. And it’s not just the exercise. It’s the hobbies as well. Music, writing, building stuff. All things I really enjoy doing but I think alcohol is getting in the way of me doing more of these.
So I’ve made a pretty major decision today. It feels right. This isn’t one of those things you proclaim “okay, I’m going to try it for a while and see how it goes.” I think you have to either be all-in or else forget it. At least it’s that way for me. I’m not particularly good at moderating and probably never will be. It’s just part of my DNA that I have to accept. It sucks that I can’t handle it like other people can, but that’s life in the big city.
So here we go. I appreciate everyone’s understanding and support! It’s not an easy decision to come to, but there it is.