Five Reasons Why I Love My Life More Without Alcohol (Even Though I Used to Really Love to Drink!)

My first memory of alcohol was as a little girl tasting my dad’s beer while sitting on his lap on Saturday afternoons after he mowed the lawn. I loved the taste of the “forbidden” golden, sparkly and fizzy-bitter tasting liquid that sometimes made me hiccup.

My next beer memory was at a friend’s house after school in 10th grade. Since no one was home, we downed a couple, I got my first buzz and loved it.

In college my first date was with a senior who took me to a bowling alley where I drank two beers and got the whirlies, which I didn’t love, but with practice, the whirlies went away and I loved the extra fun drinking brought to parties.

Junior year I studied in Rome and learned to drink wine that was available for the equivalent of $1 from the school’s vending machine in the dining room. Didn’t take me long to learn to love both red and white.

As a “working girl” in the 70s, I followed my mother’s advice to drink scotch and avoid the sweet “girly” drinks that caused hangovers. An acquired taste, but a quicker high, I learned to love scotch.

In my late 20s, night law school wouldn’t have been the same without a wine before and a scotch after class four nights a week for four long years. I loved the interludes these drinks provided.

When pregnant, my doctor told me that a little wine now and then was okay, so I reduced my consumption to a couple glasses of wine per week and loved that I could still imbibe, albeit on a much reduced scale.

For the next 18 years, while raising my daughter, I loved the time of night after dinner and homework, when I could relax with a good book and my vino.

At 50, and a partner in a large law firm, nothing was as much fun as gathering after hours in the bar on the first floor frequented by local politicos and power brokers and loving the buzz of intense conversations and grey goose martinis.

At 60 I retired from full time work and spent more time with wine. Over the next few years, my love affair with wine began to wane. What used to make me feel good was now  necessary to not feel bad.

At 67 I quit. It’s been almost a year and here are five reasons (in addition to health, longevity, appearance and money) why I now love my life MORE without alcohol!!!

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1) Waking Up Bright Eyed – So this is what it feels like to be a normal person. Clear-headed and bright-eyed, I enjoy a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, check my emails, FB and Instagram, watch TV news, take a walk with my grand dog, or take a swim –  all before really beginning my day’s adventures.

2) Feeling Lighter, Both Inside and Out – So this is what it feels like without a monkey on my back. For years I worried that I might be drinking too much and often stopped but later started up again. It became an obsession. Drinking was on my mind way too much. Now the negativity is gone and my mind is free to think about things that matter and that bring me joy. In addition to my inside, my outside is also lighter having shed the extra pounds and belly fat that came from drinking so many empty calories.

3) Realizing the Sky is the Limit – So this is what an optimist feels like without the chemical depressants found in alcohol raining on her parade. Intellectually I knew that alcohol was a depressive, but I never thought it would really affect me. Guess it’s like that joke about how good it feels when someone stops beating you. My outlook is now happy most of the time, my self-esteem is palpable and I do feel that the “sky is my only limit” in living a full life.

4) Living Rather than Watching Life – So this is what it feels like to be full of life and do the things I always said I wanted to do if I ever had the time (and energy). I’m now writing, volunteering for the causes that evoke my passion, reading non-fiction, studying women’s history, taking other history classes, sailing, traveling, making new friends and am even open to potential romance.

5) Being Free to be Me – So this is what it feels like to be comfortable in your own skin (wrinkly and sun-spotted as it may be). Finally free to be me, I decided to go public in the hope that my story may encourage someone else who may “love” drinking a bit too much to find out how much better life without drinking can be. One of my biggest surprises about life without alcohol is that I’m still fun and you can be too!

 

 

 

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My Neck

I love Nora Ephron’s book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”. I have been feeling bad about my neck since I was about 55. As the years passed, my feelings grew as my weight increased and my necked sagged. All my photos are full face – no side shots allowed.

At 62 I had a consult with a plastic surgeon. When I told him I wanted to lose weight, he told me to wait on the surgery until I reached my weight loss goal – no point in sucking out the fat, cutting the muscles and stretching the skin just to have it sag again on an otherwise svelte neck – assuming I actually lost the weight.

Soon I’ll be 68 and my weight loss goal is almost complete (btw, eliminating alcohol can do that for you). So I decided it was time to head back to the plastic surgeon (who btw, seemed to have gained the weight I lost). I learned that the procedure would cost $8500 and I’d need to spend at least 2 weeks recovering. Incisions would be made to suction out the fat, tighten the muscles and pull back the skin. There would be pain and suffering and I’d have to keep my head bound and elevated even during sleep – assuming I was lucky enough to catch a few winks in such an altered state.

So now that I’m just about ready to go under the knife, something unforeseen happened recently while reading in bed.

As I do most nights, I was lying on my side in bed reading my kindle before going to sleep. Rather than pull my nightgown sleeve down to avoid looking at my arm (the reason I wear long sleeves to bed), for some unknown reason, I pushed it up and began to study this appendage as if it were not actually mine but rather part of a sculpture in a museum.

I noticed that when I lowered the hand, certain veins popped out. I also noticed random wrinkles lining the skin over its knuckles and finger bones. I followed the patterns the brown spots made around the web between the thumb and forefinger and around the wrist. The recently suntanned skin accentuated the changes wrought by time and the little wave-like wrinkles covering the part of my forearm that sagged while held upright.

Looking at the hand reminded me of looking at my mother’s hands years ago. I remember how I liked all her wandering rope-like veins, spots and almost translucent skin. I would tell her how much character her hands conveyed. She’d retrieve her hands and shoo me away with a comment about wishing she could cover them with gloves.

As I studied my hand, I noticed the same crisscrossed vein that my mother had. It was in the same spot on each of our right hands. Why was it that I thought this vein design was beautiful on my mother’s hand but ugly on my own? Why was it that “character” in an FullSizeRenderaging body was a badge of honor for others but shameful for me? Maybe I was looking at my body through the wrong lens. Maybe it was time to change my perspective. Maybe it was time to appreciate rather than criticize.

Contemplating my new insight, I remembered a pencil sketch that I bought many years ago at a roadside stand in Baja. It was a portrait of a wizened old man wearing a sombrero and smoking a cigarette. Deep lines circled his eyes and jutted out from his mouth telling the story of a life lived hard in Mexico’s sunbaked climate. I loved that drawing because in the face, and particularly the eyes, one could imagine the story of how a young boy became an old man – a tale of survival in each crevice on his face.

It occurred to me that no one gets old without his or her body showing wear. Smooth skin, without the marks of living, has no tale to tell. Sun darkened skin with spots, ruts, veins and wrinkles could be considered the map of that person’s life journey.

Having stumbled upon this new truth, I am beginning to learn how to embrace the body that has carried my spirit these past 68 years.

I wish to embrace the legs that helped me explore the world while I walked, biked, skied and danced.

I wish to embrace the hands that clapped, wrote stories, trimmed sails and held other hands.

I wish to embrace the arms that held my baby when she was born and my father when he died.

I wish to embrace the face that has laughed, cried, and witnessed love and loss.

I wish to embrace the body, both naked and clothed, of a 68-year-old woman who is still able to enjoy a full life.

And lastly, as my perspective is changing, I wish to embrace my neck as it holds my head high savoring my last act (and spending that $8500 on new adventures both near and far).