Journal #5: I Quit Drinking. The Sobriety Sitch.

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Hello, Life Well’d Hustlers (I don’t have a cool community name yet. Suggestions?) Six months since an update, ew, and no good excuse for it. Rather, I have tons of excuses, there’s just not a good one among them. The real, no-bullshit reason that I let passion projects fall to the way-side is because I’ve become too comfortable with the phrase, “I’ll work on it when I feel like it.”

When I feel like it.

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Those five words are toxic. You might as well just say, “Death to all productivity!” For me, ‘a successful blog with hundreds of pages of content and ten-thousand subscribers’ was a sexy and wildly motivating thought… for a while. When I realized that achieving this goal actually amounted to ‘time, effort, and hard work,’ the motivation fairy fucked off real quick. ‘When I feel like it’ became the new normal. And, well, I never really felt like it.

If only we could hold onto the momentum and excitement of a fresh project…

On an unrelated note: I’ve decided to change everything about my life!

Talk about a fresh project.

How will I change everything about my life, you ask? One tiny step at a time (lest we get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before us and quit before we’ve begun). I’ve committed to making small, positive changes and practicing them until they become muscle memory – ‘when I feel like it’ is no longer a valid measure of things. Still depressed as the dickens, but I’m hopeful all of this will one day lead to a moment of clarity akin to: “Wait. Did I trick myself into being happy and healthy? Sylvia, you sneaky little fuck!”

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The first change I’m working on? This poor, neglected blog.

I love my blog a silly amount; I feel purposeful and invigorated when I sit down and brain-dump, and I like the thought that a stranger could read what I wrote and find something useful out of it. I’m never short of writing ideas, and I seem to always have half a dozen drafts at the ready.

It’s just a matter of Doing The Thing more frequently & consistently than ‘when I feel like it.’ Luckily, I have a lovely coworker who hosts a writing group six(!) times a month, two hours at a time. Twelve hours of writing over the course of a month might not seem like much, but that’s about twelve more hours than I’ve been doing (as three posts in 2018 would illustrate nicely).

It’s a start.

The second life change, and the reason you’re here, is that I quit drinking.

How I Got Here

Drunk and flying in on a wine-soaked, dumpster-fire of hot, emotionally-wrecked garbage.

drunk alcohol GIF by Chelsea Handler

No, just kidding. Not nearly as dramatic.

It’s just because I got fat.

In February, I flew on a plane. A mistake, I know. They’re nothing more than heated metal tubes of bacteria and death (speaking as someone who has lived in a contained environment, it gets nasty quickly. Trust me.) In the days that followed, I was beset with vertigo 24/7 and dizzy to the point that I couldn’t stand for prolonged periods, let alone to drive to work.

I finally dragged myself to urgent care after a lot of people yelled at me about it. The nurse practitioner, I shit you not, looked in my ear for a half of a second and made a sound of barely restrained disgust. “Oh. Uh. That’s really infected. And full of fluid.”

Worst of all, when I first checked in, they weighed me.

First off, rude.

annoyed drake GIF by Saturday Night Live

Secondly, I honestly hadn’t weighed myself in over a year – I didn’t own a scale and wasn’t particularly interested in seeking one out. Denial, stretchy leggings, and hoodies were a fine way to live… until faced with the highest number you’ve ever seen on a medical-grade scale. After filling my prescription for amoxicillin, I went straight home, ordered a bathroom scale, and made a plan.

I’d been here before – wildly motivated, moderate success, interest wanes, progress stagnates, repeat. (Keen readers might recognize this pattern from the prologue above). I needed a new approach, and, unfortunately, I knew exactly what needed to happen:

Surprise! You’re sober now. It’s called a beer-belly for a reason.

I love beer. So much. I live in a state that is known for its craft beer production, and I am known for enjoying it. A cold, sour IPA during the summer with a basket of seasoned fries? Sign me the fuck up. I used to work in a brewery. Hell, I used to brew my own beer. There’s a yearly beer festival in my town, and I’ve attended every year for the last six years (the only one I missed was for a Lady Gaga concert, which, valid). “White-girl wasted” and I have met more than once.

And then, not to neglect my other child by playing favorites: red wine. It’s only in recent era that I’ve started drinking wine, but I’ve been drinking it like I’ve been making up for lost time. ‘Weekend wine’ has become part of my brand (and, more often than not, the weekend starts on Thursday and goes through Monday). And, side-bar, have we noticed how social media and pop culture romanticize the hell out of an image of a single, millennial lady drinking her feelings down to the bottom of a wine bottle?

e news wine GIF by E!

Beer, wine, and maybe some spiced rum here and there. It all adds up. Just because you drink it like water doesn’t mean it’s as calorie-free. I don’t care to lay out the numbers (read: shame), but I will estimate that I’ve been drinking the calorie equivalent of 1-3 lbs per month for as long as my drinking career has allowed for (I’m 29, now, for reference). It’s like lifestyle creep. Except with your waistband.

“Just cut down! It’s all about moderation!”

-_-

Kindly get the fuck out of here.

If you’re wholly unlike me and can adopt a ‘vices in moderation’ lifestyle, then congratu-friggin-lations. I, on the other hand, have zero self-control and am known for such party tricks as ‘eating this entire family-sized bag of salt-and-vinegar chips in one sitting.’ Out of sight, out of mind is the only way that I can counteract the mindset of a little is good, more is better that I seem to have been born with.

Also: alcohol is literal poison, and there’s no safe level of drinking.

That’s not to shame anyone – you did just read about my strong emotional attachment to craft beer and red wine, after all. Even sober, I still feel that way, but I don’t think it’s beneficial in any way to pretend that alcohol is anything akin to a health supplement.

So, I’m dry. As of writing this, it’s been about two months since my last drink. In conjunction with keto and intermittent fasting, I’m down a few pounds. It’s not just about vanity, though. I do have other reas–

kimmy schmidt jk GIF by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I’m tired of how goddamn yellow my teeth are.

It’s not life’s biggest tragedy, I’m aware, nor is it a debilitating insecurity that keeps me from functioning normally. Plus, nobody has perfect teeth, anyway – they’re veneers, people!

But, the future is looking bright: my teeth are remarkably whiter these days after ditching the red wine. Not going to lie, if I had to choose between wine or brighter teeth, it’s a no-brainer. Now, if only I could kick my coffee habit…

Anyway, moving on:

I was constantly bored and uncomfortable being alone with my thoughts, and my solution was to drink it away.

I live alone. Save for half a dozen roommates on the cruise ship, I’ve lived alone since 2013. It’s great; I’m my own best roommate, and I love not having to compromise on anything. Cook fish? Pee with the door open? Play dubstep at midnight? Done, done, and DONE.

chelsea show GIF by Chelsea Handler
Two Chelsea Handler gifs and two Kimmy Schmidt gifs already. I think that’s an accurate enough read on my personality for one blog post.

Living alone means being alone, though. That is, I spend a lot of time in my own head and tangled up in my thoughts, which is rarely a good thing. If you could listen to my inner monologue sans context, you would 100% think, “Wow. That girl fucking hates Sylvia. Wonder what she did to her.” I’m baffled at the people in this world who seem effortlessly happy and confident. For as long as I can remember, it’s been an uphill battle of just trying not to loathe myself 24/7.

You know what’s easier than confronting my inner demons and cheaper than therapy?

A $5 bottle of red wine.

Now that I’m dry, I’m truly realizing the extent to which I had self-medicated before. A recent, illustrative example: I was greeted with fresh bullshit at work within thirty seconds of walking through the door. My immediate thought was, “Christ above. I can’t wait until the day is over and I can dive into a bottle of Barefoot’s finest,” before I remembered that I wasn’t doing that anymore. I felt bereft – if getting wine-drunk and mindlessly watching five hours of Youtube & Twitch wasn’t the answer, then how was I supposed to get those icky, unpleasant feelings of negativity and self-loathing to go away?

Yes, I daresay, I’m past due for learning some emotional intelligence.

Let’s return to the idea of ‘small, positive changes incorporated into your daily life’ – I’m working to catch and challenge myself when I’m spiraling downward into a pit of negativity. I’ve allowed for the possibility that not every single bad thing Inner-Sylvia says about me is true, and that maybe I have more control over my thoughts and feelings than I’d like to believe.*

Alcohol, if not actively hindering this process, was certainly not helping anything.

It’s a difficult change to implement, and, frankly, mentally exhausting. My brain is never ‘off’ anymore (please don’t suggest meditating), and I find myself trying to figure out how to spend my time meaningfully.

Besides writing group (and work), I don’t have much. Yet. We’re in exploratory mode. I threw out the idea to a friend the other day, “What if I joined a dance class? What about ballet?”

More anon.

And, since this is a personal finance blog (allegedly), let’s do an exercise in misery money:

I estimate that I spent a total of ~$100 a month on alcohol. There was my weekend wine, my extra ‘it’s not the weekend but I just really need this’ booze, happy hours, and going out to eat with friends. That’s $1200 a year. One thousand, two hundred dollars on actual liver-poison that I just pee’d out an hour later, no happier or healthier for it.

For $1200, had I saved that in cash, I could have instead:

  • Paid my summer property taxes.
  • Paid my car insurance for the year.
  • Paid in full all the mechanical work my car needed this past year + license tabs.
  • Paid for my Internet and cell phone bills for the year.
  • Paid in full for my emergency room visit + all my medical copays + the work I had done on my roof + all the gas for my car for the past year.
  • Paid $100 extra in principal on my mortgage each month for a year (shaving off at least a year from the amortization schedule).
  • Paid back money a personal loan 2 months quicker.
  • Saved it for my hypothetical investment property.
  • Bought a sectional sofa (My IKEA Kivik isn’t cutting it anymore. My goal in life is to be as physically comfortable as possible.)
  • Bought either a cheap upright piano or a nice digital one.
  • Bought an annual parking pass for work so I wouldn’t have to live the Bus Life (yes, it is that fucking expensive).
  • Bought a new dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer.
  • Bought stocks that paid out dividends.
  • Donated it somewhere that would have used it more responsibly than I did: RIP Medical Debt | DaphneyLand | Heifer International

And on and on and on.

Closing thoughts

No use dwelling on the past. Sure, I could be thousands of dollars more flush, and all the more healthier for it, but, there’s no help for it now. All I can do is learn from it, move on, and make a better future.

And, losing weight while spending my time meaningfully working on this blog and thinking happier thoughts, all the while with whiter teeth? Maybe it’s not the best out of all possible futures, but it’s a start.

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