Drinking Alcohol :: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

At 4 years old, alcohol began its journey as a theme in my life.

We moved to Lafayette as part of my father’s job transfer in 1979. He worked in oilfield sales and part of his job was to entertain clients by taking them out for food and drinks. Being one of the unlucky ones, my dad became addicted to alcohol. His addiction eventually ended my parents’ marriage, and my sister and I became every other weekend and holiday children.

When I was in the 4th grade, my dad went through addiction treatment and was sober for about 10 years. His return to alcohol did not last long. He died of his addiction in 2006. In and around the same time, my husband’s then teenagers began entering into their own substance addictions. As part of this journey, I have been through several family week programs offered for addicts and families at the completion of inpatient addiction treatment. The countless hours of therapy lead me to inquire who and where am I as an alcohol consumer myself?

While it is true that some people never “cross the invisible line” of addiction, I wonder is the reward worth the risk?

Last year at my annual OBGYN appointment, my doctor gave me the raised eyebrow and told me of the increased risk of breast cancer with alcohol consumption. His statement scared me but not enough to give wine up at that time. The need to look at my alcohol use finally struck me earlier this year. The Lenten season was approaching, offering me the perfect opportunity and excuse to give up wine without pressure from the outside.

I was easily drinking 2 glasses of wine a night for over 10 years.

Wine was so much a part of my life that 40 of my closest friends flew cross county for my 40th birthday in Napa, CA which included 3 days of wine tasting. Who am I kidding? It was really wine drinking not tasting. My husband and I have an intensive wine collection that we started in 2002. We have spent months in Napa researching, collecting, and participating in the couples sport we affectionately called “wine tasting.” It was a lot of fun. Even to the point that we considered purchasing property to start our own vintage. 

To prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem, I occasionally took a night off from drinking or only had one glass. I was lucky or blessed to have stayed on the safe side of the invisible line and rarely cross the line to drunkenness. Even so, I took chances on my life.

I questioned and doubted … would I really be able to put the wine down for 6 weeks?

The first few weeks of life without wine were tough. I drank sparkling water or kombucha in a wine glass. After a few weeks, I didn’t need a crutch anymore and positive things were happening in my body. Drinking coffee as a means to kick start my day was no longer necessary. I am hydrated, energized, have fewer headaches, lost 10 pounds, and my eyes are brighter. I am able to be present in my life.

Most importantly, I have more energy and tolerance in attending to my daughter and husband. The list of pros of life without wine are stacking up and so are the cons. What is it about drinking wine that contributes to my life? Sure, there is the social aspect and it does help when winding down in the evenings. Or does it? When we gals get together I rarely hear, “Would you like a cup of tea?” Rather, the question is, “Red or White?”

Strategies for a nondrinker in social settings and at the witching hour.

I began ordering sparkling water at restaurants and that works well. Providing myself outlets to decompress that didn’t involve alcohol was challenging. I have grown to use controlled breathing, yoga, long baths, meditation, mommy time outs and warm tea.

While I am certainly not advocating that wine drinking is bad, there is enough research out there to support that drinking wine daily puts a person in one of 3 categories. They are either a habitual drinker, a problem drinker or an addict. I gave wine drinking a few chances after lent. The clarity and cleanliness that now exists in my body are not worth feeling of alcohol in my system.

Wine has its place. That place, for me, is once in a blue moon or a rare vintage I just want to taste. It’s not a nightly, weekly or even monthly affair. I am freed of the concern of crossing the invisible line and new possibilities have opened.

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