My life coach told me to write about the places that I’d like to avoid. She told me those are the places that others need a voice, a kind hand, some perspective. So from that place I humbly share with you this lesson from my own life.
There was a really frustrating day that I had a couple months ago. As I was driving home from the store I remember thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine to unwind. And something inside of me became unsettled, almost at alert.
I ignored that unsettled place. Drove home, had a glass of wine, and went on with my days.
But then, then another frustrating day came and another and another, like they do in motherhood and life, and the same thought crept into my mind. This time it was during homework. That time at the grocery store walking down the pizza aisle with the wine on the other side. And all of a sudden I started to pay attention to those unsettling thoughts about how I was equating wine with stress relief and all of a sudden I didn’t like it.
It’s not that I don’t love wine or have a problem with having a glass of wine now and then. Don’t worry – I’m not going to preach to you – I’m just sharing with you my experience. My issue was that all of a sudden my brain decided that stress relief on a bad day equaled that glass of wine. And I didn’t want that synapse to solidify in my brain. So out of the blue, I decided that for the rest of the year I would not have a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Wine was no longer going to be the solution for stress relief.
I downloaded the Streaks app and thought that the no wine journey would be easy. But here I am, 37 days in, and ready to share my story.
Let me tell you I was surprised. I was almost humbled at how a simple enjoyment on stressful nights had turned into a habit that was a bit challenging to break. But, I don’t like to be controlled by things (which is the whole premise of my book The Brave Art of Motherhood) and since I value my willpower, so I became determined to break this habit and gain control and in the process I discovered some truths.
Like this: Wine is marketed to moms. On memes, teeshirts, mugs, jokes, cards and so forth. Think about it: Wine O’clock or Mommy’s Sippy Cup or the most expensive part of having kids is all the wine. It’s just everywhere, my friends, everywhere. Wine is preached as the solution. Once I stepped away I was shocked at how many many many times I was reminded during my Target trip that wine was the “answer” to the days issue. It really made me aware of how subtle advertising can be in solidifying behaviors. And it also made me aware that for those who struggle to quit how thick the dependency on alcohol and wine is within our culture.
Or this: The first couple weeks are hard. Especially if you’ve developed it as the solution to stress relief. Now, remember, I’m not even talking about a bunch of wine, I’m talking about a glass here and there throughout the week and I had a challenging time not thinking if only I had a glass of wine I wouldn’t feel so anxious. But the truth is this – when I drank that glass of wine I actually felt MORE anxious. Wine just aggravated me more and made me more miserable.
Which leads to this: wine is not the solution for anxiety, bad days, etc… Sure it’s fine here and there, but if that is the solution to kind of numb the pressures it really only makes them worse. I didn’t want to be numb to my own life, after all I wrote a book about waking up and reclaiming one’s life, so the idea that I was allowing this to numb me from progress really really irked me. I started thinking about how many hours a day I am given and how many nights with my kids and I just didn’t want my nights numb to them, in a way. I’d rather feel life, be sharp – even if it meant feeling and pushing through the hard things.
But: you need accountability. This times a million and a million. I told my partner, Dan, that I was going to give up wine. And I told him that I was dead serious. He knew how I enjoyed it – that glass of merlot with spaghetti – and also knew that I was serious about gaining a new perspective for my anxious days. So he would be the one I’d text on nights that were stressful and he’d give me a list of things to do. Oh yes, and I drank a ton of sparkling water.
There will be no good ideal time on your calendar to give it up either. I learned that too. In fact, my decision to not have a glass of wine at night came a week before I went to New York City and was on The Today Show. Well, that first night out to eat, what did I want? That wine. And this time it wasn’t out of stress – it was more because I appreciated it and wanted to celebrate – but Dan, Dan was my accountability person, pushed me gently to not. So I didn’t. And I was proud of myself. That was Day 6 in my Streaks App and I loved seeing the day flip over. Then the next week I went out with friends and I was the only one at the table that didn’t order something to drink. That was hard. But I also had a crazy sense of pride when I ordered my ridiculously expensive but so worth it sparkling water drink with smashed strawberries and cucumbers in it.
You’ll learn: that many many people will say that you’re crazy for giving it up or that they could never do that. I think that we all can do it, but it actually takes discipline and examining your patterns and motives. Since I didn’t have wine as my chill pill on stress filled days I had to deal with the stress and find other ways of managing it. The cool thing was is we started watching movies as a family or I’d play piano or I’d clean (my house is much cleaner…hahaha). I really think that when we support each other and love each other even the things and places that are hard can be accomplished. Instead of joking about mom and wine jokes what happens if we develop new solutions to stress and support each other?
Eliminating things – whether it is wine, a food group, media, whatever – teaches us that we have great discipline. I once heard a fitness coach talking about eating this diet without carbs and sugar and hearing that whenever anyone would say it was so hard to not have coffee with cream and sugar they would retort back that – fighting cancer is hard, changing your coffee was not. That stuck with me – that idea of what is uncomfortable and not convenient might actually not be hard. We just attach it to that. This whole process gave me new appreciation for my own will power, for what really is hard, and motivated me to look at other patterns and ruts I was stuck in as well.
Here’s the coolest thing: all of a sudden at about week four I realized that days had gone by without me thinking about that go-to glass of wine at night. And the realization was so freeing, so powerful, so affirming. I was stronger than my cravings or patterns or habits.
And so are you. Don’t ever believe that you cannot accomplish something that seems impossible. Because you can do it.
One last thing: everyone wonders if there are any benefits. Well, this is what happened to me (because I’m not a doctor): I sleep better, I’m less anxious, my skin, which I thought was due to hormones of being in your forties, cleared up like crazy and I have tremendous more energy and will power. I also became hyper aware of the abundance of jokes about wine (see above) that fill our daily lives.
So, maybe you’ll try this, and maybe not. I didn’t share to tell you wine is evil. Rather, just to give you the perspective of one mom saying no to the wine shirts of the world and discovering that she doesn’t need Netflix and Wine and is just fine the way she is with a clear head. Will I give up wine forever at night? Who knows? Probably not, but I am committed to never having it be the solution to stress again.
Listen. I know that us moms are under tremendous and crazy pressure. Trust me, I know. Going through divorce and being a single mom isn’t an easy row. But I also want you to know, from the most loving place in my heart, that the glass of wine at night is not your solution. Change is, doing the hard thing, dealing. That’s the solution. I believe in you.
Love you guys.
ps. If you’d like to get my book and learn how you can change your life and do hard things go here -> The Brave Art of Motherhood
Rachel–thank you for this–funny thing–during this time of sheltering in place with our families, I discovered that my ritual of having a glass of wine most nights to destress was actually causing me to become annoyed with everyone around me. So I decided to stop and ever since then (about 1.5 months now) I am experience a lot more joy and fun moments with the kids. And as a result we have added some more fun filled activities to do together. My husband came up with this http://www.mnomusic.com/the-music-lesson.html and now we and others can play music my ear. Music–the ultimate connector. Hope this helps
You are welcome. Sending you love and bravery.
Great article. Thank You.