Recently, I read this article on Medium. And boy, do I relate. Not that I say I am “sober.” Calling yourself sober, to me, implies a conscious decision not to drink. A struggle to overcome temptation. An overthrowing of an addiction. I take this very seriously, because I come from a family of alcoholics. And also because I struggled for 10 long years to quit smoking before I finally succeeded.There was blood, and sweat, and tongue blisters. There were food binges and food strikes. Tears. Tantrums. Nightmares. Sleepless nights. Terrifying body changes. Thoughts of suicide. 3 a.m. smoke runs. If you think I am exaggerating about any of that, clearly you’ve never tried Chantix. I spent thousands of dollars on products and gimmicks, and I finally prevailed. So I seriously respect anyone who has done the same.
Quitting drinking, for me, was easy; I had a harder time giving up soda. I quit drinking when I started trying to become pregnant, and just…never took it back up again. I thought I would miss it, but I honestly never have. During my pregnancy with Anya, one of my strongest pregnancy aversions was the smell of alcohol. Eating dinner in a restaurant was torture; I could smell the mixed drink being nursed by a man three tables away, and it made me so ill I could have cried. While I do not have such a strong reaction to the smell now, I still can’t stand the taste or smell of alcohol. Nor do I enjoy the physical sensation of intoxication. And the hangover from a single beverage can ruin the next day entirely. So it’s not such a stretch to imagine why I never bothered to reacquire my taste for the stuff.
If only I still drank, I could bond with other moms over “Mommy Juice.” I kind of feel at a loss for words now when people get all excited about alcohol. “Oh, I used to love that, too” just doesn’t endear you to anybody, you know?
Alcohol is not the only thing I’ve given up since becoming a parent. I also quit drinking coffee. Oh, when Anya was a baby I hit the bean juice pretty hard. I’m talking three pots a day. But I eventually realized that drinking coffee was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I woke tired and headachy, so I drank coffee. The coffee wired me to the point where I could not sleep that night, so I stayed up late and slept poorly. Which made me even more tired the next morning, so I drank more coffee. On and on, until I felt like a zombie pretty much 24/7. Finally, I realized how stupid I was being, and switched back to green tea. Now the only time I wake up with a headache is when one of the kids doesn’t sleep. Which is pretty much every night, so why do anything to compound that?
Giving up these things has made me realize just how much we “treat” ourselves with things that are bad for us. I still do it. Having a bad day? Cookies! Tight deadline on a long work day? Fistfuls of chips in my pie hole. Kids acting like little terrors? You’ll find me crouched down in the laundry room, sneaking chocolate. It’s not all sweets, either. If I put in a long, exhausting day, my id demands a Netflix binge while I play Farm Heroes Super Saga, even if that means staying up hours past my bedtime.
I am not alone in this. Everywhere I look, I see it: Wine! Coffee! Cupcakes! Internet til 2 a.m.! We are a race of 3-year-olds, using the smallest excuse to act up.
I’m trying to reform my evil ways, though. I’ve found that meditation and exercise are far more soothing, useful treats than sugar. It’s just that old habits die hard. I sometimes fall back on the old crutches out of habit.
Imagine how much better I would feel if, instead of popping a sucker in my mouth when a client piles another rush project on my already full workload, I took a breath, sat back, and meditated for 5 minutes?
Imagine how much better life would be if we weren’t all strung out on caffeine and sugar, hung over, and sleep deprived? Maybe stress wouldn’t even be all that stressful.
I’m not saying we should never indulge. I am a firm believer in indulging. I am Miss Moderation. (In fact, that was my downfall when I tried to quit smoking. It took a few attempts for me to realize that, at least with cigarettes, it was cold turkey or nothing.) No, what I am talking about is more of a toxic indulgence. Binging on what we know is bad for us because we feel we have an excuse. There is a difference between having a celebratory piece of cake at a birthday party and eating half a cake for dinner.
The Medium article was absolutely right in its assessment that women are encouraged to drink because our lives are ridiculously busy. But it isn’t just women. Men, too, fall into the “treat” trap. And we’re teaching future generations to do the same.
I’m going to try to do better, though. For myself, and for the little ones who look up to me. We’ll all feel much better for it.