From Wine to W(h)ine Free: Five Things Joining a "Dry February" Club Taught Me About Living Life to the Fullest

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I've almost made it: We're at the 26th day mark. So that means I have gone twenty-six consecutive days without a glass of wine. I know it's chump change to some of you out there who have been at this since January. Anyone can do it. Only, I really didn't think I could. Drinking wine has become so much a part of my nightly ritual for so long, I can't remember an adult meal that I haven't had a glass in hand. Crazy, right?

Drinking wine became so much a part of who I was, I found myself taking pictures of my half-filled glass at night while sitting alone and drinking with a good book. Whenever I found a new bottle of wine that I loved, I took a picture of that too. I couldn't wait to share my latest "fav" with people. Wine was one of my favorite--and safest--topics of conversation. Who is going to argue with you over whether or not wine tastes/feels good? Come on, live a little!

It wasn't just about the flavor of the wine (though, let me be clear, a good Cabernet is like tasting heaven in a bottle), it was about the ritual. It was about the feeling I got holding the glass in my hands. It was about the conversations that seemed to flow as easily as the wine did. It loosened me up. With each sip, I could relax. I could talk about anything with anyone, and not feel nervous or anxious. I could tell the truth. Let me tell you what I really think.... (Oh here we go, another person with a glass in her hand who can solve the world's problems.) And then of course there is the wonderful sense of peace that comes with the first sip, and then the nice full-bodied (mine, not the wine) numb feeling that arrives by the end of the first glass.

Ahhh! Now this is living, I would think.

Only I wasn't. I wasn't living at all.

I was drinking. Wine. A lot of it. And I was whining. A lot. I was complaining about how tired I was, how stressed I was, how I didn't seem to have any time or energy to get anything done. (Says the woman in a giant sweater and sweatpants curled up on a couch, drinking wine, and watching reruns with her hands in a Cheeze-It box).

I wasn't living. I was sitting on my ass. I was calm, yes, for a little while, but mostly I was numb. Something had to change. And that something had to be me, and my habits.

Since I've been on a kick of making good choices since the beginning of this year, and been eliminating a lot of the unhealthy parts of my diet and lifestyle, I was game when a friend of mine encouraged me to join her in a "Dry Month Challenge" group on Facebook.

I steeled myself at first. "This is going to be hard," I said aloud as I clicked "Yes" to the online invite.

To my surprise, it wasn't. It was actually one of the easiest and best things I have done for myself in a long time. In fact, I discovered a few things--not just about drinking wine, but about living in general--in these 26 days, and I don't think I am ever going back. Sure I loved you, Wine. These past few years together have been real. It was good while it lasted, but I am breaking up with you. It's not you. It's me. I've changed. And since I've joined the Dry February Challenge I learned these five things about you/my life:

  1. Drinking regularly can be a habit, but can be no less debilitating and judgment-clouding than an addiction. Granted, I wasn't addicted to wine. I didn't crave a glass every day. I didn't suffer from withdrawal of any kind when I stopped pouring it into my glass at dinner at each night. But, what I realized was I was being pretty mindless about my drinking habits. I poured without question. I did it to make myself feel better. It was an easy and quick fix, but I wasn't addressing the real issues: Why was I drinking wine to feel better in the first place? Why didn't I try to eliminate the stresses in my life? Why didn't I try to make some positive changes instead of drink?
  2. When you fill yourself up with good stuff, you won't have space for the crap. Perhaps the best part of this entire journey of choosing the good has been that, well, I have been putting only good things in my body. I've been spending time with good people. I've been spending my time doing "good" things--reading good books, watching good movies, taking good, long walks, and having good, long positive and life-affirming talks with my friends and kids. With all this time doing "good" I don't have space in my stomach or my life for crap. I am full. Literally, I am full of good stuff.
  3. You'll get a hell of a lot more done. Instead of staying up to have a glass or two of wine with my husband, I am going to bed earlier. Because I am going to bed earlier, I am getting up earlier. I am able to exercise, eat breakfast, write, and read ALL before the rest of the family gets up! By the time everyone starts their day, I have done all the things I had hoped to accomplish. I used to whine that there was no time to exercise, write, or read. Turns out, if you don't have a glass of wine, go to bed early, you'll find the time.
  4. You'll save money. In Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, she tells a story of how one couple estimated they spent $30,000 in 12 years on wine. I was all: That's insanity!That's a car!That's an addition to a house! That's what's left of my school loans! But, guess what? It's really not that much. That's only if you spend 50 bucks a week on wine, beer, or alcohol. If one (ahem, ahem) is buying, at minimum, 10-25 dollars a day on a bottle of wine, it could be as much as 150 bucks a week! That's--you guessed it--almost 100,000 on alcohol in 12 years! That's half of a mortgage, people. Yes, that's getting real. Probably sharing too much. But, seriously, booz can add up. Do you drink beer? Have a bad coffee habit? Go to Target once a week and spend 50 -100 bucks? Guess what folks, in 12 years: that's a house in the Midwest! Yeah, I am never buying a bottle of wine for myself again. Again.
  5. You'll lose weight, sleep better, and have more energy. So I've heard. In all seriousness, you will sleep better. You'll have a ton of more energy. Alcohol is a depressant. That means it makes you feel bummed and tired. That's no good if you're already feeling bummed and tired--and think a glass of wine of wine will fix it. Vicious Cycle?Ticket for One, please. My body is a physical anomaly, I don't lose or gain weight quickly. It sneaks up on me. It took me five years to realize that, shoot, these pants don't fit anymore. It will take me a long to time to see the results on the scale, but I am not worried about that, because I can feel them. And I feel good. Really good.