Never say never. That's the lessons I learned from the pigeon in "An American Tail," so this may be more of a break than a breakup. But I'm on a break from wine.
Throughout my adulthood, but especially since I had kids and couldn't spare a hangover, I've been in search of the exact right system or amount of drinking to do per day or per week that equals fun and pleasure but not make me feel bad that later that night or the next day.
Parenting and drinking go extremely well together, but I began noticing certain trends that were maybe funny or weird the first time it happened but not so much more than once. First is the sleep: even if I didn't get sloshed, if I had over a certain number of drinks, my sleep was wrecked for the night. This sucks when you have kids but even more when you don't have kids. I have wasted several childfree nights -- vacation, mom's night alone in a hotel -- where I ruined what could have been a great night's sleep by having one or two too many and, after falling asleep normally, woke up at 2, 3, or 4, unable to fall back asleep and instead fixating on what life would be like if I never drank again.
Then there's the mood. The last couple of winters, Steve and the boys and I would cuddle together in the basement on a weekend evening to watch a movie and pass time until dinner. I would make popcorn and pour myself a glass of white wine. I'd drink it while making the popcorn and transporting it downstairs. By the time I was downstairs and settled down, I'd be about halfway through. I'd eat some popcorn, finish my wine, and go get another glass. It was really pleasurable and delicious but I'm also someone who is inclined to ingest things quickly. I eat fast and I drink fast. That can add up to me, a 5'4 woman, having 2 big glasses of white wine in under an hour. Then what would occur is that I would just get mad at everybody I lived with and often just at men in general. I'd rage-clean, thinking about how most men are inconsiderate jerks and I couldn't believe that I was stuck in a house with three of them and I was all alone.
For awhile I just tried to think of a way to try to get a fix on how to magically limit my wine drinking. I know that women are not supposed to have more than 1-2 per day max, but having a big cold glass of sauvignon blanc or rose in my hand is like having a big dripping ice cream cone in my hand. It's there and I'm gonna drink it. And then get a refill.
Knowing that bothered me, but at the same time I didn't feel like I had an alcohol problem. I don't drink in secret and 90% of the time I stop drinking once the kids are in bed. I don't care to feel drunk, that's for sure. But there can be this nice little buzzed-out zone that's slightly better than being full-on sober. The problem is, with wine, that zone can be very slender and if I stepped out of it I would get angry as mentioned above, or sleep crappy that night, which is not worth it. On top of all that is the guilt that comes with drinking--if I could just mitigate it or stop, I would probably live longer and/or look better.
There is a really great reported 2016 essay by Bonnie Tsui in the New York Times about the search of finding the right balance between teetotaling and alcoholism. Tsui argues that it's a huge expanse, and there is nothing wrong with being mindful of that expanse and where we stand in it. I had often wondered that if just by thinking about this balance so much, if that meant I inherently had a problem. But I don't think there are very many habits that one manages to straddle in a naturally perfect way.
Anyway, I knew deep down that I was not willing, nor did I really think it was necessary, to stop drinking altogether. But I finally just decided it would be simpler to stop drinking wine than to try to figure out exactly how much of it to drink or how to trick myself into stopping effortlessly after 1 or 2 glasses.
Instead, I've been embracing beer, cider and sometimes whiskey as well, all of which lend themselves much better to nursing. I have never felt a Pavlovian response to a photo of a glass of Scotch or a can of beer the way I do when I see a picture of a sweating glass of chilled wine set out in some sort of outside room scenario with twinkling lights and a gorgeous cheese and nice patio furniture and fun and friends and...where was I?
Yes. I don't love my new drinks as much as wine, but that's probably for the best. I feel different if I have two beers compared to two glasses of wine. One drink is one drink and doesn't spill into another. I feel less mad about stuff. I feel less like a crumpled up piece of tissue the next day.
I don't know if it's wine specifically that is the issue--that something about the way it's made interacts with my body chemistry--or if I just like wine a whole lot more and because of the way it's bottled, and more likely to drink a lot of it the way I'm a lot more likely to eat a pile of Thin Mints because they come in sleeves instead of in individual wrappers.
I'm a bit sad about leaving the wine tribe -- it's what I do with my friends, and it seems to go down especially well when parents get together -- but I'm glad I found something that works for me. When I told another wine-lover about leaving the grapes behind, she said "Why? Life is short!" But hours of not sleeping, of raging, of feeling crappy, also can come with that short life and maybe I can skip over a few of those.