You wake up, begrudgingly, from a shitty night’s sleep. After hitting the snooze button about three more times than you intended, you huff, puff, and put your feet on the floor. You’re in a heightened state of annoyance, and you haven’t even taken your first step of the day.

Things don’t get much better throughout the day. You vacillate between wanting to nap and telling everyone who dares to make eye contact with you to f*ck off. You’re hungry about two hours earlier than you would typically be and snack on things like Baconators and fries.

I’m not drinking tonight!

Adding to your angst is waking up every morning thinking, “I’m not drinking tonight. I’m tired of feeling like shit.” And you mean it. Until people piss you off for 8 hours straight (courtesy of the advanced crankiness you woke up with), and that bottle of red wine above the refrigerator whispers in your ear that it’s 4:00 p.m. somewhere.

So it really isn’t much of a mystery how many of us get to this stage (middle 40s/early 50s) and question our relationship with alcohol. I know I have.

We have that inner dialogue, “Has alcohol become a problem? Am I a problem drinker?” We invariably tell ourselves that our jobs, relationships, and finances are in order. We can quickly point to someone who is more of a booze-fueled disaster than we are.

Questioning my relationship with alcohol

I’ve been a moderate drinker for the last few years and was in a relationship with an alcoholic but didn’t know it until things took such an ugly and dramatic turn. I thought we were just partying, getting to know each other, and celebrating meeting a life partner at midlife.

I was wrong. I was a moderate drinker whose shut-off valve still worked after 2 1/2 (admittedly very strong) drinks. My partner’s shut-off valve was broken, but I honestly didn’t know the full scope of alcoholism until I was slogging along in toxic chaos.

So even though alcohol destroyed my relationship, killed a dear family friend, and was physically morphing me into someone I didn’t recognize, it wasn’t until I hit menopause that I decided to take a serious break. Alcohol and I are fighting.

I was tired of being tired. I was tired of carrying around 20 extra pounds that I couldn’t lose. I was tired of having a shitty attitude. I was tired of waking up at 2:00 a.m. and then tossing and turning for another hour or two, only to wake up a couple of hours later feeling like I had hardly slept at all.

What alcohol and shitty boyfriends have in common

Alcohol had become like that bad boyfriend that you keep going back to – out of habit, even though you know they’re going to make you feel like shit. It was time to remove ALL the poison from my life.

So when my friend asked me last October if I wanted to do Dry January with her, I was all in. I had already started to read Quit Like a Woman, the Radical Choice Not to Drink In a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol. If you are considering taking a break from alcohol, I can’t recommend this book enough.

In the past, I would quit drinking for a month here and there. I quit for 60 days a couple of years ago. This feels different. The risk/benefit analysis just doesn’t pencil out in favor of alcohol anymore.

Do I really need to throw alcohol on this fire?

Now that I’m menopausal, my mind, body, and emotions are like a jazz band. Part of me is off playing the flute, part of me is playing the trombone, part of me is hammering away on a piano in desperate need of tuning, part of me is in the corner cranking out the soothing sounds of a beginner saxophone player, and part of me is playing the cymbals with the sarcastic enthusiasm of a sophomore girl. No one is playing together – everyone is just off doing their own thing, making a ton of f*cking noise. Do I really need to throw gas (alcohol) on this fire?

For me, the time has come. I have other physical, mental, and emotional challenges – courtesy of a midlife hormonal cocktail – that doesn’t leave any room for alcohol. Being on this side of this decision, with a world full of things to learn and do makes me feel like a superhero.

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