The most important thing for me to try is also the hardest
This resonated with me a lot. I quit drinking completely Jan. 1, 2020 after ushering in the new year with enough wine to make me wish I were dead the next morning and also incredibly grateful for not dying in my sleep. I declared later that day that I was DONE. The relief that flooded my body told me there was no turning back. Now, I wake up every morning grateful that I am not hungover and grateful I’m not craving it by mid-afternoon anymore. I feel lucky. Very lucky. I do think I drank to manage pain, chronic tension and discomfort in my body. But I also have had healthy coping skills and movement practices that have helped significantly. I had been drinking for so long, I just wasn’t ready to see how it was cancelling out my efforts until my final wake-up call. Maybe it decreased my pain momentarily, but it was clearly damaging to my physical and mental wellbeing.
I felt this one not because of alcohol (which I absolutely and unequivocally do not tolerate—it's like detonating a bomb in my intestines) but because of my one decaf extra short americano habit.
Dude, the first sip of that sucker is often the finest moment of the day, and the moments I spend indulging in sheer coffee goodness are moments that I do not care as much about pain and malaise. I *relish* it. I never take it for granted. In a life of pain and torture, a simple pleasure really is that good.
I have "tried" to quit, because of the expense (turns out I love shots out of a $6k espresso machine, so this is a $4/day habit, with tip), the potential health benefits (I do sometimes have a mild MCAS reaction if my "bucket" is already overfull), and just the logistics (I only have so much energy in a day, surely I should save it for more than a schlep to the coffeeshop?) And I've tried to justify it, because it seems to regulate my digestion a little, gets me out of the house every morning, forces me to see the other humans, and sets a tone for my day...plus it's just plain pleasurable in a time in my life where I generally feel miserable.
Every night, I think, eh, I don't *really* need to go to coffee in the morning. And then come the next day, I'm antsy and unhappy if I don't. I took a month off just super recently to lock down all Covid vectors for a trip...and it was doable. Especially after the first week. Yeah, my days lost all structure and I got kind of apathetic and useless, but...it didn't kill me to stop. It didn't light me up, though, either, so I'm back on the black bean sauce.
Mostly saying I stand by your decision not to drink, and I totally empathize with how hard it is. I hope you can kick up some sort of sleep-promoting, healthier ritual to replace the whiskey. Lately I've been doing a fluffy routine with a weighted blanket, heating pad, acupressure mat, and meditation or soothing relaxation track in the afternoons. I don't crave doing it like I crave espresso, but I can tell it's good for me. My pain goes down. Something like that?
One more bonus: it's just another variable off the plate. The fewer variables, the easier it is to see what's working/not working.
Anyway, kudos for every day you can swing without it.
I encourage those who have never read or listened to Carl Hart check him out. He’s a psychology professor at Columbia University and has many research based insights on the use of various substances by adults. Basically a whole lot of highly successful and functional adults can and do use the substances of their choice. It could even thought to be “normal” and nothing to hang one’s head about.
Yes. Alcohol. At 70 my Dr. tells me my ultra sound shows signs of 'fatty liver disease.' My blood work shows pre-diabetic. My SI Joint is driving me nuts. My glaucoma checkup shows my eye pressure is lower than 6 months ago checkup. Sweet. At least one thing is going well. Alcohol is not my friend for any of these conditions. I now have enough things staring at a woman who is in otherwise good health. Oh, and I'm full time caregiving the husband. No stress there, nope.
I find my serious leg cramps that throw me out of bed will stop if I cut the wine out of my life. I amped up my calcium, etc, and that does help a lot. But, alcohol winds up causing more stress through the pains that it tends to feed. I have quit altogether a few times this year and each time I do feel better physically. Less pain, my stomach likes it, I sleep better...with what sleep I can get.
I do have a couple of tokes daily in the evening. Helps w the stress, the eyeball pressure, and my perspective on good well water is that it will be worth more than the best wine in the near future. Drink up. Enjoy the Soda Stream charged water as though it is champagne ;)
"My habit formed because drinking is my only reliable source of relief. It is the best shitty medicine I have."
I'm lucky my malaise setpoint seems more at "cold I can't quit" than "flu I can't quit". For me, the crappy drugs I can't quit because they kindasorta work are stimulants.
In my childhood, the stimulant theophylline was still standard asthma care. After that changed, I began noticing bothersome inattention, at first diagnosed as some combo of depression and ADD. The meds I got, Wellbutrin and (low-dose -- yikes, higher-dose felt so gross!) Adderall, helped. In retrospect, it's "obvious" my youthful distractibility was partly discomfort-based. It seems "focus drugs" to attend away from discomfort and ease its fatigue can work better than offered alternatives. (Vasoconstrictors of any kind also may ease hypotension, congestion, and migraine, all of which affected me.)
I switched to "nonstimulant" Strattera instead of Adderall once I could afford it. Though Strattera and Wellbutrin marketing insists they technically aren't stimulants, they're still more "wiring" than "tiring". So, typically, are asthma meds. And decongestants. Sympathomimetic. Providers often ask, am I sure I don't have anxiety (particularly "health anxiety" -- ugh!)? Of course I'm not sure, and why would I be when I've been on "jitterbug" meds since preschool? Since, besides caffeine, Strattera is my most optional jitterbug, it's often axed from my regimen -- only, I suspect, to be partly replaced by caffeine.
It's possible to manage stimulants to permit normal amounts of sleep. Sometimes, I've managed for months! But it's tough, and even tougher when pain or respiratory flares endanger sleep, anyhow. Diclofenac gel gone OTC helps quiet cranky exposed joints. Some muscle relaxants also work on me (at least as *very* sensation-enhanced placebo). But not good ol' alky-hol. I suspect my temperance owes more to migraine risk from C2H6O than to my virtue, though.
I wish you all the best. Alcohol is a major medication for me and cutting back, never mind quitting, is rough.
Ah alcohol... the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
I also never drank until my late 20s. I did however smoke a LOT of weed. Largely for similar reasons... Helped to distract / cope, in a way. Also blessedly helped with sleep. I'm glad that was my chosen poison because the physical addition is far less potent (non-existent?) than alcohol, and my family's apparent genetic predisposition to addiction would not have been a good complement to using a highly addictive substance to cope.
Eventually though, it stopped working. I had zero weed-related anxiety or paranoia problems while I was young, but 10yrs in, it hit me and was unbearable. And I lost my coping mechanism. That was really hard. It was hard to quit, not for the physical pain, but for the loss of the mental comfort it gave me. I have no escape now, and that's hard. I regularly mourn the loss of weed as a distraction / comfort / sleep inducer / mild pain reliever, and for the opportunity to be slightly less sober, because that's fun too.
Anyway, in short, your post resonates with me and I agree it's an appropriate 'thing' to try in this experiment. I don't, however, think it's true that you somehow 'did this to yourself' with alcohol. Most of us with pain /chronic illness have spent forever looking for how we 'did this to ourselves...' There's nothing there (IMO).
I don't have your chronic pain but I do have chronic discomfort and I am right there with you on the drink front. Rarely more than a couple but rarely fewer than that too. I had an alcoholic uncle & I can see the signs in me even if I drink less than many doctors do.
As you know, your mother (me) came from a non-drinking family, and I still don't drink much. Your dad, however, was used to seeing his father drink, and he has always enjoyed a glass of sherry in the afternoon, perhaps wine with a meal (usually went out for dinner), or a beer on a hot day. Like you, however, he has tried to quit many times. Never successfully. It is indeed a difficult habit to break. I've always been glad that I just never started.
In the email version of this post, there was a typo in the first sentence… I typo created about 20 seconds before sending it out, and noticed about 5 seconds after! Maddening!