The Naked Mind by Annie Grace (Drinking/No Drinking, Part II)

Feb 25, 2022 | Blog, Bookclub, The Tarry Life

Written February 2021:

I wrote the previous blog about my own drinking, then wanted to get other perspectives so I posed the question on Facebook. Who is doing a Dry January? And are you drinking more or less during the pandemic? I got over 140 comments. Drinking is a subject on peoples’ minds right now. The overwhelming response was from people doing Dry January or who no longer drink or never did. Hi, Mom.

I got insight into why so many of my friends no longer drink or drastically cut back. Top of the list were migraines, increased severity of hangovers, insomnia, wanting to model healthier behavior as a parent and lack of socializing due to Covid. I admired the honesty of why people decided to stop.

But what the commentary was missing were all the people who drink daily, like me, or the weekend warriors who really go for it on the weekends. I appreciate the candor of a few comments who were honest about their drinking, some so moderate they know there’s no issue, some purely social drinkers so they know there’s no problem. Some admitted substituting or adding cannabis products because drinking didn’t sit well but they didn’t want to be totally sober either.

The obvious hole in the comments was from the majority of people I know who drink regularly and not a little. It’s personal and a touchy subject. I get that. Or they feel it’s so not an issue that they weren’t compelled to comment or maybe they never saw the post! 

A book that was mentioned over and over in the comments was, The Naked Mind by Annie Grace. I devoured it in a couple days and it’s really made me take a look at my behavior. The book is written by a former very heavy drinker who no longer drinks. Her message is alcohol is poison and we’ve been fed a bill of goods through marketing and culture to believe drinking is so fun that there’s no way to be happy and have fun without it.

She’s found the opposite to be true – you’re actually way less happy when you drink – you feel sick, less energy, lethargic and you live life in a semi-depressed state of withdrawal from your last drink so you drink to feel okay again on and on, ad infinitum.

Her tone kind of annoyed me. It’s a little holier than thou for me. Yeah easy to be so freaking judgey and “how could you want to slowly poison yourself?” when you haven’t had a drink in years. But like it or not, the book flipped a switch in me. I don’t feel super healthy most of the time. I don’t sleep well. I do often wake up groggy with a headache. This is hard to admit as a health and fitness professional. I still appear healthy. I eat well and am fit, but kicking and screaming I’m coming to the realization that I may be poisoning myself and I could be energetic all day and sleep better and get more done without my nightly wine habit.

The book made me very uncomfortable. I felt called out. All the things she writes are true. I do feel uncomfortable going out at night with non-drinkers. That feeling says nothing about them and everything about me. In my mind, it’s not fun. I love my non-drinking friends and we have great conversations but I’d prefer to have lunch with them. I’m not a day drinker so this fits my comfort zone better. The author would say this signals an alcohol dependence.

Another point that struck me is – Remember a time before you were a drinker – you may have to go back to childhood – but we all had a time when we were happy and free to have fun without alcohol. I used to have gaggles of fun with my friends up until about age 16-17 without booze. We were creative and ridiculous dressing up, singing, talking til all hours.

My 16th bday party. Alcohol-free but never fun-free!

School trip to Italy. Pre-booze days. Dr. Langdon begging for his life!

I have clear memories being on vacations with my family at the beach in La Jolla or at my grandmother’s house in Alabama having a ball playing endless rounds of Gin Rummy, running around outside and talking endlessly with my cousins. Not a drop of alcohol involved. As the booze flowed with the adults, we noticed our uncles conversations getting louder, more boisterous and often ending in loud arguments. I didn’t really get it and just thought that’s what some adults do.

Annie Grace says alcohol is an addictive drug that will get all of us eventually if we drink the stuff. No matter our family history or genes, if you drink an addictive substance habitually, you run the risk of developing a dependence on it. Period. As a major introvert, I used to drink to get through social occasions, through college, dating, parties and it’s devolved into an every day habit. That’s alcohol dependence.

What I don’t agree with is, she says people always drink more and more as time goes on. This has not been the case with me. I drink daily but never more than two glasses. She describes herself going through two bottles in a night. I’ve never come close to drinking that much. And she says no amount of alcohol is good, ever. I just don’t agree with that. I get her points and she’s made me think about my own behavior (a lot) but I can’t envision my life with never having a nice glass of wine with a friend or a champagne toast on New Years or a margarita when you first get to Mexico, etc.

I’m writing this in the beginning of 2021. Maybe I will change one way or the other. I do know it can be cute, even sexy, when you’re young to be tipsy. Not so as we get older. I can recall two occasions where an older woman, 70+ was visibly drunk at a birthday party. She was hanging onto one my friends slurring her words. I was mortified for her and made a mental note – I will NEVER be like that when I’m older. But I’m almost 48 years old and the young, sexy girl, not-so-steady on her feet? Nope. Can’t pull that off anymore. It’s embarrassing. There I go being judgey again – and totally sexist. Drunk older men aren’t cool either.

If you want to take a look at your own drinking behavior, give this book, The Naked Mind a read. After finishing it I know I need to check myself. I’m not declaring I’m sober. Not going there. I still want to go to the Polo Lounge with my best friend to celebrate a birthday and order a spicy Bloody Mary. But my daily wine habit, sadly, has to stop.

I would love to hear your comments on all this. Drinking, not drinking and why? I know it’s so personal and can feel uncomfortable to talk about.

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