Alcohol-removed wine – Proceed with caution

Drinking alcohol removed wine last night was a peculiar experience. I opted for a bottle of Edenvale ‘fake’ chardonnay because I was having salmon. The first glass was bizarre. I opened the bottle and it smelt like wine, I tasted it and it tasted like wine, I drank some and I felt like I was totally breaking the rules! Argh.

After guiltily sipping away on a glass I realised it didn’t reeeally taste like wine. Without the alcohol it tasted a little bit watered down and it didn’t have any warmth as it flowed down the hatch. But it still gave ‘real’ wine a good run for its money and definitely surpassed my expectations. My brain was a bit confused and kept waiting for the alcohol to kick in, which of course it didn’t. The guilt soon dissolved when I got stuck into the second glass while remaining completely clear headed.

Normally I’d polish off a whole bottle in one sitting, but because I didn’t need to maintain any drunken fog I stopped after 3 glasses. While the acidity was a well received change of pace from sugary NA drinks, I think I would have started to feel a bit queasy if I’d kept drinking. The best part about this was it made me feel like a normal drinker. I could enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with food and then stop – hallelujah!

One of my favourite pastimes when I was drinking was to chill out on the couch with wine in hand, watching telly or reading magazines and just generally having a great time in my own company. I thought that it was partly down to the fact that I didn’t have to justify my drinking to anyone else or worry about running my mouth while drinking in the company of others, but I’m beginning to recognise that I just really need alone time to recharge. I’m not sure whether drinking alcohol removed wine while alone is dangerous or not. It certainly didn’t make me want some of the real stuff last night, but then again, I was in a very strong frame of mind yesterday. It was a relief rather than a disappointment to remain clear headed.

As I was pouring a glass, I noticed the label said that the total alcohol content was less than 0.5% which freaked me out a bit. I immediately scanned my brain trying to pick up on any signs of drunkenness, but there was nothing – I felt completely sober. They probably just put that on their label to cover their asses and I certainly don’t see any danger in getting accidentally drunk off the stuff!

So, was it triggery? No, not when I’m in a good frame of mind. But I do think I should proceed with caution. I won’t be rewarding intense cravings with it because that’ll lead to disappointment at the lack of drunkeness (and possibly a glass smashed against the wall in frustration). When I am in a strong mindset though, it’ll be great for tackling feelings of FOMO at gatherings and will go with food a lot better than other alcohol replacement drinks. I think it’s fair to say the trial went swimmingly 🙂

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Coasting

I’ve had the luxury of a fairly angst-free string of days this week, so I’ve just been enjoying the ride and coasting along. I think all the reading and support and ‘work’ I put into staying sober last weekend really set me up in a good frame of mind for the week. I’ve felt really sure in my decision and haven’t have a single session of internal bargaining since last Friday. Long may it last.

I suspect this relaxed attitude may not be the healthiest/safest approach to take though, and cravings and doubt will probably creep up on me if I don’t pay enough attention. I’m going to get cracking on the self-help books this weekend and have a good blog catch-up tonight seeing as Friday evenings seem to be the hardest nut to crack. I’m not feeling cravey right now, but as people trot off to work drinks this afternoon I bet I’ll have a bit of FOMO.

I’ve also discovered a place where they sell alcohol-removed wine, which I am interested (although hesitant) to try. Interestingly I really truly believed that a large part of my love of wine was the taste. Sugary fruity neon green alcohol replacement drinks don’t really bring the same civilisation to a roast dinner as white wine does. And red wine and pasta go together like a fat kid and cake. Or so I thought. Since I discovered that Evendale do a mock Shiraz, I’ve been trying to insert the idea into my food/wine matching thoughts (the ones that happen automatically when I think about planning dinner). The funny thing is, the thought of alcohol-removed wine doesn’t really thrill me in the same way as matching food with real wine. Shocking, I know!

Still, alcohol removed wine at events could be the way to go if I wanted to avoid awkward conversations with people I didn’t feel the need to explain my lack of boozing to. I have a few big events coming up over Christmas – an annual potluck with old school friends, two big work do’s, and of course the big family get together for a few days around xmas. The majority of these people don’t know that I’m not drinking, and the thought of having to have the conversation over and over again makes me exhausted even thinking about it.

Tonight I’ll have the house to myself so it might be a good opp. to pick up a bottle of ‘fake’ wine and give it a try. Worst case scenario is it will stir up a bunch of cravings and I’ll have a lot of “sober work” to do over the weekend, but it makes sense to give it a go when I’m going through an easy patch and feeling strong.  Best case scenario is that it all goes swimmingly and it gives me another tool to add to my belt.

Some valuable advice

After getting fed up with the tug of war going on inside my brain on Friday, I decided to get some advice from the lovely ladies (and lads) over at the Living Sober community. I asked whether I’d ever get to the point where the constant internal questioning/bargaining goes away, or whether long term ex-drinkers just learn to live with it.

And I’m SO glad I bothered to ask. Everyone answered with a resounding “yes, it does get easier and it is worth it, so stick with it” which is all I needed to hear really.

It can feel quite pointless in these early days being sober. I know I wasn’t happy while drinking and yet being sober hasn’t felt amazing yet either. I haven’t experienced the legendary pink clouds (well I haven’t been bouncing off the walls with happiness, which is what I imagine the feeling to be like) and I haven’t been reaping any massive benefits so far. So far, it feels like a bit of a lose lose situation – I want to stop drinking because it’s getting out of hand and yet now I’ve stopped it constantly feels like I’m denying myself something, so I’m not happy either way.

But the Living Sober folks assured me that it will get better and easier, that benefits would start to show themselves and that it was worth the wait. As a suspected, the time frames for everyone were different. For some people they came to peace with their decision really early on and others took about 200 days before the internal questioning and bargaining died down. When I look at my measly 20 days in comparison it makes me realise that I just need to chill the fuck out a bit and stop expecting everything to click into place so quickly.

The other thing they mentioned was that it’s not only a matter of retraining our brains to begin new habits and routines, but retraining our brains around the way we see alcohol as a whole. Instead of it being a glittering seductive luxury that adds something to life, I need to retrain my brain to see alcohol as a poison that is destructive and holds no value.

For me, alcohol still holds value, so this is the point that I’m stuck at right now.

The ‘value’ of alcohol is woven so tightly into who I am as a person that I suspect it’s going to take a lot of work to unravel. It’s a big part of my family’s lifestyle – right now my parents are away on a holiday with the sole purpose of going wine tasting. It’s also a big part of my friend’s lives – we socialise with BBQs, BYO dinners, brunches – all of which usually contain copious amounts of alcohol. It’s even a big part of my worklife – Friday night drinks every week, alcohol given out as rewards and huge work do’s that centre entirely around everyone getting shitfaced.

And most of all, it’s a massive part of my day to day lifestyle. Everytime I plan dinner, my brain automatically matches wine with whatever I’m having. Cosy night in on the couch = wine (red), fireworks at the beach = wine (white), celebrations = wine (bubbly), shit day = wine (any), fancy restaurant = wine (posh), camping holiday = wine (lots of)… the list is endless. The point being, I still hold alcohol in high regard. It’s up there on its shiny pedestal, happily absorbing all of my worship. So if I want to move on and grow and learn and recover and find peace being sober, then I’m going to have to find a way to knock it off its perch.

 

 

 

Things I know

The frustrating back and forth between rational thought and my obsession with drinking has cranked back into life again today.

It’s frustrating because I know that I have a problem. I know I am not a normal drinker.  There’s a bunch of evidence laid out plain as day in my drinking history that tells me that. Yet I still believe I can drink like a normal drinker …or is it the other way around? I believe I have a problem, but I know I don’t… Either way, there’s a gaping disconnect between what I know and what I really believe. And it’s holding me back from being at peace with my decision to stop drinking.

The internal chatter has been unbearable this afternoon. So much so that I want to drink just to have a day off from thinking about drinking. See, this is a good example – I know that I’m only thinking that because wine has been my go-to, quick action stress reliever for so long now and I know that I need to re-train my brain. I know that. And yet I believe that one day of drinking will be a nice little reset and I’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to have another crack at sobriety tomorrow. These thoughts have been whizzing around my brain all day. Maybe because it’s Friday afternoon and old boozy me would have welcomed Friday afternoon with open arms. Even writing that – “old boozy me” – feels like a lie right now. It doesn’t sit well with me because part of me (the part that really likes wine) is stubbornly refusing to believe that I won’t ever drink again.

Really all that’s stopping me drinking today is the accountability I’ve created for myself. Not wanting to have to update this blog with ‘day one’ and all the feelings of regret again. Not wanting to have to field judgement from my partner and sister. And the fact that at the doctors last week she updated my records with ‘teetotal’. Accountability is a useful tool. My rational half is sitting here feeling very smug, but the other half is kicking myself for putting up these hurdles.

Maybe I’m overthinking everything too much. If I just say to myself, “I’m not drinking at this point in my life and definitely not today” it brings me a bit of peace because it leaves the long-term question open and that appeases the part of me panicking over the thought of never having a drink again. I guess that’ll have to do for today.

P.S. just re-read before posting and jesus christ I sound like I have multiple personality disorder.

 

How much is luck?

The raging cravings are dying down today and I’m feeling a lot calmer. My long term goal of removing alcohol from my life has come back into clearer focus and I am thankful that I trusted in my decision not to drink over the last couple of days (even though it seemed like the dumbest decision I’d ever made at the time).

This rough patch has made me realise how fragile sobriety is though. I literally got to the point where I decided that I would drink again, so I think it’s safe to say that if there had been alcohol within arms reach, I would be mid-way through a drinking spree right now.

It’s made me wonder what portion of sober success is made up of pure luck. If my resolve was weaker than usual and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I could quite easily cave in and there is only so much I can do to prevent that happening.

Today though, I’m grateful that luck was on my side and I’m happy to be here, feeling clear headed and positive 🙂

Cravings

Today I’m still wrestling with my cravings for a drink, but I feel like I’m regaining a bit more control than I had yesterday. I have, at least, had some rational thoughts floating around my brain today.

What I’m really still after is the taste of wine. I’m practically drooling at the thought of it. Last night I stood in the wine section of the supermarket staring sadly at the bottles of red wine like a complete nutter. Tonight my cravings for white wine are out of control and I can’t stop thinking that all I want is one sip of crisp cold white wine.

I’m about to go and pick up stuff for dinner, so I’m interested to check whether they have alcohol free wine (not sure whether that would be a godsend or a recipe for disaster), but if the cravings get any worse I will have to RUN through the supermarket with my eyes closed to avoid the wine.

Fingers crossed I make it out unscathed!

A trialing weekend

Had a very wobbly weekend and am still feeling very shaky, which is a shame because I was feeling really strong and I hoped that the easy breezy days of early sobriety were going to last a bit longer than two weeks.

We moved house over the weekend and I thought it would work out well having a fresh start in a new booze free home. I also thought all the moving and unpacking would keep me so busy that I wouldn’t have a spare moment to devote to thinking about wine. But of course moving is stressful, so I wanted a wine to unwind; and it’s bloody hard work, so I wanted a wine to reward myself; but it’s also exciting getting to set up a new place, so I wanted a wine to celebrate.

I hadn’t really prepared enough for the weekend. I didn’t have a supply of non-alcoholic substitute drinks, which usually work really well for me, and we hadn’t organised internet to be connected at the new place yet, so I didn’t have my usual support of reading other people’s blogs and googling horrific side effects of drinking on health etc. To top it all off, my partner put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge at the new place. He won the champagne over a year ago, but hasn’t opened it because “it’s expensive” and he’s “saving it for a special occasion”. I have no idea what he was planning on doing with it, but I wish he would just drink the fucking stuff, because I keep seeing it lying around and I’m very aware that it’s in the house.

I was getting more and more tightly wound by Sunday afternoon and couldn’t really find anything to distract me. I started making dinner, but was so tense and distracted that I sliced through my nail and thumb. I didn’t even care about my thumb, all I could think about was that I totally deserved a wine because I ‘needed it’ to calm myself down after attempting to add a chunk of thumb to the pasta sauce. In hindsight this was probably a blessing because I burst into tears and told my partner that I really wanted to drink and yelled at him to get the wine in the fridge out of my fucking sight.

It released a bit of tension, but during that afternoon I’d lost control completely and decided that I would drink again, that I’d buy wine the next time I was at the supermarket and enjoy every drop of it. In fact, I am still in that headspace to some degree. But I’m trusting in my decision and keeping the promise to myself that I will give it some time before making any rash decisions.

So, in summary, 14 days sober and currently hating it. Fuck you wine. Why do I love you so much?

Physical funkiness

I’ve heard a lot of ex-drinkers say that one of the best benefits of early sobriety is the incredible sleep you start having. Deep, luxurious, restful sleep that leaves you refreshed and content. I rate sleep pretty highly on my list of favourite pastimes, so I’m a bit bummed that I haven’t got to experience that yet.

To be honest, I think my sleep was better when I was drinking. I guess I just knocked myself out with a bottle of wine every night, so it probably wasn’t the best quality sleep, but I always slept right through and found it fairly easy to get up. Now, waking up for work is seriously difficult. It’s probably because I’m in a deeper sleep, so it’s harder to wrench myself awake, but the result of that is that I feel groggy for at least an hour after getting up. This morning I was wide awake from 3am to 6am, so my body clock seems to be on the blink too.

Another weird physical side effect is my anxiety. Except it’s not the depressive, uneasy type of anxiety that I’m often blessed with. Instead I’m hyperactive and fidgety. I keep getting squirts of adrenaline in my stomach and it feels like it’s all pooling in there. If I didn’t know I was sitting at my desk, I’d hazard a guess that I was about to skydive out of a plane. It’s wholly unpleasant, let me tell you.

There’s definitely some kind of chemical/hormonal funkiness going on inside my body. Is that normal?? Fingers crossed it’s temporary!

…Actually, scratch that, fingers and toes crossed that the adrenaline boosts my metabolism!

Q&A

One week into cutting out the booze and doubt is already sprouting up. Was I really that bad? Is this forever? What about Christmas? What about socialising with xyz group of people? Why did I give up at all? – I wasn’t hurting anyone. Why don’t I just drink on weekends…just on my birthday…just one.

I’m not even craving a drink at the moment, yet all these thoughts are prattling away inside my head.

Was I really that bad? Yes, it is not normal to drink every day.

Is this forever? Yes, the point is not to deny myself alcohol forever, the point is to get to the stage where it is removed from my life and I don’t miss it.

What about Christmas? I will make my own Christmas drink and it’ll be so amazing that everyone else at Christmas will want in on this sober lifestyle. I’ll wake up clear headed and won’t fall asleep mid-afternoon with a splitting headache from the breakfast champers.

What about socialising with xyz group? I’ll avoid them until I’ve practiced socialising with more trusted friends.

Why did I give up at all? Err that is what I wrote the list for. And yes I was – I was hurting myself.

Why don’t I just drink on weekends…just on my birthday…just one? Because it won’t be just one. Even if it’s just one that day, it’s only a matter of time until I make more and more concessions and old patterns start to creep in.

I can find the answers to these questions, but it doesn’t stop them popping up and that is really bloody annoying and really bloody relentless.

When life gives you lemons…

The lemon tree has been absolutely heaving lately, all that plump fruit has just been begging to be juiced and made into lemonade.

And who am I to say no to a lemon tree?

Non alcoholic drink replacements tend to be a bit dull, so I had a go at rosemary lemonade for a sophisticated spin on your bog-standard lemonade.

For this recipe I used:

  • 1 litre of iced sparkling water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • A couple of sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/3 cup sugar

New Zealand Meyer lemons have mandarin in their heritage, so they’re sweeter than your average thin skinned lemons. If you’re using lemons that are more tart you may need to adjust your sugar ratio.

Add your lemon juice, sugar and rosemary sprigs to a pan, heat on a low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

If you’ve got the time (and the patience) wait until your sugar syrup cools.

Or, if you’re like me and have no time for faffing around, just add some sparkling water to the pan and then pour over loads of ice.

Top with sparkling water.

Give it a good mix. 

And pour (obviously).

The rosemary isn’t overpowering, but you get a good whiff and a subtle flavour, so it’s a simple way to dress up a basic lemonade.

Perfect for a sunny afternoon. Makes about 4 glasses.