I Felt Unhinged, So I Drank Wine to Relax
August 20th, 2013 by Katie Morton
Dr. Brené Brown writes about the 10 Guideposts of Wholehearted Living — practiced by people who live “amazing and inspiring lives” — in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I began living wholeheartedly before I knew of Brené Brown, and I was astounded to read about the journey I’d already begun. This article is part of a series that explores Dr. Brown’s Guideposts and how they look in my life.
Photo: Mark Roy / Creative Commons
Guidepost #3: Cultivating a Resilient Spirit; Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
When I was in my early 20s, I prided myself on being fearless. I made friends easily. I went out every night of the week in New York City. If no one I knew could come out to play, I would go out by myself with the express purpose of meeting new people. I had this feeling like, “What good, cool, interesting things could happen today?”
Nearly 20 years later, a lot has happened, not all of it good. It occurred to me a few years ago that I’d become fearful; I’d lost that feeling of wonderment, that giddy anticipation of good things to come. I shrank from what life had to offer because I was afraid of what bad things could happen. I had my reasons.
In 2010, I was laid off from my job just weeks following maternity leave. Unemployed. With a newborn. Oh. My. God. I’m not sure which was worse: the exhaustion, the financial blow, or the blow to my ego. It all added up to one seriously unhinged new mother.
I actually got teary-eyed during a job interview and I’m not sure why, whether it was the financial desperation, or the new-baby fatigue. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job.
I felt crazy. Unemployable. Even worse, I felt alone in all of it; other mothers I confided in seemed mystified that I didn’t have my ish together. They acted like the sleep deprivation didn’t get to them. (Maybe it didn’t?) Instead, in my exhausted, paranoid state, I got the distinct feeling that they wondered what the eff was wrong with me, which was precisely the same thing I was wondering.
Wine to the Rescue!
I was under the impression that everyone in the world felt whole and complete and like they had it together, and that I was on the outskirts, peering through the misty windows of a party I wasn’t invited to. So each evening I made my own party, on my couch, a sensible little happy hour with a trusty glass of wine to numb the fear that I was a mess.
As I tried to numb it, my fear grew. I was afraid of the economy. I was afraid of going back to work and leaving my baby in daycare. I was afraid of not going back to work and hemorrhaging cash from my dwindling emergency fund.
Even though I wasn’t drinking much, it was enough to impact my sleep and keep my head foggy. I liked seeing life through a fog. When I sat down on the couch in front of the TV with a box of Cheez-its and a cold glass of white wine, it felt like I could put off these decisions forever. But underneath the numbness, I knew I couldn’t. Time and money were running out.
It was time to wake up and take action, but the wine habit had become entrenched. Now I had something new to fear: the possibility that giving up wine would be too difficult. I was afraid to try too hard to end my happy hours lest I fail, and the information this could present…that I had a problem with a capital ‘P’.
I Took the Leap
However, it was time; I cared about my health and life too much to continue to watch myself stagnate on the couch each evening. But man, I was tired…
I was waking up every night around 3AM and was having a hard time falling back to sleep. I did some research into my sleeping issue and found this alarming fact: you can permanently damage your body’s sleep architecture via regular alcohol use! (Gee, no one mentions that little tidbit when they glorify the health benefits of a daily glass of red wine!)
It was learning this (urgent!) fact that prompted me to address my happy hour habit. I took the leap.
When I first started to blog about my decision to take one year without wine, it was scary to put myself out there, to be fully vulnerable, authentic and open, but over time, this risk-taking contributed to feelings of courageousness.
Discontent is Necessary to Find Joy
Here’s the thing: people judge people who numb with alcohol. It’s an annoying fact. However, the truth is: We ALL numb. Some people use Facebook. Some people use chips or cheesecake. Some people distract themselves with gossip. It’s easy to judge me, but that won’t get you anywhere — what will help you is to figure out how YOU are numbing. Because however you numb, it’s keeping you from a life that brings you unbridled joy.
As I went without my security blanket, without my chilled glass of white wine, I was thrilled by more and more a-ha moments.
“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” – Albert Einstein
Once we understand that discontent is a good thing – it points us to where we need to make improvements in our lives – we can stop numbing and get on with the business of problem solving. When we do the work of recognizing areas of discontent so that we can own it and work out the puzzle, we can get busy creating a life that’s awesome and that brings us unbridled joy.
Now that I’ve created a life that’s awesome and that brings me unbridled joy, I notice myself asking more and more: “What good, cool, interesting things could happen today?” The answer is: plenty.
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