I had planned to post this on December 8, but I decided to sit on it for awhile, just to be sure I wanted to go public with it. Having returned from a wonderful Christmas visit with kids and grands in Colorado, and now as I prepare for our (almost) annual New Year’s Day/St. Basil’s Day party on Monday, I have decided that I want to share this important part of “my story.” This clarity came to me yesterday as I was checking out at the liquor store, where I purchased three bottles of liquor for “Mississippi Bourbon Punch,” a hit at many of our parties, and 8 bottles of wine. I realized that although I will be drinking sparkling water as I enjoy the afternoon and evening with friends, watching the bowl games and playing board games on the breakfast table, I won’t be “missing out” by abstaining from the (delicious) bourbon punch and wine. I didn’t know I would feel this way back on September 8, when I made a life-changing decision. So, here’s the post I wrote 90 days later….
0 Meetings in 90 Days—December 8, 2017
I’ve considered quitting drinking for a number of years, and I even visited an AA meeting once, about ten years ago. I read a good bit of their literature, and as happy as I am for the millions of people it has helped, it has never resonated with me personally. So, today I’m sharing a different approach that I discovered a few months ago. Why today? Well, if I was in AA, today I would be getting my 90-day “chip.” My last drink was on September 8.
AA encourages people to go to “90 meetings in 90 days” when they first quit drinking—either on their own or in a treatment center. I understand their reasons—those first three months can be tough, and people need support. It’s just that my support has come from other sources. I’d like to share a little bit about those sources, beginning with a book.
I don’t remember how I heard about Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life.(Check out the reviews on Goodreads for responses from more readers.) I read This Naked Mind over one weekend (September 8-10) and made the decision to quit drinking before I even finished the book. This is the first time I’ve ever made this decision, although I’ve thought about it for many years, being concerned about the effect alcohol was having on my body and mind. But every time I considered it, I couldn’t imagine dealing with anxiety, stress, physical pain, and even social events without it. And now—90 days in—I’ve never been more hopeful about my life and my health.
There’s not one word about God or faith in this book—it’s strictly scientific and anecdotal. But I prayed fervently as I read, and I continue to pray every day for God’s grace to continue the journey. It’s been nothing short of amazing so far. Sure, there have been times (almost daily) when I’ve craved a drink, but by God’s grace I’ve been able to remind myself that (1) one drink is never enough and (2) any amount of alcohol is bad for me. You might not agree with that last statement, and I have no desire to argue or convince, but if you’re curious, Grace’s book has over 250 endnotes, many citing academic/medical/scientific sources to back up her mission, which she states clearly near the end of the book:
My mission, the mission of This Naked Mind, is to change how our society views alcohol, to expose the truth and to provide tools to change our direction.
Grace believes that alcohol is bad for everyone, not just for people who have or have had “problems” with it. Her view is that the alcohol is the problem, and that’s it’s bad for everyone. It’s an extremely addictive drug. She even discourages drinking moderately, citing how bad one or two drinks a day is for your health. She’s definitely an anti-alcohol vigilante, spreading her message through her book, websites, workshops, etc.
One thing that struck me as different about Annie Grace’s approach than any I had read before is that she blames the drink, not the drinker. Her tone throughout the book is positive, hopeful, and non judgmental. Her own story is woven through the narrative, which gives it a strong, personal message.
So, what does Grace mean by “the naked mind”? In Chapter 1 she says:
Did you know your unconscious mind is responsible for your desires?… Unconscious learning happens automatically and unintentionally through experiences, observations, condition, and practice. We’ve been conditioned to believe we enjoy drinking. We think it enhances our social life and relieves boredom and stress. We believe these things below our conscious awareness. This is why, even after we consciously acknowledge that alcohol takes more than it gives, we retain the desire to drink.
She explains in much detail, which I won’t do here, how stressful it is when our conscious and unconscious minds are at war with each other, which she calls “cognitive dissonance.” And then she says:
Your opinions about alcohol and your desire to drink spring from the lifelong mental conditioning of your unconscious mind…. The goal of This Naked Mind is to reverse the conditioning in your unconscious mind by educating your conscious mind…. You can easily and peacefully end the conflict inside your brain.
And somehow, by God’s grace, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 90 days. It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? And yet, I am experiencing this right now. Every time my unconscious mind tells me that a drink will help (relieve anxiety, stress, or pain, or enhance pleasure) I choose (with my conscious mind) to believe that it will not help, and I don’t take that drink. Whenever I’m tempted to have “just one,” I remind myself that one is never enough. That over the years I’ve conditioned my body to need more than one drink in order to get the relief or pleasure I’m seeking. And the conflict between my unconscious and conscious mind is lessening every day.
If you’re interested in what Grace has to say about how the alcohol industry markets their products (fascinating and scary) and also the details about the specific ways that alcohol is bad for you, read the book or check out her web site. And for my friends whose lives have been blessed by Alcoholics Anonymous, I hope that I haven’t offended you. I’ve just never been able to accept the theory that people who are addicted to an addictive drug have an incurable disease. As Grace says:
The nebulous idea of an addictive personality allows us to protect our precious alcohol. We focus on the addictive personality, which makes alcohol dangerous for them but not for us. We protect the alcohol and blame the individual. This takes hope away from the alcoholic, encouraging them to believe they are powerless against their personality…. A collection of traits, which can have positive or negative implications for someone’s life, should not be stigmatized and labeled as “addictive.”
I’ll close with a comment from Grace about moderation, which had been my goal before reading her book. She explains about how dopamine creates tolerance, so that the brain craves more than just one drink. Her words ring so true to me, 90 days in:
Moderation is like an alcohol diet that will continue for the rest of your life.
Instead of struggling with moderation (and poisoning my body in the process) I am choosing to abstain, and I feel better than I have in years.
18 thoughts on “0 Meetings in 90 Days—My Final Post of 2017”
Susan, I am SO full of admiration and gratitude for your decision and your followup and your sharing. God love you, Lady! You are just awesome.
All paths lead there.
I am so very happy you have found something that works for you Susan. The principles of AA have worked for my husband (and millions of others) for over 30 years now, and as any follower would tell you – it’s not just about the alcohol, it’s about a way of life and about becoming a better person as a whole, ceasing to hurt those you love and discovering why you needed to numb your thoughts and feelings in the first place. Alcohol is an addictive drug just like any other. Cleansing your body of toxins is a life-changing decision no matter what path one takes to do it. Congratulations!
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so happy that you have found a way to enhance your life and improve your health. After seeing the negative effects of alcohol in other people’s lives, my husband and I many years ago chose to model an alcohol-free lifestyle for our children. We don’t feel as though we have “missed out” on anything over the years. I’m confident that you will continue to enjoy life alcohol-free. Happy 2018!
Thanks for sending your readers my way, Jason!
This is uplifting to read. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. I totally agree that in getting rid of an addictive habit abstinence works far better than moderation. All the best ma’am. Came to visit from Jason’s.
Abstinence definitely works better than moderation for me, where alcohol is concerned. Too bad I can’t use that approach with my eating issues, since we can’t just abstain from food! Thanks for dropping by from Jason’s blog, and for commenting!
I’ve gotta wonder because everybody says how great alcohol is, yet–after a lifetime of abstaining for religious reasons–I tried it and hated it. Supposedly wine is great, yet I’ve tried it several times, different kinds, and had the same reaction each time: It tastes weird, burns all the way down, then leaves a weird aftertaste. I can’t stand the stuff. 😛 And the thought of losing control of my faculties–blech. I had pain medicine (narcotics) for wisdom teeth once, and never used it again because it was so unpleasant. How do people get addicted to this crap? 😛 If it’s all about social conditioning–Yeah, I can see that.
For me it was about much more than social conditioning. It was about edges softening, anxiety abating, pain relief. Drugs can do all of that, for a while. Glad it’s not an issue for you. Thanks for reading and commenting.
You’re a brave woman Susan. Alcohol can be seductive and elusive. It can sneak up on you and before you know it, it becomes the problem.
Thank you. I do believe courage is involved in walking away from something so seductive and addictive, but in my case, also lots of wisdom that landed in my lap at just the right time (from Annie Grace, the author) and also God’s grace! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I hope this doesn’t sound freaky =) but I’ve appreciated something of your journey and the giving that has marked your life in the glimpses from Jason’s bio.
This is an interesting post. It is deeply humbling to consider that animals (at least those in the wild) don’t suffer addictions. Their unconscious and conscious minds work in harmony, and they live with a clarity about their needs. May you keep on from strength to strength.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Not freaky at all… Jason and I are very close, and I love that he has shared much of our journey on his blog! Thanks for reading. And that’s interesting about how animals in the wild not suffering addictions…. And yes, keeping my unconscious and conscious minds working in harmony is what it’s all about. This Thursday makes 6 months since my last drink. I appreciate your comments very much!
Susan, you have done a good thing. My birth mother drank throughout her pregnancy with me and I have FAS. You should be proud! Bless!
Hi Sam. Sorry I didn’t see your comment when you left it back in March. I was looking over old posts and saw it today. So sorry for what you are suffering as a result of your birth mother’s drinking while pregnant. I hope that you are healing. Thanks for reading and sharing.
Hi Susan, You are such a wise, brave, sweet person. So glad I was led to your site. This is not an easy journey. Thank you for the inspiration.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Tina.
Comments are closed.