In the nanosecond after my mind decided that the shattered wine glass and spilled sauvignon blanc on the floor was my last, I started making a list of everything that was going to change. And reader, I’m here to tell you my eyebrows were not on that list. They should have been.
In blinding pain from having hit the laminate floor HARD, weight evenly distributed on 50-year-old knees, and seeing the blood on the floor, I simultaneously thought to myself, “But I only had one freaking glass of wine!” and “Who trips over a couch?” When I got up, and let me tell you I still remember the crunch my knees made, I started picking up the remains of the wine glass, washing the blood off and applying direct pressure, and because I’m a “there’s always a bright side!” kind of gal, immediately started looking for said bright side. Hence, the list.
1.”I’m gonna lose 20 pounds!” Well, not right away I didn’t. When you’re 25 and you give up alcohol, sure you can probably drop 20 pounds overnight. When you’re 50…not so much. I immediately packed on 10 pounds, probably from the intense sugar cravings I had. It figures: I’d been giving my liver a steady supply of sugar in the form of alcohol for 30 years, it was bound to be a little cranky to be cut off. I think I went through an entire box of Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks, and every single one of those little suckers joined me on the scale. But after about a month it evened out, and I lost the additional weight I put on as well as another 10.
2. “My skin is going to look ah-ma-zing” Oh, and my skin broke out. I’ve had bad skin most of my life, and I have severe rosacea that when triggered can last for months. Thankfully, because geez that would have pushed me over the edge, they were just normal breakouts. (If you have rosacea you understand that “normal acne” is like a spa vacation). After a month that cleared up as well, with the occasional everyday suprise! from time to time. No, I don’t look amazing, but my skin doesn’t hurt anymore, and I’ll take that any day.
3. “I’m going to be so happy!” And then there’s dealing with the emotional shit. (Well, obviously I’m not the best PR person for not drinking so far..but bear with me). Everything you used alcohol to hide from or forget you now have to deal with, which kind of sucks, because, hello! I’m here trying to be healthy shouldn’t I get a fucking prize or something? But noooooo….you want me to start examining my life at 50? A bad day used to mean coming home and cracking open a bottle of wine, or mixing a martini. Now it means coming home and getting out in the greenhouse, or doing yoga, or going for a walk, or writing it all down. On the day of the Parkland shooting in 2018 I came home and drank half a bottle of vodka, because at the time that was really how I handled things. Figuring out new coping mechanisms is a bitch.
Finding the support is even more so. When you’re not drinking, it’s noticeable, and people want to know why. It’s not any of their damn business, but they think it is, and friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers have an opinion. (Remember: these are the same people who also have opinions on your parenting, your job, and how perhaps a woman of your age shouldn’t wear that denim pencil skirt.) There’s a point where I would bring it up, with a painfully bright smile, just so I could circumvent questions. Let this conversation be on my terms, not yours, because honestly, your questions are stupid, particularly if you’re halfway to drunk already.
Alcohol is so much a part of our culture that it is harder to explain why you’re not drinking than why you are. The whole “mommy needs wine” schtick has normalized binge drinking with cute pink t-shirts and Facebook groups. And that’s what it is – a schtick. When you’re sober you start to notice what a presence alcohol is in our everyday life – on social media, how we interact with friends, coworkers and family, how we spend our time and money. You cannot open social media without seeing memes about vodka in Starbucks cups at weekend soccer games. I was almost ashamed to go back and look at Instagram posts and see how many of them contained martinis or glasses of rose. (I still have glasses of rose on Instagram, but now they’re St Regis alcohol-removed, and I mix a mean virgin Cosmopolitan.) This summer I saw so. many. glasses of rose and at one point had to wonder what 100 degree heat in the south of France while drunk would feel like, and said a prayer of thanks for tripping over that stupid couch.
But back to my brows. In addition to the things that I thought would (and did to some point) change, there were quite few things that came out of nowhere.
I didn’t get my brows done regularly, but I would go in and have them waxed and cleaned up every so often. Since I wear glasses I would make sure they were as perfect as I could make them, and I love my mini Tweezerman tweezers. Once I stopped drinking I was pretty much like, “Eh, fuck it.” I mean, I would still put a little gel and brush them, but I stopped worrying that they didn’t look good enough. For fuck’s sake THEY’RE EYEBROWS!
“Eh, fuck it” became my mantra. It’s not that I stopped caring about things, it’s that I reserved my caring for the things that matter, and dear reader, let me tell you eyebrows don’t really matter. Neither do, in no particular order:
- other people’s opinions of your parenting
- how many likes you get on Instagram
- what other people think about your taste in music
- your family’s opinions on anything that doesn’t actually affect them
Oh God I could go on. So, so many things that I’ve said “eh, fuck it” to in the past 11 months. And every single one and time makes me smile. This entire past year, in fact, makes me smile. It has not been easy. I have cried and slept a lot. (Geez, the first 2 weeks I was probably sleeping 10 hours a night). I have been able to let go of past perceived slights (which now make me laugh), of my own mistakes, and my disappointments. I have been able to embrace my imperfections and throw myself into projects without worrying if I’ll fail (I submitted 2 cold pitches to Conde Nast, and was rejected for both, and guess what? Life went on). I’ve read hundreds of books, taken pictures of the most random things just because they make me happy, and impressed my dentist because I now floss (which happens when you’re not too drunk to at night!). Saying “eh, fuck it” to the stuff that I don’t care about has saved me time, energy, and stress. I can spend that time on the stuff that I do give a fuck about: my family, friends, and voting rights.
Quitting drinking kicked a tiny snowball off a mountain, and that sucker just kept on rolling till it brought the mountain down. I stopped drinking, and then I cut back spending money on things to make me feel better but that never did. I stopped drinking and I started cooking more and more creatively. I stopped drinking and I started reading more. I stopped drinking and stopped obsessively cleaning and making lists. You know the supposed- Hemingway quote “Write drunk, edit sober”? I stopped drinking and started writing again – getting going on a story idea I’d been kicking around for years but was afraid to start. I stopped drinking and suddenly the weekly anxiety attacks stopped. I stopped drinking and in the most amusing of ironies, starting seeing the world through rose colored glasses.