My Alcohol Experiment: Day 23

Day 23 of The Alcohol Experiment: head, shoulders, knees, and toes… and brain and heart and liver. Alcohol damages it all, y’all!

In This Naked Mind, Annie Grace does not hold back when discussing the comprehensive assault that alcohol wages on our bodies. Today’s lesson is an abridged, but no less jarring, summary of just how damaging alcohol is on every inch of us.

I won’t rehash all the specifics here, but let me just say, it’s bad folks. As someone who formerly clung to the notion that red wine was good for me because it contains antioxidants, I can’t unlearn what I now know and that is ok. That is a good thing. 

It’s hard though, right? Because now that I know that just one night of heavy drinking (and I’ve had countless) can permanently change your nerve cells and decrease the size of your brain cells, I feel like an idiot. And there is a teeny tiny part of me that maybe sort of wishes I didn’t know all of this now. Because then I wouldn’t feel so dumb. And then I could drink my favorite frozen pomegranate margarita with zero guilt. And I could go out with my friends or celebrate a holiday with my family without the risk of judging them and/or alienating myself.

But wait. Stop the spiral. There will be no pity party today. I need to be stronger than that. More grateful, more mature.

I am not an idiot. How can I be an idiot for not knowing something that I was never taught? And it’s not like this information could have made its way subconsciously into my brain the way all the PRO-drinking messaging did – because it’s not out there in the first place!

In fact, I am smart – we ALL are – for doing this exploration now. Today. Sooner rather than later. For educating ourselves and enabling better informed decisions in the future and ultimately improving our health and the health of our children (whom I desperately hope are going to follow our example – fingers crossed!), and maybe even some friends and family who may be inspired by us.

I may never have a guilt-free drink again. But let me reframe the guilt as awareness and take responsibility for my choice, whether I drink or not. At least I am better informed moving forward, and again I know this is ultimately – and immediately – for the best.

As for the risk of judgement and alienation, I now know that the more at peace I feel with my choice to drink or not to drink, the less of an issue this will be. Ain’t no thang. That’s what I’ve been telling my husband when we go out to dinner and he orders a hard cider. That’s what I told my Boston BFF when we had a glorious day and evening out a couple of weeks ago and she had two cocktails with dinner. Ain’t no thang. It started as lip service on my first Dry January date night with my husband, but now it’s really, genuinely true. 

It is hard to not want to shout some of this stuff from the rooftops, now that we know how very dangerous and toxic alcohol really is. But that is not going to help anybody. The best we can do is take the best possible care of ourselves and our children, be there for those we love, and be grateful for this journey we have chosen.

The video in today’s lesson is a deconstruction of the idea that NOT drinking makes you less patient and more angry. I remember when I first stopped drinking during Dry January – I thought I would be so much more patient with my kids, and I wasn’t. And that scared me! Annie discusses how anger is a “secondary emotion” – the tip of an iceberg of something deeper that is harder to acknowledge but that is what you are truly feeling. (Yet another lightbulb here.) I get angry with my son when he is too rough with my puppy; what I’m really feeling is failure as a parent for not teaching him how to treat a young dog and fear that my dog will do something bad to my son. I get angry when my kids mess around instead of quietly and efficiently getting through bath time; what I’m really feeling is anxiety about all the housework I still have to do after they go to bed and frustration with myself for not being more organized and getting it done sooner.

So. There’s that epiphany.

And a few tips from Annie about how to deal with anger when you’re not numbing all your emotions with booze:

  1. Change your physical state – splash cold water on your face, yell into a pillow, get a breath of cold winter air. It helps!
  2. Place your anger on a scale of 1-5 and then try to make yourself angrier. Instant anger-diffuser!
  3. Create mental space. A mere moment of mindfulness can make a difference and help your pre-frontal cortex regain control in the split-second before a trigger causes you to wig out.

Your anger can be a beacon! Once again Annie turns a concept on its head and makes it so much more positive and productive.

Can you tell I love this Experiment?

[The Alcohol Experiment is a free, interactive 30-day program designed by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. For more information: www.alcoholexperiment.com.] 

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