Some people can enjoy a glass of wine to relax over dinner. I was never one of those people. For me, one glass always led to two — then three or more. At first, I thought my habit was no big deal. After all, I wasn’t calling in sick to work (much) or leaving my kids home alone to starve while I hit the bar scene. However, stress was causing me to “unwind” by drinking wine too often.
I gradually realized how much my habit affected my relationships and overall well-being. It was time to say enough is enough. I decided to give up my daily routine of relaxing with wine, and I was surprised to discover how much of myself I had gotten back. Saying “no” to wine was saying “yes” to me.
I Learned to Step Up and Take Responsibility
Alcohol can make you selfish, even if you don’t intend to be. It shrinks your circle of concern from wrestling with the big questions like, “What do I want out of life?” and reduces them to the mundane, “What bottle goes best with tonight’s dinner? Do we have enough booze to make it through the weekend?” My relationship with my partner didn’t exactly suffer, but we did stop talking about our future dreams — besides what bar we’d go to for a happy hour.
Wine also makes you, well, whiny. I look back in embarrassment at all the times I begged my sweetie to run to the store for another bottle after I was most of the way through one and too intoxicated to drive. Fortunately, my beloved is good enough at setting boundaries to tell me no for my own good. But it caused way too many unnecessary arguments and nights of sleeping on the couch.
Fortunately, I love my family and mate and don’t want to engage in behavior that hurts them. I’d rather have a healthy relationship with my partner and kids than an unhealthy one with the bottle any day.
I Discovered That I Didn’t Like What Wine Did to My Brain
The occasional drink won’t hurt most people too much. However, it can cause physical and chemical changes in your brain over the long term, slowly warping your personality into someone you barely recognize.
One way alcohol does lasting damage is by affecting your dopamine system. This neurochemical governs reward, making you feel good. Your receptor sites for this substance light up when you introduce alcohol, interpreting it as their anticipated reward. However, studies of alcoholic brains show a reduction in these receptors, indicating that individuals may struggle to feel pleasure from ordinary activities.1
This mechanism partially explains why people get edgier when they have a hangover. But dopamine isn’t the only neurotransmitter that alcohol affects. It also wreaks havoc on your brain’s GABA receptors.2 This substance is the opposite of glutamate, acting like the body’s natural Valium, telling you to relax by inhibiting neuronic signaling.
Alcohol binds to GABA receptors, so you feel relaxed after drinking. Trouble arises when your brain tries to return to homeostasis. It increases glutamate levels, an excitatory neurotransmitter that can make you anxious — cue “hangxiety.” Over time, too much drinking can also deaden your GABA receptors, making you feel on edge all the time. No, thank you.
I’m forever grateful to my nurse friend, who patiently explained how alcohol affects your brain chemistry. Knowledge is power, and learning that I was destroying critical parts of my mind made it easier to say no to wine and yes to me.
I Rediscovered My Personality Without Alcohol
One of the primary reasons I began drinking wine in the first place was to fit in. It seemed like it was what all the “cool” moms did. I didn’t want to be left out of the summer spritzer clan.
However, saying no to wine let my genuine personality shine. I discovered I liked myself better without the bottle. Sure, it was fun to dance half-naked on bartops when I was 20. But nowadays, I can do without embarrassing social media posts.
Quitting drinking also forced me to navigate the social scene without the security blanket of a bottle in hand. I’ve discovered I’d rather laugh at the antics of my more inebriated friends while staying comfortably in control. I no longer wake up with an impending sense of doom, wondering what mortifying things I said or did the night before.
Even better, saying no to wine let me rediscover my forgotten interests. I found it was much more relaxing to practice yoga after work and found a fabulous studio where I felt nurtured. I can’t recommend such hobbies enough if you’re trying to quit.
I Said Yes to Improved Health and Vitality
Moderate alcohol consumption — two drinks or less per day — has some cardiovascular benefits, though often overstated.3 However, these rapidly disappear when you go over that limit. My alcohol use was like a potato chip commercial. I can’t have just one.
Ongoing heavy drinking can hurt your cardiovascular system, increasing your blood pressure and raising your heart attack and stroke risks.4 It also destroys other parts of the body. You probably know it doesn’t do your liver any favors. It can also contribute to unwanted weight gain and even make you look old by dehydrating your skin and causing wrinkles.
I don’t think of myself as overly vain — but Botox is expensive. Furthermore, I want to see my kids walk down the graduation aisle and to the altar if the latter pleases them. Alcohol could rob me of that chance. I refuse to let it.
Saying “No” to Wine Was Saying “Yes” to Me
There’s nothing wrong with drinking wine or having the occasional cocktail. However, those who don’t know when to say “when” are better off passing the bottle.
If you’re trying to reduce your consumption, consider these reasons and write your own list for getting healthier. Find some suitable replacement activities — perhaps signing up for a fitness class with a friend or taking a Udemy course that fascinates you.
I stopped drinking wine, and it helped me to be a better person and a better mom. I enjoy better health and happier relationships, two things worth staying sober for.