Expectations and Surprises

Tomorrow will be 3 weeks into my life without alcohol.

I expected it would be hard. It is.

Sometimes I crave a drink so *&$&^$ badly I want to scream and kick like a toddler in the cereal aisle.  I’m more of a composure freak than an actual control freak, but either way it’s unnerving to face how powerful I have allowed alcohol to become within my body and mind.

I expected I would feel better quickly. I haven’t.  I had completely underestimated the effect and length of the detox process – most mornings I feel worse than if I’d had a bottle of wine the night before.  At least I know the process is temporary, though.  Clearly my body was affected by my drinking much more than I had realized.  I thought I was “quitting while ahead” of any real damage but my body is now telling me a different story.

I expected to feel triumphant. I really thought that the success of each day without alcohol would make me happy.  Instead I am grieving the companionship of a glass (or four) of wine.  Rather than grieving the “old me”, my overwhelming sadness is for the lovely bottles and pretty glasses and sophisticated shops and selections and pairings – all the swirling and anticipation and oh, I must stop.

I miss it so much it hurts me physically.  My chest aches and I have a lump in my throat.  I never expected I would be so sad, and the misery further confirms that I needed to quit. I know that feelings pass and all I have to do is breath and wait patiently.

I thought more people would notice. I thought I would drop a few pounds. I thought I would drink sparkling juice from a wine glass.

No one has really noticed, expect my in-laws.  And I haven’t lost weight because eating sweets helps with headaches as the body adjusts to the radical drop in empty carbs consumed nightly.  I allowed myself the forbidden indulgences of chocolate and ice cream during the transition out of drinking but now I am weaning myself from those as well.

Instinctively I have stayed away from “faux” or virgin cocktails.  I suspected they might be helpful in terms of blending into social situations, but also feared they would weaken my resolve.  I posted the question on Twitter (@unpickledblog) and received overwhelming response opposed to drinking fake beer and cockatils:

“You are teasing yourself”

“Those drinks create unhealthy illusions…Very dangerous for recovery”

“A slippery slope”

“I don’t tease my disease”

Twitter has proved to be a most effective tool in my recovery – another thing I did not forsee.  At this moment I am connected with 60 or so others who follow and encourage one another.  Most are anonymous, as am I.  It is an absolute Godsend and I would not have made it this far without the readers of this blog and the encouragement from the other folks on Twitter.

Which brings me to my next surprise:

I thought I was in an unusual situation that would be hard for others to understand. This is just plain willful self-deception on my part.  I am amazed by the stories, blogs, webpages, and books devoted to people just like me – overachievers who substitute attention and approval for self-acceptance, working moms whose evening glass of wine evolved into a larger problem, people who drink a little extra before bed in hopes of falling dead asleep before having to be alone in the quiet of the mind. High-functioning. Haven’t hit “rock bottom”. Promising oneself every day not to drink and then later choosing to anyway.  All I had to do was look – it is as easy to find online as any other interest you might search.

I couldn’t imagine telling anyone I knew. I have finally made some decisions about this and selected a few special people to trust with the whole truth.  My husband only four of my close friends who I knew would understand and be supportive. I have told my three sons, ages 19, 17, and 14, although I’ve spared them the details.  Otherwise, I don’t think too many people will need to know or even care.  I don’t want to share everything with my sisters and parents, even though we are a close family.  They will just realize over time that I show up with a bottle of ginger ale instead of wine. (No one really liked the wine I’d bring anyways.  They don’t drink much and so prefer the sweet wines of a “beginner”. I am pretty sure I consumed most of the wine myself that I’d bring to family dinners.)

I thought time would go slowly. It hasn’t – the past three weeks have flown by.  I catch myself wondering sometimes if I have really quit or if my mind is playing games on me.  I can’t be three weeks already!  I thought I would have trouble sleeping – Lord knows I would often have more wine at bedtime in a near-panic that I would never fall asleep without it.  Possibly the most delightful surprise is how well I sleep, how happy I wake up – even if a detox headache persists, I know I have made it to another day.

I feared judgment from others in recovery. This has been the sweetest surprise of all to me – the warm welcome and support from the recovery community.  In an earlier comment I said I was afraid I wasn’t “broken” enough.

A few years back I attempted to help my mom achieve her weight-loss goals by joining a women-only circuit gym together.  We went several times and I was so uncomfortable to be fit and healthy in a room full of women struggling with their bodies.  This was supposed to be their “safe place” away from people like me – sporty people who actually “like” working out.   I dropped my membership and my mom, I suspect, enjoyed the gym more herself without me.

Forgive me, forgive me.  I am ashamed to say I thought the recovery community would be the same – a bunch of sad sack washed-up drunks trying to get their shit together and resenting my utter fabulousness.  Instead I have encountered kind, funny, smart, generous souls who cheer for one another and care so deeply about each journey.  Fabulous themselves, and sincerely concerned for me as much as anyone else!


  1. Day 7! I’m so grateful to have your blog, Jean! It’s my bible! I was so relieved to read this post. The first 3 days I felt awful! Headache, upset stomach at times, and anxious. The last few days I feel so, so, much better. I was so scared the first couple of days that I had really damaged my health and now the shame of revealing I did it my drinking was overwhelming. A lot of tears! I started cutting and pasting snippets of inspiring and comforting words from the post and replies found here onto a word doc for myself. I titled it common sense! I can read those words readily at any time like a mantra. It keeps me on course and less afraid. I am determined to make it stick! I was listening to your lastest Bubble Hour guest, Jill. It made a lot of sense to me, it really comes down to one word, STOP! Nothing is worth losing your health and happiness.


    • You’re doing great, keep going. Something that often happens next is that old voice starts chirping “see you can quit for a few days so you’re not an alcoholic and can have a drink tonight, just one won’t hurt,” Sansa if you hear that voice don’t be fooled! Do the next right thing. Do the best thing. Push on!


      • Thank you, Jean! It feels different this time. I love your advice not to be fooled and do the next right thing. I’m on day 8. A real day 8, I’ve been journaling really delving into the CBT. An author, Byron Katie of “A mind at home with itself” suggested 3 questions to ask your self when faced with a challenge, “Is it true? Is it really true? And if so what can you do to resolve it?” Sometimes the past hurts and memories may be true and really true but the only resolution is to forgive from within yourself and accept that the past cannot be changed. Many times when I would binge drink it was to drown out and escape past disappointments and hurtful events. In examining those past disappointments, after asking myself those three questions, I realized that maybe some of those were really not true but my perspective. And that’s ok. I accept it. But it diffused the hurt attached to it. And instead of reaching for something to numb myself, I write about it in my journal. And always end it with a gratitude entry. It is helping with those misperceptions that often made me reach for escape.

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  2. this post really spoke to me. I’m 11 days in now and I feel like you are very eloquently expressing my thoughts right now… Thank you for all you do here and on the bubble hour. I listen to it on my way home from work every day and it gives me such strength! I literally feel like it creates my bubble each day.

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  3. I am really struggling on how to share this change with my parents and sisters. At almost 35 years old, I think the fear comes from both the accountability this will ensure (I fail, they know, they care, they hold me accountable), the shame I feel that I let it go as far as it did (although similar to yours, nowhere near a rock bottom situation – evening drinking to relieve stress that became a nightly, 2-3 glass habit), the disappointment that I won’t be able to celebrate “with” them in the ways in which they celebrate (wine), the fact that my parents are part of the reason it got to where it did (some of the trauma they caused in my twenties). So many reasons. I want to be ready to tell them. I have a blog I started, so I can explain things without having to go into great detail in person, which I am not ready to do. But I am afraid to even share that. This is the hardest step for me. Even harder than not drinking. And I think the biggest fear is that they won’t even believe me. I hid it really, really well.


  4. Day 2 again this week! I am trying to redo activities without the wine. Over the weekend my husband and I went for a long hike to physically prepare for an upcoming trip to several National Parks. I’ve always inebriated myself with wine after each hike to numb the pain and tiredness. This time I was resolve not to drink alcohol. I was thinking about wine the whole time. Every step I took made me angry about my addiction and that I couldn’t drink one glass to celebrate the accomplishment. I really had to put a great deal of effort just to focus on the moment. So hard! I didnt drink that night only because we ended up in a beer joint that didn’t serve wine ( I don’t crave beer). Husband drinks occasionally and he wanted to go to this beer place. He doesn’t understand how difficult this is for me dispite my repeated explanations over the years. “Just have one glass”, he says! I wasn’t successful the following day but that is another issue and a strory for another time. It’s going to be ok. I am sober today.


    • It is so hard for normal drinkers to understand that some of us can not stop after “just one glass”. That, to me, is like having one peanut or one potato chip. Why would you even start if you had to stop after one? lol. I am sober with you today. We are going to be just fine!


  5. Thanks for this post. I have had more Day 1 than I care to admit – making it to Day 7 a few times, but I’ve always gone back to drinking. One thing I’ve noticed on those sober days is that I physically feel so worn out and headachey. I’m currently on Day 2 (again), and knowing that it may take a while to physically feel better is reassuring. At least when I wake up tired, I’m not tired AND hungover (or still buzzed).

    I also am keeping my quitting a secret. While I know that friends and family will be supportive, I’m not ready to talk about it just yet. I just found your blog – maybe posting here will help. I hope so. Thanks for all you’ve shared so far.


    • I am so glad you wrote this and sending you encouragement for the weekend ahead. Hang in there. It takes a while for the booze to get out of your system and once it does the body starts to feel better. At least that was my experience and it seems to be pretty consistent. Keep posting – it really helps!


  6. Day 25:) Still keeping it a secret and can’t believe my hubby has not noticed and/or mentioned. I have been out to dinner on 4 occasions and normally would have had 2 glasses of wine. I have looked around at other diners and calculate- I probably would have been done with my first glass by now. It is interesting to me that not every diner is drinking a cocktail or wine with their meal. I never made note of that. I just wanted to be sure that I didn’t drink too fast with the first glass or too slow that I couldn’t reasonably order a 2nd glass! There have been some craving moments and times when I begin rationalizing…… maybe I would just have a glass of wine as I have proven that I can live without it. Not listening to that voice!!! I feel like i have been given a gift to spend my time more fully being me, warts and all. I am a mix of emotions- proud.. and also worried about how to handle the -Oh come on-have a drink that I suspect will occur. We have a big family gathering coming up. My brothers like to get together and “party”..I intend to stay true to me. Diet Coke with Lime should pass as rum and coke. We shall see……… The blog, comments and bubble hour are fortifying my resolve. Thank you!


  7. Oh my, I can so relate to the sadness. I think that, and fear of failing, is what has kept me from making this change that I KNOW I need to make. I love winter and bundling up in warm clothes…for me, alcohol is like my warm fuzzy blanket that I pull up over myself every evening. The thought of never drinking again makes me so incredibly sad…it’s like losing a part of myself (and, seriously, how scary is that as I re-read it?). I’m also realizing that this awareness is part of a bigger “growing up” that I just need to step up and do (I’m 51…), for myself but mostly for my two kids. As I contemplate making this change, I’m also seeing that I always hang back a little bit from life – kind of protecting myself and stepping forward to engage only when I know it’s safe…alcohol has totally fed into that. Although having always loved wine, my current affair is with micro brew craft beer (oh god I could wax poetic about the joys of a 9.1% imperial IPA or a 10.2% stock ale)…the higher the alcohol content, the better. I’ve always known that one day I would have to stop since I come from a family of alcoholics and my off switch seems to be generally disfunctional (not completely non-functional, but definitely not healthy). I can also very much relate to the constant thoughts about alcohol – I have to laugh as I think about conversations I have had with my wonderful husband about how often men think about sex…I’m quite sure I spend that amount of time or more thinking about alcohol, at least once it hits 4pm! Well, enough. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your journey. Like so many others, I found your blog via Google a couple of weeks ago and have been working my way through. By now you are several years into your journey and I’m so looking forward to reading about your experiences. You and all the others who take time to post here are a beacon of hope for me, truly, and I am deeply grateful. I wish you and all of your amazing readers the best!



    • Fear not! All is well in UnPickled-land and I hope to post something new soon. I take my time assessing each stage and lesson I encounter, doing my best to ensure I whittle it down to the heart of the matter – something I believe allows us all to see the common thread we share. Sometimes the lessons are few and far between. Sometimes they are complex and take ages to reveal themselves. And sometimes I’m just up to my eyebrows in other aspects of life! But recent events have provided much food for thought and a new post will be coming soon. Xo, UnP


  8. You and I are so at the same place….I am on day 42.
    The thing that struck me in this post was the feeling of not being “broken”enough. I so get that. I just keep telling myself that I was broken enough for me, and that is the truth. The love and acceptance I’ve received from fellow alcoholics has been amazing, and some of biggest laughs I’ve had lately are about other women’s “drunkcapades”. I listen, laugh, find all the similarities, am grateful I didn’t have to go there and know, KNOW that I could have. I’m going to now read your whole blog. My house needs cleaning, but reading blogs and focussing on my sobriety has now become my obsession. I can vacuum later it; it will take half the time and I will do a much better job doing it sober.
    Thanks for this


  9. Just stumbled upon your blog, have read all your entries. I can so relate to ALL of it!! I will be 18 months sober on May 9th. That in itself just blows my mind. Th first 3 months were the hardest for me. I was so worried about my secret and the judgement of others. I quit around the holidays so there were a lot of social events to attend but I got thru it. I think your blog is a great idea for accountability. When I quit I told a few select friends, as time progressed I am MUCH more comfortable at outing myself as a non drinker. the key for me is what my comfort level is. Some people I use the excuse I quit because alcohol gives me migraines, others I may just say I am on medication(this works for work stuff and social events that are one time deals) and closer people in my life know the gory details. Take your time, do what feels best. Also epsom salt baths at night, and seltzer water with lime helped me thru many of those first evenings….lots of netflix….oh and running…….I think exercise speeds up the detox process(and it is even better now that my sweat doesn’t smell like chardonney)….congrats on your life choice!!! Keep doing what your doing!!!


  10. I’m working on my ‘day 1’, seven days in a row now. You are an inspiration to me to keep trying, keep going, no matter what!
    Keep up the good work!


    • How are you, Judi? Have you made it to Day 2 yet? Don’t give up! Figure out what is stopping you and try to make changes around that. For me, telling someone I trusted was the game changer. Keep me posted!


  11. working mom who loved evening glasses (lots) of wine and taking that extra drink before bedtime to pass out before the thoughts came in. :::Raises hand:::
    Those are me, right here.

    Twitter follower and fellow sympathetic member in the rooms of AA.
    Also, right here.

    Congrats on 3 weeks.


    • Thanks, Robin! I am going to write more on that topic (bedtime wine and common threads) in a blog soon. I appreciate your support and your sunny disposition :)Thanks for being ther for me and others.


  12. Your journey is an inspiration to me. I have read every word and look forward to future posts. This is a big step for me because I never ever ever comment on anyone’s blog. I always felt that if I made a comment on a recovery blog it would mean that “I’m one of them”. Well shit, guess what? ….. Thank you for sharing and making me more aware that maybe it’s time for my own journey to begin.


    • I had to wait a whole day to respond to you because every time I read your comment yesteray I choked up. Same for Brook, who commented (above) about being scared to stop. Good gravy, I never dreamed anyone would be inspired by my mess and struggles – but we are all in this together, we just didn’t know it because we are all hiding. It’s exciting to link arms and pull eachother through. Now we know that “one of them” means “one who is smart enough to see the problem and strong enough to do something about it”. Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing – holler if you need help because I will be cheering for you!


    • I’m not gonna lie – I hang on those words : “It’s worth it”…”it’s better than you even imagine”…”you will never regret the change”. Those words of encouragement ring through my head several times a day, especially during low moments. I am starting to see glimmers of it, and I feel the truth of those words in my soul.


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