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What Do I Drink If I No Longer Drink?

Earlier this week my husband visited this blogsite for the first time.  In his typical fashion, he read thoughtfully, gently stroking his finger up the iPad screen as he moved through entry after entry.  In my typical fashion, I scurried about the house gathering laundry, changing sheets, and doing everything I could to stay busy until he finished.  I would have appreciated some token feedback – a little “whew”, “wow” and “gosh” go a long way.  But no, I know him well enough to know he would need to process it on his own for a while.

That night before bed he hugged me and said he thought the blog was wonderful (*sigh of relief*).  A few days later we were at work together, wrapping up a meeting in his office.  With just the two of us and a rare moment of privacy, he did something we seldom do at work – shut his office door to discuss a personal issue.

“I want to be respectful and supportive,” he said. “I want to understand how to do that, but at the same time I would still like to be able to have a beer in the back yard on a nice day.  What is that like for you? Is it harder for you if I do that?”

I explained that I don’t expect anyone else to stop drinking, so I would happily join him in the yard for some sunshine and erm…..um….tea? Diet coke? Nothing really sounds all that appealing or appropriate to me, either.

I have yet to find anything that really replaces the wine for me.

The only drink to rival the anticipation and enjoyment of my (former) evening dose of wine was and is coffee.  I open my eyes each morning at 6:30 and cheerfully stagger to the quiet, empty kitchen to fill my favourite mug with strong coffee and fat-free cream.  Mmmmmm.  On weekends I return to bed with the coffee and paper to spend a leisurely hour or two.

The first person I take care of each day is myself and I cherish the luxury.  Having had three children in four years, I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades looking after everyone else from dawn to dusk.  There is a lot I miss now that the boys have grown, but there are a few things I’m happy to leave behind as well.

I have adored raising my sons but oh, it’s so hard to wake up each morning and still feel tired.  Starting my day rested and enjoying a bit of solitude is a lovely reward for making it through the more demanding years of motherhood.

Morning coffee is on a mental pedestal for me.  Funny though, how after two or three cups – that’s it! No more for the day.  Offer me coffee after 10 am and I will look at you like you’re a maniac. (What? Coffee now? At this time of the day?)  10 am – 4 pm were the “buffer zone” in my day.  Water maybe, possibly a diet coke with lunch.

Then came the blessed hour at which I could begin the next phase: happy hour.  Or, as I downplayed it: having-a-little-drink-while-cooking-supper hour. 

Drinking while cooking was entirely justified to me because:

a) chefs do it on tv

b) I’d had a busy day and deserved a little treat

c) I was going to pair a glass of wine with dinner anyways so I might as well just have a few sips of it beforehand and

d) I didn’t really want a big meal but was preparing it for my family’s enjoyment therefore I was self-sacrificing, which always calls for a drink.

I would often joke with my friends that my health plan included a strict daily regime of coffee to power up and booze to power down.  As an otherwise fit and health-conscious person, this statement was so silly it always got a laugh.  Only I knew the truth of it and on looking back, I think saying it aloud was an early attempt to be honest.  A weak attempt, but at least it was the beginnings of being honest with myself.

Simply put, coffee and wine were two of my great daily joys.  No wonder it has been so difficult to quit the wine – it left a big hole in my self-care.

Around 3 or 4, I start to get a little antsy – this is the part of the day when I would begin looking forward to a drink after work.  Now what do I have to look forward to? Often I now come home and have a small sweet or bit of ice cream plus a mug of tea.  (Note: it seems important that the tea mug is large, lovely and exclusively mine.  I seem to be transferring the attachment I had to the wine glass as an icon of….what exactly? Indulgence? Reward?)

I have also started scheduling a pleasant activity for this time of day to give me something else to look forward to instead of wine. So far this week, the replacements treats have included a visit to the bookstore, a 30-minute neck massage, a manicure, a hike, a People magazine. Dinners are getting later and later in our house as I battle through the much-less-happy-hour.

With supper I will often mix a concoction of juice and pop, which my family calls “Juice Pop” – clever, inventive bunch that we are.  The juice helps replace the sugar cycle my body has been accustomed to over the years of wine before, during, and after dinner.

That’s the day to day but what about social situations? If we go out, I have been ordering a cranberry and soda, which may or may not look conspicuously non-alcoholic.  I am noticing that busier bars are more likely to serve non-alcoholic drinks in large, tacky glasses branded with a soda company – I’m guessing that helps the servers keep the order straight.  The more elegant the venue, the more likely it seems that a “virgin” order may fly below the radar.

A great suggestion for handling things within our regular circle of friends came from one of my dear confidants, who says that it can make a host feel awkward to hand you a plain old glass of tap water when all of the others guests are being treated to special beverages.  She noted that it makes the host and other guests more comfortable if you also have something “special” so bring along a bottle of Perrier or imported soda and allow the host to feel they are pampering you as much as everyone else.  Eventually, your circle of friends will incorporate your drink of choice into their household selections.

All of this swirled through my head as I sat in my husband’s office. I was so thankful for his acceptance, so touched by his desire to be supportive.  I thought about everything from coffee to Perrier as I considered our situation.  This is a new normal for us and we are embracing it together.

I thought of the many times my husband had gotten home from work before me and started supper.  When he’d hear my car pull into the garage, he’d pour a glass of wine and set it out for me to see as I walked in.  A thoughtful gesture that said “welcome home” and “good job today” and “I am here for you” all at once.

I think what he is wondering is how to show the same consideration now.  I’ve taken away the “sure thing” and while he is incredibly proud of me for this, it also leaves him without direction.

We agreed that the wine on the counter was an important symbol but could be replaced with something else. Something special.  We decided to make it a mission to discover a special drink for me that isn’t a “mocktail” but that requires a bit of effort.  Something more than the coffee, tea or diet soda I drink constantly. It will be our summer project: try new things, find new favourites.

So you see, I’m learning.  This week the lesson extended beyond myself, as I learn to be considerate for others and understand that someone’s discomfort with my alcohol abstinence can come from their desire to be a good host, friend, or companion.

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on April 17, 2011, in Getting Sober. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. What have you found to replace wine? I was thinking of trying Fre

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    • I missed the acidity of wine, so I go for something with a real bite – usually tonic water or soda with grapefruit. Some people find that nonalcoholic versions of wine are too triggering, same for n/a beer or coolers. I find that na beer is fine for me and I like it in a fancy glass, sometimes with a shot of grapefruit juice for zip. But mostly now I choose water or tea. It took a few years but I eventually lost interest in what I was drinking and turned my attention to what I was doing, conversations or experiences, good food, dessert.

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      • thank you….I’m still searching-may try tea-I don’t like cold drinks so something warm or room temp would be nice. What I’m learning is the wine became a habit. After a long day with 3 kids, I would unwind with a glass and a good book. Again, thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad I found this blog. I too love wine and feel absolutely helpless without it in the house. I drink everyday. This has been day 2 with no alcohol. I am happy about that. I have a lot of stress in my life. I’m 54 years old raising a 10-year old granddaughter, mom is very sick and needs 24 hour care and has limited resources. I will get through this though without alcohol. In God’s name. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

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    • My friend, you are carrying a heavy load. At first, a nice glass of wine seems like the perfect way to reward ourselves for the hard things we do. It can work so nicely at first. But eventually it becomes another demand in our life, and instead of rewarding ourselves we realize we are slaves to this habit. You will be so much stronger for your loved ones without wine. It is hard at first but it is worth the effort. Also, wine numbs the bad emotions but it also numbs the good stuff. Without it, you will be surprised how much more you will be able to enjoy that sweet granddaughter of yours. Together you can find the sunshine in each day. Sending you strength and love. Be good to yourself.

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  3. Sparkling water with lemon and frozen blackberries with lots of ice in my favorite over sized wine glass! I’m on day 10. I read your blog and a few others daily as though my life depends on it, I can’t believe the strength it gives me! When usually I’m looking forward to getting home and seeing how quickly I can get up to bed with a bottle of wine and a movie, now I’m stealing away those moments to read these blogs instead. Thank so much, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read you’re blog and said, “Me too!!!”. And the way you describe all the delicious benefits of being sober, I just can’t wait and it replaces and beats out any temptation to just stay stuck where I have been. I have a girls weekend next weekend, beginning with a winery of course. This will be my first big challenge and I’m so glad in have this resource to keep me strong when I feel weak.

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    • I too am on day 10, I am trying so hart to find a replacement for wine…nothing sounds appealing. Wine TASTES good. Nothing compares…for now. It goes with everything…bubble baths, reading my kindle by the fire, watching a movie, housework, gardening…wow what a habit (bad) I have/ HAD created. I’ve never been into soda and don’t want to begin. But your idea of sparkling water with frozen blackberries and lemon really does sound good. Please update after your girls weekend, with the winery. I have some camping trips (moms and kids) coming up and there is always lots of wine flowing and I’m nervous. I don’t want to give up my friends, nor camping…I just need/ want to learn how to have fun without alcohol;-).

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      • Congratulations on day 10! The girls weekend was now about 7 months ago, and I am happy to say I am at almost 8 months of no alcohol now 🙂 Not one sip and I. can’t. believe. it. I too am not willing to give up friends/fun so it was important to me to go on that weekend trip and face the challenge. I don’t know about you but after years of drinking almost daily, at day 10 I was feeling pretty determined not to give up all my hard work of saying no every day all day to alcohol for so long, and that helped me stay strong. However, I wasn’t ready to show up to this bachelorette party at a winery and talk about my new found sobriety, that seemed selfish to me somehow, so in this case I did what was best for me and faked it. Nobody realized that every time I raised my wine glass I was just smelling it’s yummyness and no one noticed later that it was just fizzy water, no gin, in my gin and tonic. And knowing that I would wake up hang over free PLUS extra hydrated from the 10,000 virgin gin and tonics kind of gave me something to look forward to. Now, almost 8 months later, now that I’ve found my sea legs with all this, my friends and family all know I don’t drink and I just pour a big glass of fizzy water in the biggest wine glass I can find and join in on the card game or the happy hour or whatever it is. Good luck with your camping trips, please update afterward 🙂

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  4. I am so happy to have found your blog. Unpickled and my IPad are welcome choices over my wine bottles. Thank you so much. Cyndy

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    • Glad to be of service! There are lots of sobriety bloggers linked on the sidebar, too. And podcasts to take with you when you’re driving or walking or puttering around the house! (I co-host The Bubble Hour). You are not alone and there’s tons of support, stories, and encouragement to help you on your journey. Our journey. We are all in it together.

      >

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  5. So your blog is like I’ve written it in my dreams or something! (Except I am a red wine girl) Your justifications in the post are EXACTLY what I tell myself. While I do not consider myself an alcoholic, the choices I make with wine are disordered. I’ve gained 20 lbs in the last 3 years (about the time I started choosing wine over water), find myself with hangovers on the weekdays sometimes, and am missing a large chunk of my paycheck that I could not account for. I have tried the “only on weekends” thing, the “only 1 glass thing” etc and find myself starting each day out with…well TODAY will be different. What started out as a love for fine wine has turned into a LOT of excess weight, a terrible excuse to not excersize (when you start drinking at 5pm there’s not a lot of time to go for a run…and then I’m too tired in the morning to do it), headaches, stretching my paycheck too thin, and a basic disrespect for myself. I am a hard-working business professional with great friends, a great family, a great job, only minor baggage issues, a usually a very strong sense of self control. I do NOT know why wine is an issue that I seem to not be able to deal with. Thank you for showing me that there is a distinction between disordered drinking and an alcoholic and that I have options to get through what I know I must do.

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  6. I am really happy to know I am not alone. Today is day 3. I didn’t drink everyday but more than half of the week. Lambrini 2/3 bottles or rose 2 bottles and or some vodka. Mother of twin 4 year olds one of witch has autism. I told the doctor when he first diagnosed depression that I felt I had a drinking problem and he said cut down then!!!! Before the children I used to go out with hubby every night and get plastered on vodka rarely did I remember after 9pm! The children saved me there but I have gained a lot of weight. I quit smoking 6 years ago as I did not want to burn my wedding dress, now I must quit drinking to lose weight. Would love to keep in touch and give support to others in the same boat. Lisa.

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  7. I just found your blog today and am so happy! I quit drinking last week and have been 5 days sober for the first time in as many years as I can remember. I too was a high functioning, covert (or not) wine drinker. I too am a high achieving perfectionist on my way to a top ivy league graduate program after 10 years as a young professional. I am about to leave a good job to move me and my husband to a new city for said program and I knew that in order to not destroy our collective lives in this stressful time of transition, wine and drinking had to go. Still, I am clearly continuing to dissasociate a glass of wine from all the trips you mention, cooking a gourmet meal, catching up with girlfriends. I am struggling to see myself as socially adept without a glass of wine at a cocktail party. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can relate to most all of them. However, I am also attending something called IOP – intensive outpatient therapy. I have finally accepted that I am an alcoholic and, as someone who makes decisions based on solid data, the data show that us addicts needs tools! I haven’t yet been to an AA since I began sobriety, but I intend to go asap – we are getting our house on the market this week and time is just not there aside from my three group IOP sessions per week. I also want to say, no matter how high profile you are, AA is just that. Secrets are kept – all is confidential and there is nothing shameful about taking control of your life. Though as I speak, no one I know other than my husband knows I am quitting alcohol altogether. Best of luck to you and I will stay tuned.

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  8. I still only drink water, tea and coffee, having kicked the alcohol to the curb.
    It hasn’t been a huge obsession for me, thank god. I never really liked sodas, dislike sparkling water….for me it was always booze, mostly wine, and water.
    I’m not interested in those “virgin” drinks; for me, without the alcohol, why bother?

    Your husband sounds amazing, you are so lucky to have such great support at home.

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    • Michele, I thought of you last night when I was out for dinner. I stuck with water only through the meal (sablefish – divine!) – my thinking was that I don’t seem to really enjoy ANY drink I order anyway, so water will do. After supper i ordered a decaf cappuccino and now THAT I enjoyed.

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  9. I also like that ‘bite’ that grapefruit juice gives. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for bitter and aggressive flavors. Occasionally I add a bit of grenadine for variety, or a bit of tonic water, or both. Or I leave the grapefruit out entirely and have a tonic and grenadine.

    Recently, I discovered how ridiculously easy it is to make my own grenadine, and these simple little pleasures got a bit of an upgrade. It turns out most commercial versions are now little more than corn syrup with food coloring.

    I’m also a coffee fan, and am armed with a french press, 4-cup stovetop espresso maker, and a demitasse for making Turkish coffee. Then there are the bewildering variety of teas and flavorings for those I keep around…

    …I may be proof that eliminating alcohol does not eliminate the obsession with beverages.

    I won’t even get into the oddball non-alcoholic drinks I buy at the local Asian markets. Finding some favorites there has been pure trial and error, a process I heartily recommend to everyone in food and drink.

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  10. Thanks so much for this amazing piece! My boyfriend (of 7 years) drinks socially, as he’s not like me. He saw me drunk and he saw me struggle through early sobriety and now he sees me sober. It’s been an interesting journey for us. He can be more or less supportive. Now when he has a glass of wine at dinner I don’t mind, but I used to mind big time! If he wants to go to a party with his friends to drink, I find something else to do with my friends. I find it hard not to “control” his drinking, but I know that people have to make their own choices. I am grateful he’s not an alcoholic but to be honest I’m still a little jealous that he ended up so “normal”

    Great blog – I’m adding you to my blogroll!!

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    • Thanks so much for your feedback and for adding me to your blogroll – I am so flattered. I totally understand that teensy bit of resentment to the people around you who don’t get sucked into the habit. Part of convincing myself I was “normal” for drinking was believing that everyone else does it, too. Accepting that was a myth is a bit annoying!

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  11. I gave up the vino almost 18 months ago…still buy san pelligrino by the case to have the “happy hour” drink. i’m home with two little ones and the 5:00 to 7:00 time is still tough sometimes. also changes in weather. thoughts of a crisp white pop into my head when it’s warm and sunny. or a nice red when it’s chilly in the fall. those thoughts are fleeting now and not so hard. there is a drink called “twelve” sold at whole foods where i live. it’s wonderful. a white and red version. lovely bottle. it became my special drink and still is at almost $8 a bottle. everyone enjoys it. http://twelvebeverage.com/
    good luck. thanks for your honesty. i relate so much. -adrianne

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    • Great advice – thanks! I have also reaalized that grapefruit has an sour acidity that is somewhat satisfying as a wine replacement. I mix a bit of ruby red cocktail with sparkling water or diet ginger ale and sip.

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  12. I am blessed to be able to have met you online and to read your blog. I applaud your efforts and for your husband to be considerate enough to ask. I don’t care if people drink around me either. When they begin getting drunkly stupid, I can bail. It’s a great feeling to know I can safely and honestly make that choice! God bless you! Keep working the steps, remember your powerlessness & who we refer to for help. Thank u for sharing your life! You are helping me! ~peace. Sherril

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    • Thanks, Sherril. I am thankful for your support and encouragement as well. My husband has been amazing – funny to think I was afraid to tell him and then so thankful I did. All of my instincts were wrong wrong wrong – that’s the booze talking and messing with the head.

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  13. I get this. I 2 had my same glass of wine while making dinner. It was HUGE! Losing it made me stumble, like you, disrupting my routine with great irritation. I made my wine glasses into beautiful candle holders with sand at the bottom & clear votives inside. A lovely & peaceful reminder of…. I’m certain my dog missed out too as I always gave her splashes with each of my glasses. Now, it’s been over 7 years. Dinners still aren’t the same but sobriety gave me a husband and a son (now 6) Hubby coaches hockey and is also in recovery. He drinks a ton of pop (coke, pepsi, mtn dew, whatever he feels like, never diet. I will drink an occasional diet A&W which is like dessert for me, sometimes even a TAB

    In summer, I Love sparkling water! I poor cans of La Croix into a festive glass and add slices of lemon or lime. When we go out, I LOVE having
    own bottle of San Peligrino, frequently offered in a wine glass, I always ask for a different glass.

    So, while some ponder their alcoholic flavor of the evening, I’ll have already decided on my ‘water-of-choice’. La Croix sparkling with complementing fruit slices is festive & makes me feel special. And I am special. Why do drinks still bring an issue to me after all this time? Cuz it was an issue for far more years than not. So I’m grateful for the long thought process and try to keep it simple by always having lemon/lime on hand so I can treat myself. I do need to drink more water anyway. I get the struggle. Sort of. Being sober will always bring these concoctions into my head. I’m so over hiding the fact that I’m an achy. I tell people “I drank my allotment” or “you don’t want ME to start drinking” or “you don’t have enough booze here to support my drinking habit”! It’s funny & you’d be surprised how many people will bring up AA or family with drinking problems, more opportunities to share your experience, strength and hope. Do u really need a replacement for a routine? Do u really need to have anything waiting for you instead of wine to feel validated? How about just changing the evening up with music, a meeting or a phone conversation with another alchy

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  14. This is a serious post. It was important to me that I find something to drink that would satisfy my palette. Mixers have never triggered cravings for me, environments did. So, Bloody Mary mix or tonic water with lime serves me well. However, I was a wine drinker, like yourself, for a very long time and missed the flavor of the crisp grape. I started freezing grapes and eating them as snacks and really enjoyed them. The white/green grapes are the best. Also, Simply Lemonade’s Lemonade and Limeade are wonderful. Perfect amount of sugar to tart ratio and quite frankly, I can’t stop drinking them.

    You will find what works for you.

    As for your husband, that’s wonderful that he is supportive. You are very lucky.

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  1. Pingback: Is Non-Alcoholic Beer a Safe Option for Alcoholics? | UnPickled

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