Day 15: Monday
Another week goes past. I’m starting to feel like things are getting on track. I’m still feeling tired, but I’m putting that down to a weekend in Sydney and a few late nights. The good news is my moods have stabilised, and, aside from the allergic reaction, I don’t seem to be experiencing any negative effects from drinking wine over the weekend.
On the rash, I am freaking out a little (ok, a lot) because while I was researching the impact of alcohol on moods for last weeks post, I came across an article explaining how some heavy drinkers experience extreme itchiness when they stop drinking. Mental Health Daily says:
“Some people have reported that they experience intensely itchy skin during withdrawal. The itch can feel almost like a rash in regards to severity and/or like bugs crawling all over the skin. The cause of this isn’t fully understood but one theory suggests that it’s the result of the central nervous system reactivating itself via nerve endings after being numbed by the alcohol for an extended period.”
Day 16: Tuesday
I keep thinking that I’m not that heavy a drinker. My week pre-abstinence went something like:
Monday: AFD (alcohol free day)
Tuesday: Could go either way, but generally AFD
Wednesday: 1 glass of wine (about 150ml)
Thursday: 2 glasses
Friday: 3 glasses
Saturday: More than 3. Depending on whether we’ve gone out for dinner.
Sunday: Still the weekend right? So 3 glasses
So all up, if I’m being kind to myself, around about 14 glasses of wine a week. Except a standard glass is 100ml (according to alcohol.org.nz). So on that basis, I was drinking 21 standard drinks a week. Terrifyingly, the Ministry of Health guidelines say:
“2 standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week….and at least 2 alcohol-free days every week.”
I’ve been miles off! I guess at least I was getting the two AFDs (mostly) per week. No wonder my doctor keeps freaking out. Crikey, it’s not much though, is it? On the basis of two days off per week, that’s an average of just over a glass of wine per day at my pouring rate.
Day 17: Wednesday
It turns out I’m likely not allergic to wine, but to Dove Body Wash, which I was using at my friends out. Quick google search and voila! Dozens of entries complaining about having the same problem. Will need to reassess when this project is complete, but I’m breathing a sigh of relief.
Day 19: Friday
I caught up with an old friend today. I’d met her through work, back in the day, and she has had her own battles with the booze. Her self proclaimed issue is an inability to stop once she’s started.
We talked quite a bit about what I’m doing, and she shared her own experiences. She’s stopped drinking for a few 6 month stretches to get herself back on track and has now realised a few life lessons, which I want to talk about more as this diary progresses.
A big one was about recent research talking about learning moderation over abstinence. I’ve talked about this concept in my blog before, so this is something for me to mull over in the coming months. The general thought is that we are social beings and that life is not black and white. We live in the grey. All or nothing is not necessarily an answer – sometimes a drink is a nice thing to do, and that’s fine. It’s knowing where the balance is that’s the tricky part. I’ve asked her to send me the research and I will definitely be sharing it. I think this is an important concept, and it needs a great deal of thought.
The second area we discussed was knowing your poison. My friend was a wine drinker, but was finding the alcohol content too much. So she’s switched to vodka with mixers. Nice glass, same volume, less booze. She’s finding she’s better for it. Instead of drinking three 150ml glasses of wine and being really not very sober, she can drink three vodka/sodas of the same size and feel pretty good. And most importantly, clear headed in the morning.
Day 20: Saturday
To date this week, my need for a drink really hasn’t surfaced. I’m quite pleased with how little I’ve really needed it, bearing in mind it’s been less that a week since I was in Sydney.
I have to say though, I’m not really ready to spend much time in any environments where there is significant amounts of booze. And I can’t go near anything masquerading as alcohol without alcohol.
I was in at the supermarket and a man was sampling Italian zero alcohol beer. I gave it a go, because, you know, why not?
Why not? BECAUSE I REALLY WANTED A DRINK AFTERWARDS!!
So that was a bad idea. As soon as I tasted the beer, which really tasted like beer, I wanted an actual beer. Not one with zero alcohol.
I’m staying the hell away from that stuff.
What I learned this week: Sleep
Sleeping has been an interesting journey for me so far. Before I stopped drinking, I used to sleep much better when I had an alcohol free day, than I did after a couple of wines. When I stopped altogether my sleep packed up. Now I’m finding that although my energy levels have come right during the day, my sleep patterns are sporadic to say the least.
Many alcohol help sites talk about issues with insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns during the first month or more of abstinence. Hearteningly, they all say that eventually the body’s natural circadian rhythms will reestablish themselves, once the body is completely free of the influence of alcohol.
The website verywell.com says:
“People in alcohol recovery take a long time to fall asleep, have problems sleeping through the night, and feel that their sleep is not restorative. Lab studies show reductions in deep sleep and abnormalities in REM sleep in persons with more than a year of sobriety.
‘Sleep has a reputation among the recovering community of being one of the last things that fall back into place for an individual,’ said David Hodgins, professor of psychology at the University of Calgary.”
The reasons behind sleeplessness are outlined by alcoholrehabguide.com:
“Alcohol suppresses certain neurotransmitters in your brain which cause you to feel at ease after drinking. When you quit drinking, the neurotransmitters are no longer inhibited by alcohol. This results in hyperexcitability – the reason why withdrawal symptoms affect you differently from alcohol consumption.”