Uncomfortably Un-numb

Here I am: Day 22 of the 100-Day-No-Booze Challenge. That’s three weeks without an after-work cocktail.

The good news is, I’m no longer numb.

The bad news is, I’m no longer numb.

Funny thing about drinking (or whatever your numbing agent of choice is), it causes you to tolerate things you otherwise would not tolerate. Work’s got you stressed out? Have a drink! Boyfriend is a complete dick? Have a drink! Money woes have you down? Drink! You have no life because your job has stolen it from you? Drink a lot! After all, drinking is the best way to manage stress when you have no time to manage stress. You can multitask with booze. You can drink and write a brief at the same time. You can’t write a brief and walk, do yoga, meditate, watch a funny movie, or go for a hike. You can’t work and photograph birds at the same time.

To photograph these birds, I had to stop working.

Nevermore (Ravens–Great Bear Rainforest 2013)

Not having the numbing effect of alcohol has greatly increased my stress level. I can actually feel my blood pressure rising at the office. On Monday, a firm holiday that happened to be a gorgeous day in Central Texas, I worked. I worked and stared out the window at the piercing blue sky and the birds at the feeder. The more I looked out the window, the angrier I got. And then my mother called. I didn’t pick up. I was working. She left a message:

Ella, it’s an emergency. Call me back right away.

So I did.

I’m out of diapers. You sent me pants. I needed diapers. You sent the wrong thing.

That’s all it took to push me over the edge. I extricated myself from the call, none to gently. I could feel the waves of anxiety crashing over me. I didn’t know what to do with myself—how to find a release. I opted for a sobbing fit. There was nothing else I could do. I didn’t have time to deal with it any other way. I needed to write my brief. After all, a pile of BigLaw senior partners were expecting a draft the next day. “Fuck ’em,” I said to myself. “Fuck them!” And I put on my shoes and went for a walk. I walked and cried and tried to calm myself down. Twenty minutes in, my breathing settled. My thoughts settled. I began to notice the wind in the trees. The birds. The children on bicycles, laughing and playing.

The thought of spending even two more years this way is overwhelming. Two more years without being numb. But here’s the thing: I’m not going to spend two more years this way. I’m going to figure out how to remake my life. Now that I’m no longer numb, I have no choice.


  • When I stopped drinking, I did not feel more stressed. I felt quite good, a sensation that continues to this day almost 19 years later. Hang in there.


    • Ella has just stopped 22 days ago. You have had 19 years to learn coping mechanisms. I think Ella just realizes how close on the verge of becoming an alcoholic she really was. Way down that path she never wanted to take. You are lightyears ahead of her. When I first commented on this blog Ella numbed herself with wine to get away from anti-depressants she hated.


      • Whoa, hold on there, Fran. I was never on the verge of becoming an Alcoholic with a capital A, which in my mind means physical dependence. At 51, if I’m not there (and I’m not), it’s highly unlikely that would happen. My two Alcoholic brothers were dead in their 50s. That’s my benchmark. Interesting how objectionable that label is, isn’t it? That is not to say physical dependence is the only valid reason to give it up. Alcoholic or not, there are many. Using it as my go-to coping mechanism, for example. The subject of a future post, methinks.


        • I am not accusing you of anything, just saying you were developing a psychological dependance on that stuff – or you would not have yearned for it so often. It had become your default-mode to deal with stress and anxiety. From there to physical dependance is still a step, but that is not so big anymore. Ask some professionals who deal with substance abuse if you do not trust my word. I am not a professional. But I have heard the if you NEED a beer each evening you are an addict-mantra very often.


          • Oh dear. While I did bristle a bit at the idea of having that label attached to me, I was sort of being ironic. You don’t need to be physically dependent to have a good reason to quit. Hell, you don’t need to have any reason to quit, other than you’re just not into it any more. I was indeed developing a psychological dependence. I’ll go one step further: I had developed a psychological dependence. There’s always someone worse you can point to (e.g., my brothers) to tell yourself you’re okay. Okay or not (and really, I wasn’t), I want to find a new way of coping!


  • Your multitasking comment is dead on!

    It is something that people who suggest alternatives like yoga, etc, need to be prepared to address. Or maybe just address without hearing the objection. Because it’s a real-time hurdle when you’re stressed and need to take action NOW.

    Of course, taking a short amount of time to de-stress will improve your productivity or whatever you are trying to improve, but in the moment it just feels like you can’t afford to take that time.

    Good choice taking that walk! I have faith that you will get over the hump soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the moment, I’m completely overwhelmed. I think the trick is to learn to sit with the stress and know it will pass. You are so right that things like taking that walk will increase productivity. Today I took a day off for that very reason. I fretted about it all day, but did it anyway. My next goal is to learn to take time away guilt-free.

      Thank you for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  • yoga works wonders. Try some meditative classes and learn to chill out.. Yeah I know being a lawyer must be insanely hard and that’s why I chose to be a peon for 30 years that knows how to invest and budget diligently
    Good luck !!


  • 100 days is a good challenge. Stick with it. I used to drink. A LOT. I still drink beer or wine in moderation. Now even when life sucks I have no interest in downing cocktails. Certainly friends and work can influence one’s drinking environment. It will take some management. Good luck.


  • I don’t know your entire reasoning to stop drinking (yet), but I can completely empathize with the soul-sucking job. I actually love my job, but it has been super stressful and making me want to drink more in the evenings. Most of the time, my workout after work is enough, but some days that’s all I think about.


  • I can’t tell you how moved I am by this. Both my parents were alcoholics who were never able to quit drinking. They used alcohol to numb themselves, but wound up in a downward spiral of depression, rage, and bitterness. When I read about your decision to just stop, I was curious. Now I’m actively cheering you on. I don’t know you, but I feel sure you can move out of this uncomfortable space and into a much, much better life.


    • Karen, my dad was an alcoholic of the binge-drinking, functional ilk. He was a mean, nasty drunk. At times, raging. As the dementia progressed, his drinking slowed and became very infrequent. I don’t think he drank at all the last couple of years, and he was the sweetest, kindest, most peaceful version of himself we ever witnessed. My sister and I recently talked about how we were happy to have had an opportunity to experience him as his real self. I don’t know if it was getting off the booze or something the dementia caused, but whatever it was, he definitely was a better man at the end of his life. Losing my two brothers in their 50s to alcohol-related diseases at around the same time my dad died was tragic. It’s taken a while to sink in. Since I was never physically dependent, I always told myself it was okay. I was okay. With each day that passes, I’m beginning to see that it doesn’t take physical dependence for alcohol to have a negative effect on your life.

      Thank you for cheering me on, Karen. I am touched by your support.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Good for you, Ella. The fact you’re doing this now and making changes in your lifestyle is going to make things easier later. You never know when life is going to force changes, and you need to pull off a major transformation – fast. Keep fighting!


      • I’ll be posting some good recipes in which you can use all that extra wine. Alcohol cooks out, and you get all the flavor – and the relaxation of creation! Glad to find a kindred spirit!

        Liked by 1 person

  • I remember when I was in college, one of my professors told me that if I was having problems with one of the papers I was writing, I should get up and go outside for a walk. He was so right! I discovered if I had a headache, walking would ease the pain. If my thoughts were all jumbled, walking would straighten them. If I was feeling low, walking would lift the spirits. Now I have a bad ankle and walking is very painful for me. However, when I can do it, I’m still amazed at how therapeutic walking is. Keep on walking and keep on doing the good job. Hemingway and Shakespeare’s mom, Pam


  • I’m on day 25, and three days ago, I realized my wife hadn’t put the kids’ clothes out the night before so I could get them dressed in the morning. What did I do? I flipped out, nearly cried, and spiraled out of control for half the day. Good heavens. I keep believing my treatment team that things will get better.


    • I’ve flipped out a few more times since I posted this. I’m hoping two things will happen with time: (1) the anxiety will lessen, and (2) I’ll find some non-alcohol ways of coping. I’m going to believe your treatment team, too. Pulling for you!


  • I could almost literally pull a page from my life and it would be remarkably similar to this post.
    It was important to me to read it, because it reminds me that I can no longer drink.


    • I’m glad it helped. My post being a reminder to you must mean I really do have a problem. Whether it was the alcohol or the lack of coping skills, is still an unanswered question. Either way, the alcohol had to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ella, I am SO proud of you. I do not drink at all and at one time in my life, I considered myself an alcoholic. Doing shots with my coffee in the morning to chase the tail of the dog … I stopped. I also do Yoga and I highly recommend it. I have never regretted the choice of stopping to drink. Keep it up! (((HUGS))) Amy


    • Thank you, Amy. Alcohol is a trickster. And it lies. I can see through it now. Now that I’m no longer under its spell. I did a really nice yoga video this afternoon. Just what I needed on a gray Wednesday. Definitely a better way to spend happy hour.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am SO proud of you, Ella. I have no taste for alcohol and have gotten my body/mind so strong and healthy, there is no way I will even put alcohol in my body. I escaped for many years in alcohol and really hit rock bottom with it. Nope, I have cleaned my act up as you are, and I am here to tell YOU that in a few short years you will feel SOOOO good! I am sure you are feeling better now, but wait! It really gets better!!! (((HUGS))) Amy

        Liked by 1 person

  • Wow! What an intense post.

    Before I became “suelto,” I had a super-intense career job too (money management). After leaving it, it took me a good year to realize just how tense and keyed-up I had been all the time. For me, the key to survival was to live frugally and save my pennies. That made my exit possible, and I’m a much happier man as a result.

    I hope you can find a similar bliss.

    I’m rooting for you.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where our sister had an alcoholic youth, but now sober is a much nicer person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kim a/k/a Suelto! I love hearing stories of escape, like yours. You left a super-intense career and found bliss. It’s doable. I know what you mean about frugality. I have become a frugal fiend. My latest plan has me escaping from the law within the next three to five years. But after the month I’ve had, I’ve crunched the numbers a bit more, and perhaps could make it in two. In the meantime, I shall follow your adventures for inspiration.

      Austin, TX

      Liked by 1 person

      • Is Mexico a potential destination for you? It’s possible to live there much more cheaply than in the USA, particularly if you adapt to the local lifestyles. But, of course, there are cultural and linguistic hurdles to deal with too.

        Good luck, however you escape.

        Liked by 1 person

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