At 52 I stopped being able to tolerate alcohol, so I gave it up. How has your relationship to alcohol and drinking changed as you've gotten older? An open thread...
.I never thought about stopping until that night I spent in jail for drunk driving. The matron was kind, offering me an extra paper thin blanket for the damp San Francisco night, but all my stories about myself as a social drinker evaporated in the shock and shame of it. Me? In jail? I had been in jail many times, but it was always on purpose. Getting arrested was a part of my political life. A source of pride. Not this time. Now I was on a steel shelf, huddled under two unsuccessful covers, dizzy, still drunk, cold and trying to avoid the three other women in the holding cell. Thankfully, they wanted to avoid me as well. Each of us is there because something that was supposed to work---didn’t. The drug deal that fell through. The boyfriend who got mad. The customer who wouldn’t pay. The runaway who got caught. And me, the woman who marched, picketed, demonstrated and even got arrested in the service of these women with whom I was now sharing a cell.
I think in retrospect it was the dissonance that kept me from constructing yet another story about what had happened that would allow me to avoid identifying the heart of the story. My drinking.
Drinking accompanied my life, but anxiety did as well. Of course they’re both loosely related, anxiety and the drinking, although I began drinking as a public way to be chic. In 1954 I thought sophisticated people wore lovely clothes in fine restaurants while holding a Chesterfield. I didn’t have to know anything, do anything or be anyone to appear elegant. Just a drink and a cigarette signaled your all around suaveness. Plus my parents drank every night.
Then, in my 20’s, I discovered I actually felt shorter, smarter and more confident when I had a drink and a cigarette which was a triple plus. And off I went, careening down the decades, my props at the ready.
After my divorce, I had a long ivory cigarette holder imagining panache which I now embarrassedly recognize as a touching pretentiousness especially when my alcoholic tastes still ran to rum and Tab. But the shorter, confident and smarter me continued to be emerge with each drink, although now I shudder at decisions that I imagined were daring and kind of in-the-know-ish which were risky, and several potentially dangerous.
But while I wasn’t becoming shorter, I was becoming smarter, had returned to college and my confidence was growing. Eventually, after the third try, I stopped smoking. One prop down, one left to go.
Over the years, my neck and everything else began to soften. My drinking had progressed to gin and bourbon, expanding in periods of stress and receding in more emotionally stable periods. But even the receding periods were becoming more than I needed for that rush of alls right with not only the world but with me-ness I sought.
I remember reading that alcohol allows you to know what it is you feel without the necessity of actually feeling it. My insights during my drinking years were rich and deep and complex. But gin and tonic allowed them to remain astonishing, oft repeated insights. No change required.
Then I got cancer. In my neck. And a surgeon had to make an incision to cut it out. Now my neck is soft with a scar across it. And my partner died. And my children started to make their own mistakes. And I was growing older and older. Soon after my sixtieth birthday, I stopped drinking. Knowing I would never be able to be a moderate drinker, I removed choice from the equation and stopped. For nearly a year I drank a cold Fresca in a chilled wine glass at 5:00 which helped. But after a while I didn’t need that either. I was left alone with myself, nothing to remove me from where I was.
The nearly twenty four years since then have been some of the best of my life.
I love drinking, and I love the Friday night ritual that my spouse and I have, where we put an end to. our week of work (and our habit of not drinking Mon - Thur) with a cocktail or glass of wine, standing on a little hill behind our house, where you get a good view of the sky. My problem is that -- like others here -- my body is less tolerant of alcohol that it was when I was younger (I'm 65). I can handle two glasses of wine, or a cocktail and a glass of wine, no more. When I exceed those limits (which I find too easy to do), I sleep badly and wake up feeling parched and sad and wobbly. I've considered just giving up alcohol and probably should, but it feels like giving up a piece of my marriage. That's where I'm at.
I'm the same as you, booze hates me. Hahaha! I have begun to really enjoy virgin cocktails make with different flavored shrubs, which are yummy fermented vinegar. I can't really tolerate sugar either so the shrub with bubbly water has been a refreshing celebratory beverage.
After years of denial, after finding myself one evening with a gun barrel in m y mouth, after discovering that booze made me break out in handcuffs, I admitted I simply could not drink in safety. I had a wonderful family and a fair degree of professional success, blessings I'd used to fend off any charged of pathological drinking. I was on the point of losing all that.
Maybe it's not for everyone, but Alcoholics Anonymous has kept me sober for decades, and life is immeasurably better.
From the title of this post, I thought it would be a discussion about vaginal dryness. LOL. Anyway, I have cut down my alcohol consumption and I obsessively check the ABV % on beers. A hangover is a waste of my time and money so I don’t do it anymore.
I had a complicated relationship with alcohol and so I eventually decided that the hassle was unnecessary. We broke up in 2020. My body was telling me that she was a terrible mistress who treated me poorly; my head reminded me that I was at least half responsible for the mess. My body thanks me every day. My head has doubts.
I love having a cocktail. I love that first sip of gin when the elevator drops. I didn't drink when I was younger. A tragically wasted life. xxL
Thanks for this thread, Sari
I come from an alcoholic family going back at least two generations (that I know about), and I married an alcoholic (subsequently divorced). I drank moderately almost every day for about fifty years (I'm 78 gasp!), usually wine or beer. On festive occasions I’d drink too much, but I didn’t worry about that so much as I did about the daily drinking. I tried AA several times, but found it not to be helpful to me. During the last stint about 8 years ago, my sponsor basically kicked me out of the program. Okay, fine.
I went a full year without alcohol before the pandemic, and then started up the daily drinking, perhaps out of boredom. My pregnant daughter came to live with me. She didn’t drink during her pregnancy or while nursing the baby. After she stopped nursing and went back to work, she joined me for a social hour every afternoon. Eventually my daughter and granddaughter got their own place, but I kept drinking every day. If I drank a low alcohol beer, I was able to stop at one, but if I opened a bottle of wine, I’d drink the whole thing.
What spurred me to reevaluate my relationship to alcohol was the effect it had on my sleep. When I drank even one beer, I’d wake up at 3am and be unable to go back to sleep. It was worse if I drank wine. Then I’d wake up with my heart pounding out of my chest. Both my parents had heart disease, which I’m certain was partially the result of drinking. My dad died of a heart attack at 57. He was a heavy everyday drinker, and I’m not sure he ever tried to stop drinking. Mom was a moderate but daily drinker like me (one or two glasses of wine). She lived to be 90, dying as a result of numerous strokes. The strokes were caused by atrial fibrillation (afib), a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat out of sync with the ventricles. Blood pools in the heart causing clots which travel to the brain, resulting in strokes. So I think it’s safe to say that though my mom lived a long life, alcohol was partially responsible for her death.
I'm using Dry January to stop drinking entirely. I want to stay in good health for as long as I can for my granddaughter.
I’m 5”2 and used to able to drink men twice my size under the table - except when I couldn’t. My tolerance for alcohol would disappear when I was pms-ing, although it took years to realize it. The unpredictable lack of consistency in how much I could drink made for some um *interesting* times. Anyway there was definitely a hormonal link for me. Stopped completely with first pregnancy at 34, never went back.
I was in Mexico the first week of January so “dry” it was not. I enjoy an ice cold cervesa on the hot beach. One is enough. I was surrounded by heavy drinking and realized this is no longer my jam. I am in my late 60’s ( I have not come to terms with the # as yet) and I know my limit. Who wants to wake up feeling like crap when you can walk the ocean and see the sunrise?
So many comments about alcohol. When asked why I don’t drink, I just say I reached my lifetime quota four years ago. You can use that if you decide to stop. Works like a charm. But it’s hard to stop. So I envy anyone who has a take it or leave it relationship with alcohol.
I increased my drinking during the pandemic from four to five glasses of wine a week to one and then two every night. I felt like crap and sometimes stared at the ceiling in the wee hours wondering why I had lost control of myself. At 62 I am finally paying attention to my body and have drastically throttled back. Am feeling significantly better and finding that breaking this habit (so far) has been easier than I expected. Neko, ❤️ your songs!
At age 56, I’m at the point where I can have one and a half glasses of wine at one time. Anything over that and I have the worst migraine. Something definitely changed. I love the ritual of having wine when I eat dinner out, so I try to savor the one glass. Sigh. Would love to know why this is... metabolism? Age?
My theory is that we're given a certain number of drink tickets when we're born, and when we use them up, we must pay! I think I used mine up in college.
My tolerance for alcohol has changed as I've aged, too. I thought it was just me! Starting in my 40s, more than one glass of wine would result in sleep disturbance and hang over. I just stopped drinking because it wasn't worth it. Now, at 54, I have maybe 2 drinks per year and when I do, I'll drink super slowly and with a large meal to offset any symptoms (but it's always a risk!). I'm surprised doctors have not seen or researched this, but glad to learn it's a shared experience.
I am not a creative who believes that alcohol helps the creative process. I have attended Al-Anon meetings for many years. Alcoholism runs in my family. Two sisters have died and a brother lives on the streets. I love a glass of red wine with dinner out every week or so but as the years go by-I’m 70 now-after even one glass of wine my sleep slips into patchy and my body becomes sluggish. So I don’t drink that one glass. I am grateful to be able to easily stop. Not so for some. It’s curious to me that while the bottoming out drunk story remains a memoir standard nobody wants to hear the story of a kid who grew up in that chaos. It’s a story worth telling.