The best way to quit drinking wine is to replace it with something else. For wine you’ll need direct and indirect replacements.
The indirect replacements are for the routines, sights, sounds, textures, tastes, feelings, circumstances and occasions that surround your wine drinking.
The better your choice of replacement(s) for the drink and all these other things that surround your drinking the easier the quitting will be.
I wrote similar words about quitting coffee, last week. And I’m testing their limits by simultaneously giving up wine and coffee. Wine is the tougher of the two because I like wine more. It’s also become more ingrained in my lifestyle and eating habits than coffee ever did.
I thought about calling this article, “How to Give Up Alcohol”, but, I don’t have experience with drinking other forms of alcohol, besides wine. I can’t tell you how to stop drinking alcohol unless its the alcohol in wine your trying to give up. Like every article I write this is about my direct experience. In this case my direct experience is in giving up wine.
It’s possible that some of my experience may be useful for wine alcoholics, but, that would be presumptuous. If you have a more extreme form of addiction than I’m writing about here the additional benefits of an isolated environment, group support and a counselor is probably warranted. It’s never been easier to find an Alcohol Treatment Program near you.
Should you stop drinking Wine?
The biggest stumbling block for quitting anything is knowing if and why you need to quit. In the case of wine you have to be very clear and honest with yourself on your reasons for giving it up. Wine, itself, is not a harmful drink. But, you can make it into one by drinking too much of it.
How much is too much? I’ll give you my answer, but, you’ll have to come up with yours. In terms of health one glass of wine a day is good. Between one and two glasses the benefits drop off, rapidly, according to bodyweight. There is no literature anywhere recommending more than two glasses, regardless of bodyweight. So, if health is your value there’s your answer.
If you exceed the amount good for your health its bad for your body. At that point you can no longer claim health benefits as your excuse for drinking more.
I am giving up wine for the following reasons:
- It’s interfered with the length and quality of my sleep.
- Lack of sleep has compromised the clarity of my thoughts and the quality of my writing.
- I’ve been exceeding the small quantity that’s good for my health.
These are not acceptable tradeoffs for my enjoyment and they’re certainly not Optimal. I won’t be having wine until its just another drink option and I can take it or leave it. Here’s how I think about it: “Wine that detracts from my health and productivity has got to go.”
Being this clear on my why and if is probably the only thing that enables me to actually stop drinking it. Seems to me the more wine detracts from your life the more motivation you have to stop drinking it. I highly recommend being honest here and getting extremely clear on your motivations.
Quitting is a transition to something else. With wine its a transition to alternative beverages, routines and choices . With that in mind here’s a few important points to keep in mind about picking and using replacements:
The best replacements usually have a lot in common with what you’re trying to quit. Things we have to quit often involve routines, sights, sounds, textures, tastes and feelings surrounding the thing we’re trying to quit. You need replacements for them, as well. For wine, there is the taste, the wine buzz, the smell, the cool liquid flowing down your throat, the occasions where its served and the mood and social interactions that occur around it. Since we live up in wine country in northern California there are many events that occur on vineyard grounds, as well.
You may need a series of replacements to step into the routines that are optimal for you. That means that your optimal final replacement may not be the best choice to use first. Your body may have to detoxify or have other reactions and compensations it has to cycle through before you can ultimately quit. In extreme cases that may mean moving from something toxic to something less toxic and eventually to something non-toxic.
It may be effective to allow yourself as much of the replacement as you want (Assuming your replacement is not toxic). It may serve as a psychological reward for following through on the quitting.
My Replacements for Wine
My first replacement for wine is sparkling water.
Sparking water is fun, cold, quenches my thirst and is poured out of what looks like a wine bottle. Like wine, I have to make a separate trip to the fridge to find a cold bottle. After opening it I pour it onto a wine glass. When we’re eating out at a restaurant and I have wine I usually pour sparkling water into the empty wine glass. So, there’s a psychological sense that I’m finishing up a good meal and a few glasses of wine at a restaurant when I pour the sparkling water without having had any wine, at all.
My second replacement is a RockStar energy drink. This is similar to the sparking water but comes in a can. Like wine it gives me an energy boost and usually gets my writing started if I’m procrastinating on an article. Many people don’t know that wine gives an energy boost, as well, and that’s part of what’s missing when you stop drinking it.
My third replacement, used in the afternoon, is a nap. I was using coffee and wine as a crutch to power through the afternoon without a nap or a break. I decided not to fight afternoon naps any longer and just take one. The benefits of afternoon naps have been enormous! If fact, I feel it gives almost a full extra day of productivity every day! Wow, talk about a replacement.
My fourth replacement is my ace in the hole: Exercise! Physical exercise is the best way to get high. And when it comes to drinking wine the physical high from exercise completely wipes out desire for anything but water or electrolytes.
I have a RockStar after waking up from my afternoon nap. So far, its been a great way to start my ’second day’. It’s one of those sugar free health drinks that has healthy ingredients. I’m skeptical about the pink, blue and yellow stuff they use in sugar free drinks and prefer stevia. But, for now, I’m enjoying the Rock-Star until I find something better. Leading candidates are pelligrino with a little fruit juice added for taste or some of the exotic teas my wife gets on her trips to China.
Exotic teas will probably become my number one beverage replacement for wine in the future. I don’t think they are the best first beverage, but, they are probably the my optimal replacement. There are an infinite variety of them, they are excellent for a wide variety of health aspects, its fun to make them and experiment with preparation and taste. They are also like wine in the sense that it feels like I’m drinking the earth. Call me nuts, but, I think drinking wine and tea feels like drinking the earth. They make me feel like I’m absorbing all the best minerals and herbs from the leaves and trees and fruit that they were made from.
How Long Does It Take?
It took about three weeks before it didn’t occur to me to have wine with dinner, any longer. That’s longer than I thought it would take and shows how much I associated food with wine.
As much as I was addicted to coffee it was easier to stop drinking coffee than wine. That was another surprise because I craved coffee but never wine. I think wine was actually providing more energy and calories than the coffee was. I was actually using wine like an energy bar. Who knew?!
One of the surprising things for me was how much I slept. Without the energy from the wine I was more tired, even during the day. I could not have a cup of coffee to bridge this gap because I was giving up coffee at the same time. This is all ok with me because one of my goals was to sleep more. I just didn’t expect to be more tired in the afternoons. This may be the temporary adjustment of my body making up for lost sleep. I sleep much better at night, now, and that has enourmous health benefits.
How Will You Know When You’ve Quit?
You’ll know you’ve quit when you can take it or leave it. Wine will take its place among the multitude of drink options available to you depending on the occasion and what you’re in the mood for at the moment.
You’ll be able to have a meal and not automatically think of having wine with it.
You’ll be able to engage in social interactions in a relaxed and enjoyable manner without the wine buzz that used to loosen up your inhibitions.
A few days ago, we were over at a friends house and I was starting to fade. We were late in getting together and didn’t want to leave, yet. The conversation was interesting and another couple had just walked in the door that we wanted to socialize with. This is the point at which I would normally pour a glass of wine. Instead I had one cup of coffee. Luckily, I had already gotten to the point of not needing coffee to start my day and it was just another drink option to me. It was just the thing needed to keep the conversation going for a little while until it was time to go. One cup of coffee and that was it. No coffee needed the next morning and no problems sleeping that night. And best of all, no wine either, which probably would have kept me up all night.
Unlike coffee, wine has never been a drink I couldn’t do without for things like starting my day or thinking clearly or what have you. It’s always been an optional drink added to the existing circumstances. My desire for it was mental more than physical because I never really craved more of it unless I was already drinking it. And that’s just part of my obsessive nature. Most of the time my obsessive nature helps me finish things. I’ve learned to redirect that urge into finishing a bottle of pelligrino instead of a bottle of wine.
Being straight is the ultimate high. Spend time with any 5 year old if you need to prove this to yourself. You’ve always known it. Children don’t need anything but a glass of water and a baloney sandwich to be ecstatic about life. And the only way to experience the full bandwidth of life is to be straight.
The irony is that If I have a glass of wine in a few months one glass will probably provide more enjoyment than three glasses used to. One glass is all I’ll want. And, its all I ever did need. If a second glass is poured I’ll be thinking about sleepless nights and less productivity the next day. Hopefully, I’ll be thinking about that while reaching for the pelligrino.
Copyright © 2014 by Terence Gillespie. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given to McGillespie.com