issue #121 - the one about (not) drinking
When I did Dry January last year, I obsessed over not drinking.
I dreamed about what wine I would enjoy once the month wrapped. I fantasized about the my favorite cocktails in the city (Hillstone’s dirty martini, Jajaja’s spicy margarita, The Mark’s aperol spritz). I spent so much time thinking about not drinking that I wonder how I got any writing or work done at all.
I did Dry January last year to move away from the nightly glass of wine that had become two glasses, then three glasses, during the first months of the pandemic. When I tried to think about how many days I didn’t consume any alcohol in 2020, I struggled to recall a single hand’s worth.
2020’s Dry January was a success. But I underestimated how quickly I would fall into old habits (increasingly anxious in social settings after a year, relying on that glass of wine to make me feel at ease). Wine was enjoyed at home when my parents visited, and I was content to enjoy my Lyre’s or Aplos most nights.
Going into Dry January this year was even easier than last year. When I’m home, I’m happy to mix up a drink sans alcohol and savor it. But the Omicron wave has kept me at home, with no social temptation for that security blanket drink.
I still love wine, and I intended to enjoy it the way I enjoy dessert - a little bit, on occasion, when I’m feeling celebratory (no more stress drinking!).
But I confess that I’m a little nervous about how to socialize without the security of that glass of wine - the way the thin stem feels in my fingers, the slight fuzzy ease that comes with the first few sips. It sounds dumb, but I’m nervous that a waiter or bartender will judge me for asking for a specific cocktail without alcohol, because I like the flavor profile but I don’t want the ethanol. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle business dinners (I plan to utilize one of my old colleague’s techniques by asking for just a splash when wine is being poured, and responding “I’m fine for now” when asked if I want a refill).
What I realize now is that it was never about drinking, but about me fearing rejection or judgement - and that I still do.
I confessed to a friend that I have never felt better, been more on top of things, or shown up for people the way I wanted to in this month. And that I still miss the ease I felt when I opened that a bottle of wine and savored those two glasses.
There’s so much more to this issue to unpack. Whatever marginal health benefits red wine has is outweighed by the increased risks in cancer and other diseases. Alcohol has this stigma in our culture that choosing NOT to consume it means you have a problem. Its presence is so pervasive in books, films, TV shows to the point that they become characters themselves (Olivia Pope’s goblet of red wine, Sex and the City’s cosmopolitans).
It took me a while to get here, but now it seems insane to me that we treat alcohol as the norm and not the way we treat other things that are clearly terrible for us. But when you consider the global alcohol market is $1.4T (yes, TRILLION)…it begins to make sense.
This is my long-winded way of saying that I’m still obsessing over not drinking, but my reasons have changed. On a personal level, I feel much better about how I’m establishing a new relationship with my wine. On a cultural level, I’m eager to normalize NOT drinking and have it be as accepted as not eating meat or dairy or sugar. I’ll do what I can to encourage my favorite restaurants to start stocking Lyre’s and Aplos and other delicious non-alcoholic spirits.
What I Read This Week
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont (sponsored by Macmillan) - mysteries are a new genre I’ve been reading more of this year, and Agatha Christie is certainly one of the greatest writers in the genre. Christie’s own life is more fascinating than the ones she wrote about, and de Gramont’s novel about Agatha Christie’s disappearance for 11 days - and the woman that caused it - was absolutely stunning. “Glittering” may seem an odd description of a book, but Lucy Scott’s narration brought this book alive in such rich detail that I could see the light filtered through crystal chandeliers, the feel of the silk dress worn by Agatha, the smell of the farm in Ireland that Nan felt most at home at, and the chill of the English countryside when the authorities were searching for Agatha. This is the perfect book to listen to, especially with a cup of tea and a candle lit. Bonus points if you enjoy it while wearing to the famed murder robe from TikTok - it’s what I wear when I read my mysteries and thrillers these days!
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas - my friend Becca raves about Sarah J. Maas’ books, and I was finally ready to dive into my first Maas series a week ago. She encouraged me to start with this one (known as ACOTAR by fans of the series), and I’m thrilled she did. This fantasy series is everything I hoped it would be and more (this book being somewhat adapted from Beauty and the Beast), and I could not get enough of Feyre and Hamlin and the magical world Maas wrote.
Top #5SmartReads of the Week
Rachel Lindsay Shares Her Favorite Reads in 'Shelf Portrait' (Marie Claire)
DHS Warns That Right-Wing Extremists Could Attack Power Grid (The Daily Beast)
Gossip Girls: The cast of Bridgerton spills all the tea on a sizzling season 2 (Entertainment Weekly)
The rest of the week’s reads (and conversations!) are below:
Your Questions, Answered
Have you followed Candace Owens stories re: anti-vax? How do you respond to this rhetoric?
Curious, which Emily Oster theories do you disagree with?
Thoughts on RNC’s “official” statement of January 6?
I get why we seek other people’s opinions on things- it’s why op-eds are the most read articles in most papers, and I’m flattered you’d like my take on things like this.
I offer my opinion when I think it’s helpful. My opinions on questions like these aren’t as helpful as the news stories or COVID analyses I share on #5SmartReads, which I do take care to select and comment on.
Candace Owens and the RNC’s messaging on the January 6th investigation are dangerous, reckless, and patently false. I don’t wish to amplify these eloquently-delivered lies to give them any more airtime.
In a similar vein but unrelated, I share the public health guidance that I find to be scientifically sound. While I respect Oster’s ability to analyze complex data and make it make sense, I find her COVID recommendations to be made in silos and not factoring basic virology or the public part of public health. If I’m looking for insight on the pandemic, I look to Laurel, Jessica, Liz, and Bertha’s take on COVID.
I continue to follow Emily because she has analyses I find extremely valuable, especially on the parenting front.
I actively avoid misinformation spreaders to protect my peace and to not give them the attention and clicks they seek and that makes them money.
Any trusted resources for hormones? Feeling really blue and wondering
You can ask your OB-GYN to run a hormone screen! Everywell also has a women’s health test that measures the 11 key biomarkers for women’s overall health.
Seed cycling is a gentle, nutrition-based approach to balancing your hormones and has really helped me with my perimenopause symptoms. Beeya’s seed blends are the easiest way to incorporate seed cycling in your life - use code HITHA5 to get $5 off your first order.
But remember that we’re entering the third year of a pandemic and things can feel even more uncertain right now than they did at the beginning. We may feel like there’s no time for therapy or exercise or even getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, but these little things do matter and are extremely important, as is finding and making time to do something YOU want to do. No one I know is thriving right now- we’re just doing our best to make it through the day.
How do you motivate yourself? I feel like I’m in a hole and only want blankets, books, & cookies.
I think you have to honor those feelings, but here’s how I get the necessary tasks done when all I want to do is sit on my couch and continue reading ACOTAR (basically what I want to do right now):
take a Post It and write down 3 things I absolutely have to get done.
enable the Forest app on my phone and set it for a 25-minute focus block
close out all unnecessary windows and apps on my computer and start on the easiest task on the list to ease my brain into work mode (for some folks, they tackle the hardest thing first - do what works for you!)
needlepoint during my 5-minute work breaks to keep my brain in creation mode (you can doodle or do a Sudoku puzzle- just don’t open social media or email!)
Once I’m done these tasks and emails, I reward myself and do what I WANT to do.
Obviously, this is if you’re working from home, but I hope the earlier tips can help if you’re working outside of the home and keep you going until you get home.
Tips for dry February?
Discovering your go-to NA beverages can be really fun! A Fresh Sip has so many amazing options and they’re so lovely and helpful over DM when making recommendations based on your personal taste.
If you are going out to eat, check out Eater’s heat maps that serve Seedlip drinks, so you can have plenty of drink options that are more fun than a seltzer or just water.
My latest thing has been to select a cocktail on the menu that has the flavor profile I like and ask for it without alcohol.
The longer you go without drinking alcohol, the easier it gets and the less you stop thinking about it. You got this!
How’s it been using Oura? I would love one- but their customer service seems not up to par
So I haven’t needed to contact customer service for anything yet, but I really, really like it!
Oura’s sleep insights are really helpful. I’ve been making a lot of daily routine tweaks based on my daily readiness (which is lower than usual, so been opting for gentle workouts and meditation breaks during the day).
I find it a lot kinder and less judgemental than my Apple Watch!
My friend Kate Lemere made a great point on her story that wearables do affect our own intuition about listening to our bodies, and she’s totally correct. But I have always been terrible at listening to my own body and pushed myself into burnout cycle after cycle. I find that Oura’s insights and recommendations have actually helped me listen to my body better.
No one thing- a supplement or workout or wearable- is going to magically change your health. Daily lifestyle choices are the foundation for good health. But if you need more data and recommendations to help guide you and you can afford the investment, I’ve found it really valuable!
This link (good for the first 3 purchasers!) will get you $50 off your OURA ring and 6 months off your membership!
Any advice/recs for changing your space after a partner moves out due to a breakup?
Upgrading bedding is a small but impactful change- get the prints and colors YOU love and make you happy! I love Target for finding new duvets, throw pillows, and cozy throws to create the most perfect nest for you to rest.
Charlotte Parler is in a similar space and has been sharing the things she’s doing to make her apartment truly her own. Highly recommend following (also just follow her period, because she’s so smart and I love how she scienceplains skincare)
Mercury is now direct, so I hope your week goes by more smoothly than the last couple weeks.