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What Really Happened When I Finally Gave Up Wine

I had known for 12 years I had a problem. But I wasn't ready to quit.

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An illustration of a woman with a broken chain around her ankle. The other end of the broken chain is attached to an alcohol bottle.
Sonia Pulido
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This is part two of Carol Weis' journey on how she finally stopping drinking. Read part one here.

The day after I stopped drinking, I felt relief. The knots I’d carried around like rocks in my shoulders were gone. I didn't shake or tremble, like many in detox do.

My desire to drink had been lifted.

It felt like amazing grace. The words to the song played blissfully in my head. The depression I’d experienced from knowing I needed to quit disappeared. It seemed like the blinds had been raised, and I could see the sun again.

And I no longer had to control something, which, quite truthfully, was controlling me.

My sister was thrilled and quit three weeks after I did, and my mom, who more or less taught me how to drink, couldn’t believe we’d both given it up. She found it hard to be happy about this change.

“But you only drank wine,” she said.

It felt like a betrayal to her.

Many of the friends I drank with were surprised, too. I was not your fall-down  kind of drinker, so why did I need to stop? They had no idea how exhausting it was to live inside my head. Driving by package stores, always wondering if I had enough wine at home. And then waiting as the clock ticked away, getting closer to 5 p.m., the time I allowed myself to pour my first glass.

Since there’d been trouble in my marriage, which of course pushed me to drink more, we made an appointment with a counselor. She told us she wanted to see us separately, which filled me with dread. What the heck would I say to her, swirled around my brain. I knew little of who I was beyond being a so-so mom to our 5-year-old daughter, an insecure partner, and an anxious owner of a home-baking business I'd started the year before.

But when I saw this therapist, sitting there in her rocker as calm as could be, I couldn’t stop talking. I mostly went on about my husband — how he wouldn’t stop drinking, my suspicions of his infidelity, and all the other things  he seemed to do to upend our marriage. She rocked in her chair, jotting down notes, hanging on to every word I said.

It was intoxicating.

She also suggested I go to a 12-step meeting — the kind for those who can’t keep the focus on themselves.

So I went to Al-Anon that Friday and told them I'd just quit drinking, and they sent me down the hall to the meeting I also needed. And it was there I met my tribe:  People who told stories about how much they drank and how they screwed up their lives.

I knew I was home.

When I told my husband about all the things I’d heard, bouncing as I spoke, his eyes glazed over. He wasn’t in the same place I was, didn’t want to quit like I had, and couldn’t relate to a word I was saying.

He’d been sleeping down the hall for a while, and — under the advice of our therapist — came clean about his affair, which in my desperation to save our marriage, I forgave too soon. My issues of childhood abandonment were rising to the surface, after years of pushing down the fear and pain with increasing amounts of wine.

So when my husband told me he needed to move out, I became inconsolable, sobbing in a heap in front of my young daughter, not caring one bit about what she saw.

And when he finally left, just four months after my quitting, I quickly became a single mom. My sobriety was shaken, but with the help of my therapist and tribe, I found strength I never knew I had.