Why Can’t I Stop Drinking Wine?

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I am trying to figure out how to set a daily reminder on my phone so it buzzes me at 5:00 p.m. to tell me I don’t want any wine.

If there is an app for an electric shock, I would like to install that too.

I’m not an alcoholic. I stop sipping after two glasses of cheap Costco wine…on the weekdays anyway. But why do I even need those? It’s like 5:00 p.m. rolls around and I start salivating. I hate that.

I hate feeling out of control.

But what is so bad about having a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day?

Well, for one thing, after a month or so of having them the scale starts to creep up. I’ve spent a lifetime managing or succumbing to—depending on the year—eating and body image disorders. I am now a healthy weight. I don’t want to lose any more (okay, maybe just 10 pounds), but I definitely don’t want to gain. A pound here, a pound there, and suddenly the self-hatred starts kicking in. I know, I know; it’s obvious that if gaining a few pounds is all it takes to put me into a dark place I still have a problem with self-esteem.

Give me a break. I’m working on it.

Even more than the weight, though, I worry about my reasoning. I make a decision in the morning not to drink wine with dinner. Dinner rolls around and I’m pouring myself a glass. It’s way too easy to talk myself out of my morning resolve and into half bottle of Woodbridge.

What am I trying to numb? I love my life.

But every day there’s something; my back hurts, I’m stressed about whatever is going on with the kids, I deserve it,  I taught three yoga classes today so I’ve burned a bunch of calories, it’s Wednesday and the weekend seems far away.

I’ve gone through long periods of time when I haven’t had these two glasses of weeknight wine, but there’s never been a time when I didn’t want them. The issue never goes away, it’s either dormant or not.

In all other areas, I am disciplined. I am a paragon of health. I eat clean, sleep enough, have jobs that are meaningful (mother, writer, yoga teacher). I meditate, get outside every day, move my body, express my love freely. I have enough money. I have a happy marriage. I have great kids.

What the hell is my problem?

Sure, there was a time, a long time, when I didn’t have or do those things. Let’s be honest, I was a complete mess. I was the poster-child for poor life-choices and dark, debilitating depression. Is this me hanging onto a little piece of that? Afraid if I admit to the core of my being that I am finally happy, somehow I won’t be me anymore?

Or is it the other way around? Is that little piece of darkness still hanging on to me? In other words, am I as happy as I think I am?

I don’t know and I can’t figure it out—that’s frustrating for someone who prides themselves on identifying problems and fixing them.

Have I mentioned that I’m a perfectionist? Maybe my wine is a way to take a break from me beating myself into submission all the time. I think I’m getting closer to the truth, because as I read that sentence back it sounded awful.

I beat myself into submission all day every day. Every now and then I have a kind, internal word to say, but my negative talk is far more predominant. Words like fat, dumb, lazy and inept litter my interior landscape. Which is so weird, because I know I’m not fat, dumb, lazy or inept, but I am only not these things (my internal voice says) because I force myself not to be. Not because I am naturally thin, smart, driven or savvy. If I stop cracking the whip, all hell might break loose.

Seeing that written in black and white makes me think one thing: Maybe I shouldn’t be setting alarms or trying to electrocute myself.  Maybe I should just be nicer to me. If I was, at the end of the day, instead of feeling like a beaten dog, perhaps I would feel like a beloved pet.

I’m not going to turn my alarm off yet (I did finally manage to get it set), but I promise to try and be less insecure taskmaster and more loving companion to myself.

Perhaps I should re-program the reminder, which now has the note, “Don’t drink wine, loser,” to “You did good today, kid. Just relax and eat your dinner.”

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her website.


52 Responses to “Why Can’t I Stop Drinking Wine?”

  1. Elane says:

    God, I have been there. Exactly there. Well, perhaps without the yoga fitness, but otherwise… Active, conscious routine change (setting out a teapot and good tea before I even left for the day, emptying the house of temptation) plus good hard look at the crazy things I told myself plus support was key. I wish you all the best, and gentle ease in God's hands.

  2. annie says:

    you think too much. you should move to france and enjoy your wine.

  3. Jan says:

    OMG, I could have written parts of this. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not alone.

  4. Holly says:

    Gosh I struggled with this exact question for the past few months. I think my inner rebel hears my inner mother and when dinner comes around I’d say, “ah whatever mom I’m a big kid now.”

    The game changer for me when finally I just was downright concerned my inner rebel was just budding alcoholism. So I stopped. And for a couple weeks.

    Honestly, it’s a pattern and once you break it it stops nagging you, I haven’t had the internal alarm ring at 5pm since my “cleanse”

  5. Sheri says:

    I am right there with you….let me know if it helps…blessings to you….( and mine is Riesling)

  6. Ronda H. says:

    Oh my — I feel like you wrote that about me! Thank you for sharing. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles internally with this.

  7. john calson says:

    try having only one glass a week night and really enjoy it john

  8. rondolce says:

    Life's about balance and balance is something that fluctuates, as anyone who has ever weighed themselves daily knows. Wine brings relaxation and new experience into your life.I've spent a good part of my life tasting wine with my "left brain" and I've found that a glass of wine is something that can get you as "present" as meditation can. As I like to say: Moderation in moderation!

  9. forkboy says:

    Nice piece….thanks for sharing! I'm currently reading this:

    Which provides an interesting lily on how to quit the booze…. Very much pushing the perspective that it is not something to be missed and how to set yourself free.

    These guys also have interesting newsletters each week and provide support specifically to women who've had enough of the trainee glad of wine which turned into a bottle an evening:

    Hope these might prove inspiring

  10. Mgt says:

    Definitely break that habit . Your body clock has tuned you into 'Wine at 5' . If you started having popcorn everyday at a certain time or ice cream etc the craving for that would begin too. My friend used to have a glass before lunch some days et was amazed how quickly it became a habit where her mind said 'wine time' . She only ever had half a glass of White with ice in it but whatever she was doing in the day at around 1.30pm the desire for that drink happened. So Tis habit…..we are creatures of habit . Cut back to two half glasses at a different time maybe ? ! Then you break a habit but don't deprive yourself and don't crave it . X

  11. Erica,
    So, just a couple of thoughts. You sound awfully hard on yourself. Do you laugh enough? Are you able to sit and simply be? Perhaps you have the brain chemistry that is a set up for alcohol misuse. How well do you pamper yourself? Maybe you can find a way to chill other than drinking. Actually your life sounds hectic and very full of doing. I would be happy to talk to you privately if you want to explore. I am a yoga / meditation teacher, a substance abuse counselor, a professional life coach, an ex-executive director, and the mother of four grown kids.

    Rebecca Smith 800.522.5382

  12. Mike says:

    A glass or two a day is good for your stomach and digestion …..ain't it ?….. Enjoy it and don't feel guilty ….!

  13. Coley says:

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability! I was just having this same conversation with a friend. I decided my next step is to attend an al anon meeting. I often wonder, am I following in my alcoholic parents footsteps or just decompressing? Either way my bottom line is I would rather not rely on the alcohol for decompression nor do I want the weight.

    Thank you for sharing.

  14. guy says:

    My experience and opinion is that wine, beer…. the one or two a night drink is 'more' than just your normal habit of use. For me I had to learn to be able to say, "I don't believe I am an alcoholic but I do have a drinking problem, I have developed a dependency on this crutch". A beautiful glass of wine.. what could be the harm in that, a laugh with friends, a quiet time for chilling, what better? Alcohol use in moderation is so socially acceptable, so absolutely fine. Just quit fighting it and enjoy it, after all you aren't an alcoholic? But for some, through introspection you see that you can't put it down, that you are using it as a crutch, that you are actually self-medicating with it. I don't know that is how it is for all, but it is for some and perhaps for you? Once a person has this realization then it is possible to move towards change.

    For most we have to go to some point of pain (a divorce, a job loss, death of a loved one) before we realize that crutch is nowhere near enough and no amount of self medication is going to lessen the pain and perhaps you choose then to lean into that wind of pain without any crutches whatsoever.

    I too find it so difficult to change when everything is going well. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  15. Padma Kadag says:

    In Vino Veritas

  16. lucij0271 says:

    I found myself there too, having a glass or two each night, every night…..but at my yearly physical telling my doctor I drank wine occasionally. Then one day, I just didn't buy it when I ran out. The first couple of nights, I definitely thought about my wine and why didn't I have a glass right then. After a few days though, I thought about it less, until I didn't even remember that I drank wine at night. Now I have wine in the house and I'm not drinking it every night. Funny thing is….I looked at the bottle just before I read this article and was surprised to see that I had wine in the house. I forgot that I bought it earlier in the week.

  17. Jen says:

    I love love your honest sharing! It's beautiful. Thank you. I enjoy each time you post. I also take myself a bit too seriously for my own good, ugghhh, it's just exhausting. Much love your way <3

  18. Mary L says:

    If, when you honestly waft to stop, you find you cannot, you may have a problem with alcohol. My story was just like yours. 2 glasses a night for years, no problems as a result. Then came the forties and 2 became 3. Then a death in the family and 3 became 5. Now sober 10 years and feel so good. Good luck on your journey. Time will tell. If you have a problem, it won't get better. If you don't, it doesn't have to get worse. I like the idea of trying 1 a night instead. I do think current conventional wisdom for women is 7 a week is ok for good health. Good luck.

  19. Bailey Brown says:

    I had the same problem, and I was sick of beating myself up about it. I found this little e-book called Seven Days Sober on amazon and it was cheap but it actually really helped because if just asked me to stop for a few days to get a hold on things. I also went to some aa meetings and learned a lot about drinking patterns, talked to some of the ladies there and figured out that my drinking pattern may be unhealthy, if not full blown alcoholism. I decided to go sober and have been so much happier with everything. It's been about nine months. Good luck to you! And thank you for your honesty.

  20. Lida says:

    So brave. Bravo.

  21. jlove says:

    This actually sounds a lot like borderline alcoholism. We have some funny ideas about what being an alcoholic means. A lot of people associate it with absolute addiction, drunk all the time, can't handle their lives etc. Which is far from the truth for most alcoholics. Alcoholism is so complex. If you're having a fight with yourself about your drinking, it's probably a problem. Perfectionist thinking is also quite the alcoholic trait. If you've had an eating disorder, chances are you have the "addict brain," which can manifest with many many things. Speaking as someone who's had eating disorders and other addictions, these can all be a powerful path to self awareness. Thinking about why you want to drink each night is a really start. What do you really want? Even if this doesn't feel out of control, don't be afraid to seek out some kind of help with it if you're struggling. It's all growth.

  22. Shri says:

    I always think of Satchidanandas words- negative habits fall away effiorketsly with practice just as a child lets go of toys as they mature. They simply are no longer fun. Don't try to quit – just practice and let it fall away. This has definitely been my experience- I just at oneoint felt better before the wine instead of feeling better after the wine. Peace .

  23. Ida Chiavaro says:

    Half a bottle is more like 3 glasses…apparently there are seven standard drinks in one bottle.. I don't know why either but I do know that the chinese qi energy wheel states that the kidneys have maximum energy flow from 5-7pm… maybe.. just maybe, you are living so cleanly that your kidneys are crying out for some toxins to play with… *said with humour but wondering if there might be some truth to it*

  24. sterling says:

    sadly it is not common knowledge, but alcoholism comes in many shapes and sizes. the AA big book and/or going to a meeting could help you determine if you are or not. a message with love.

  25. Joe Sparks says:

    It is interesting because you are beating yourself up whether you are drinking wine or not. That is what you would call confusion. The confused feelings will not go away just because you stopped drinking. Instead of going for a glass of wine, to stop the old, bad confusions, try connecting with someone who will just listen and not tell you how you should feel. You will feel confused, and at the same time it has nothing to do with reality. Most all of us are trying to make sense of a society that has sends out mixed messages all the time. Don't beat yourself up about drinking wine, however that will not make your life go better, you might feel better. But, I think you want more, like all of us, it is a decision you have to make, because no amount of wine is going to change the way you feel about yourself. It will just add to the confusion." Good bye wine, it was nice knowing you! I am going to feel whatever I need to feel. It is different now, I have people. I no longer have to feel numb. Yea!" Have fun with that pattern, you are in charge. Have at it!

  26. Erica says:

    nicely put, thank you.

  27. wenna says:

    I agree with Annie. If you lived in France or Italy or most anywhere in Europe, this wouldn't be considered a "problem", it is a lifestyle…enjoy, relaxing, drink up…la dolce vita, you know…(and on a sweeping generalization, Europeans, on the most part, are waaayyy healthier than Americans).

  28. Don says:

    I am married to an attractive, brilliant, hard working woman who lives her life with thoughtful deliberation. She has been a good wife and mother. For the last 20 years she has drunk 2~3 glasses of wine every night. Almost very evening she smells of alcohol. And when she speaks I can't always tell what comments and emotions are alcohol enhanced or what is genuine. I have ended up not trusting her emotionally and find myself longing for a sober mate, someone who doesn't need to drug themselves in order to live and share time me.
    Whatever YOU decide is safe and healthy level of drug consumption I hope that you consider the impact of your behavior on your spouse and children.

  29. david C Reid says:

    These are my words not written by me Thank you, Pema Chodron has some things to say about sitting with our problems, I am working on the 5pm sit with my desire.

  30. Shelley says:

    You can't stop drinking wine?….. So what?
    What if it were orange juice or water you were drinking every day at 5? Would you be beating yourself up about that?
    The same people giving us the "health" warnings about drinking are the same ones who still recommend people eat dairy and meat products.

  31. Heather says:

    I had a similar pattern but then a series of very stressful times escalated it into a lot more than a couple of glasses but a couple of times a week. Both were unhealthy patterns for me as, as you rightly said, I felt out of control.

    I'm also a buddhist and have found upping my meditation absolutely invaluable. When I'm finding it tough, I focus on the Six Elements practice, and the metta bhavana but really focus on giving metta to myself. Would I allow a dear friend or my daughter to do this to themselves? Would I want them to feel like that? Meditation as I'm sure you know, can have fundamentally transformative effects on your thinking.

    I started dryathlon this january and haven't had a drink since New Year's day. That along with more yoga, twice daily meditation, and I haven't felt this good in years.

    It's not the wine that's the issue, it's you feeling out of control. Once you regain that control, you can choose whether or not you re-integrate wine into your life. But you will have a real choice then. Wine can be good for you, but beating yourself up and feeling that it's controlling you is not good for you. All the very best of luck, I really identified with this article!

    Heather xx

  32. JAM Walsh says:

    Erica, thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. I have struggled for years with the same issue. It wasn't until I found out about the GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) diet, that I realized what was causing my 5 o'clock wine cravings. Over the course of our lives, our gut bacteria get very out of balance because of antibiotics, poor diet, alcohol consumption… a whole host of reasons. When the "bad bacteria" take over your gut, they crave sugar, carbs, alcohol ….things that feed them… which is why we crave them. Until you get the bacteria back in balance, you will continue to have your wine and other cravings. Read the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)…..it changed my life!! PS I too am a person very into physical fitness, spiritual wellness and connectivity….despite all that, I still had my wine cravings at 5 PM!! Good luck!!

  33. Kay dee says:

    I hate to tell you think but that is alcoholic thinking. You migjt want to check out AA.

  34. Justine B says:

    I drink wine every night myself. I’m very fit, clean home, laundry done, family is taken care of. That being said, I often wonder if people living in France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal beat themselves up as badly as we (Americans) do. I try not to spend so much time over analyzing my wine consumption. We all have a vice, eating to much, smoking, gambling, sex addiction, drugs, excercise, ect…When wine/alcohol takes over your life, and interferers with daily responsibilities then there’s a problem…Enjoy your LIFE & your WINE!!! Cheers

  35. Erica says:

    This sounds like it was written by me. All of it!!! And I see that the author has the same name as me.

    Maybe if I wasn't sitting her drinking my wine, I could be writing things like this 🙂

  36. Fauna says:

    Really surprised by all the comments (read 75% of them anyway). Poor girl has a couple glasses of wine when the day is winding down, NOT a couple if bottles for gods sake! Why all the doomsday, “you’re an alcoholic” talk?! Sheesh, almost everyone I know needs a meeting then.

  37. Nyla says:

    Erica ~ your article is fabulous and heart-felt, as are all of the replies. I find myself drinking wine during the weekends; beginning Friday evening after a hectic and stressful work-week and into Saturday, as well as Sunday. I've thought numerous times about stepping outside of this "wine zone" and enjoy a weekend-free sabbatical from partaking in my usual one glass of Chardonnay on Friday night and my 1/2 bottle to full bottle of chardonnary between Saturday & Sunday. I practice yoga Monday thru Thursday, as well as Saturday and Sunday morning/mid-morning class — "it is on like donkey-kong!!!" Let the pouring of a glass of Chardonnay begin! My diet is relatively clean. HOWEVER, I'm sure I would feel even better if I completely eliminated my Chardonnay. As the saying goes, "moderation in moderation," but this weekend, I'm going to challenge myself; no Chardonnay. I'll let you know how it goes. Om Shanti~

  38. ellabirt says:

    I love you. I read through this, and kept wondering when I wrote it! 🙂 Thanks for expressing this so eloquently.There are many of us out there!! Unite and support!

  39. Stephanie Ann says:

    I can relate. I can relate exactly. – and idk if you’re an alcoholic or not- but in your opinion do you think it matters how much you drink in order to qualify you as one? I’m very interested in hearing your answer. Much love.

  40. Laura Jean says:

    Wow. I’m just like you! I swear I’ve had this thought process a million times, except it sounds like you’re far more disciplined than I am (hello, yoga teacher!). Right there with ya, sister. Now when can we get a glass of wine together? 😉

  41. cleo says:

    Wine can be good for you (mind, psyche, and spirit)! Research the benefits of wine and beer. If Iits just guilt you feel, look into that, explore. But otherwise, let yourself relax and enjoy. Its okay.

  42. OfRemarkableTimes says:

    ahh! i know your thoughts exactly. I gave up cheap wine during the week a few months ago and now drink expensive wine on the weekend. See? Rewards!

    Haha… but seriously. I wanted to regulate my bedtime and lose a couple of pounds, so I stopped drinking during the week, and the first week or two was hard, but sticking to its been great . Don't get me wrong, Monday, I'm still cursing my decision. But by Friday, I feel great, the guilt of each day saying , I know I shouldn't but I want to is gone, my week's been stellar, and I love celebrating with a nice glass or two of exactly what I want.

    Good luck!

  43. JohnH says:

    It is interesting that most of the comments have been about prejudice around alcohol rather than keying into your suspicion of perfectionism. Addiction is about filling an empty space in our souls. We all have our personal addictions and means of denying the unloved aspects of our personality. Your insight is brave and the prescription for your feelings of a lack of integrity is sound. With integrity intact, the amount of wine consumed will self-regulate and you will be OK with whatever is happening in your life. This constant struggle of one's mind over subconscious impulses requires deeper healing than simple impulse control. I support your journey and thank you for sharing it with us.

  44. Miguel says:

    If you think you have a problem, then you have a problem. It's not the wine; it's you. Stop.

  45. Susan says:

    Have you considered the possibility that you're addicted, not to the alcohol, but to the sugar?

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