For the past two weeks, I’ve only been drinking calorie-free beverages. That means no cream in my coffee, no kombucha and no alcohol. I realize that two weeks is nothing. I have friends who don’t drink at all. I have friends who give up drinking for a month or more (Sober January). Still, it’s been an interesting thing to try on for size. I love cream in my coffee. I love an alcoholic drink at the end of the day. Every day. Maybe a beer or a cocktail for happy hour and a glass of wine with dinner. That’s probably not healthy for me.
When I don’t drink alcohol, I’m usually pretty happy to substitute Kombucha. That said, alcohol is honestly a big part of our social life. We often meet up with friends for drinks. Now, we’re doing it virtually on Zoom. We almost always drink when we’re practicing music and gigging. We drink when we’re cooking and with our adult kids to celebrate holidays and family time. I’ve given up alcohol for short periods of time before and I feel very fortunate that it doesn’t create physical or psychological discomfort for me. It’s just a little less “fun” for me moving around in my circles. My friends who don’t drink alcohol for various reasons have shared that feeling as well. Sometimes you feel either boring or bored when you’re the only one not drinking.
I believe that I got lucky genetically in terms of addiction. Like many of us, I come from a family with significant addiction issues. Alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, illegal drugs…you name the substance and it was likely a problem in our home. My mom, who lived with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, self-medicated with alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and cigarettes. My oldest brother also lived with bi-polar disorder and addiction. In 1980, he took seven hits of acid and jumped from the balcony of his third-story apartment building. He survived but he broke most of the bones in his body and was in traction for several months.
As a result, I didn’t drink or experiment with drugs as a teenager. I was 15-years-old when I started hanging out with my first boyfriend who also lived with alcoholism and drug addiction. He smoked cigarettes, weed and drank Coors beer starting early in the morning and was verbally abusive to me. I think it’s common for children in alcoholic families to gravitate towards those familiar behaviors. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, my boyfriend and my mom stole all of my prescription pain meds. After that, something shifted for me. I realized that no one else was looking out for me and that I needed to look out for myself. While alcohol was easily accessible to me, I think I didn’t drink, smoke or try drugs because I was afraid. I was afraid I would become like my mom. I was also afraid to let my guard down, both at home and with my boyfriend.
I was in college when I started drinking socially, but still, I didn’t drink very much. My kids think it’s amazing that I’ve never thrown up from drinking. I actually think they might even be a little impressed.
While I drink more now, it still feels relatively easy for me to opt out and I feel fortunate for that. I believe it has nothing to do with willpower or resilience, I honestly think I bypassed some of the family genetics. Still, it feels good to check in on myself every once-in-a-while. It’s good to try on new things and challenge some of my habits. My friends are teasing me about taking a break from drinking during the pandemic. Actually, it feels like a really good time for me. There’s no judgement on my part, just an interesting personal challenge. There have been a few days when I really wanted a drink at the end of the day, but I did okay without it. Good to know.
Next week, I can drink beverages with calories again. I’m excited to have cream in my coffee, kombucha, a beer or a glass of wine. I’ll enjoy happy hour too, but maybe I’ll switch things up more often, choose something other than alcohol. Lately I’ve been making lovely “mocktails” (pictured) with crushed ice, sparkling water, hibiscus and mint tea, basil leaves, frozen berries and tangerine twists. After a full day of staring at a computer screen, it’s fun to celebrate happy hour with my husband Mark. It’s also good to know I can still celebrate — with or without alcohol. Cheers!
Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.