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I Celebrated One Year Wine-Free

By Kathleen M. Rehl January 03, 2023 Lifestyle

“Grandma, why are your eyes so red?” asked my six-year-old grandson at the breakfast table.

I paused with my mouth full of blueberry pancakes, mumbling something about not sleeping well. That was only part of why my eyes looked like a crimson road map. The night before I had drunk two large glasses of pinot grigio, enjoying happy hour with my son and daughter-in-law after a long absence apart.

But the next morning my bloodshot eyes and a tired, puffy face stared back from my makeup mirror… along with a mildly blurry brain. I felt yucky after my grandson pegged that appearance.

Drinking Is Normalized In Our Culture

As a young adult, I drank wine to fit in with my social crowd, celebrate victories, and relax at the end of a grueling week. I thought conversations at parties flowed easier with a wine glass in hand. Festive toasts were made at friends’ birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and job promotions.

When a major publication featured my work, colleagues congratulated me with bottles of premium wine. Drinking went in tandem with joyful activities.

The Pandemic Launched My Two Goblets a Day Habit

Before Covid crashed our lives in early 2020, I drank one glass of wine with dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. During the virtual lockdown period, that scenario soon repeated every evening. As the pandemic continued into a second year, I reduced my anxieties by pouring another glass while preparing the evening meal.

Research shows I wasn’t alone, as females consumed more alcohol during the epidemic. Indeed, a 41% increase in heavy drinking days happened among women since the pandemic’s start.

Health Dangers of Drinking as an Older Woman

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are especially sensitive to the negative effects of alcohol.

I’ve read several articles about how no amount of alcohol consumption improves our health. As we get older, it’s processed differently and can lead to more health risks.

Alcohol drinking in older adults can increase the risk of certain cancers, liver damage, diabetes, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage, and immune system conditions. The risk of a stroke increases. Excess alcohol is also linked to dementia and Alzheimers.

Reading further, I found there’s a connection between alcohol and the risk of female breast cancer. There’s no safe level of drinking alcohol. The danger of “holiday heart syndrome” goes up with age. That’s another name for alcohol-induced atrial fibrillation or A-fib, which peaks during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Indeed, a recent study published in the journal Nature concluded that just one drink per day shrank the brains of most healthy middle-aged and older adults.

Although I received amnesty when I drank in my 20s, a pardon in my 70s wasn’t happening.

One Day, One Week, One Month, Six Months… and Now One Year

It’s true. I haven’t taken a single sip of wine in 12 months.

Two days after my grandson’s breakfast table comment about my red eyes, I wrote in my journal, “I’m done with wine!” That incident was the tipping point for me.

I shared my intention to go wine-free with several supportive friends who checked on my progress. My husband rooted for me, too. None of them were teetotalers; however, since my start date, one close friend gave up her daily wine routine at the recommendation of her doctor.

Drinking kombucha with a splash of sparkling water in a pretty wine glass became a good replacement beverage. My son introduced me to Heiniken 0.0% beer a few months ago. It’s a great alcohol-free drink when I’m out and about with friends.

I planned to start my new journey one day at a time, building to the six-month mark. To celebrate arriving at that target, I wrote “Jane Fonda and I Happily Agree About Drinking After 60.” Then I kept going toward my one-year goal of being wine-free. There was no back-sliding, although I had to hold steady when news came of a friend’s sudden death.

On December 14, 2022, I reached that milestone. I’m sure to stay on this path forever because of so many personal benefits including:

  • No morning bloodshot eyes
  • Better sleep
  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Feeling empowered; more confident
  • Enhanced creativity; without brain fog
  • Losing a few pounds
  • Improved productivity, including writing more legacy stories and assisting several nonprofits
  • More lifetime with loved ones because of reduced risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, liver troubles, accidents, Alzheimer’s, and related life-shortening problems.

For sure, all these good things didn’t happen only because I no longer drink wine. But for me, the right decision was throwing away the corkscrew. I respect everyone’s choice of beverage, including relatives and friends who enjoy wine and other alcohol.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What habits have you adopted to help you lead a healthier lifestyle? How have they affected your life and health? Did you find support in friends and family?

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Nancy Lapointe

I have been sober for 8 years. Was a heavy drinker a functioning alcoholic. I recently discovered “fre” wine and champagne. Alcohol free and it’s great to have on hand for family and social gatherings so I can drink responsibly and not feel like an outcast. Their champagne is great for brunches and holidays. Highly recommended try it you’ll love it!

Charlene

Congratulations, Nancy! I will hit 8 years alcohol-free in March. Best decision ever! Agree about the Fre brand of champagne and wine. Great tasting substitutes for times you want to feel festive.

Millie

I’ve given up sugar, and this year will Lowe my sodium intake.

Karen Langdon

Congratulations Kathleen, and thanks for sharing! Not sure how far I’ll take no vino in 2023. but on day 3 of my “dry January,” as a resident & worker in California’s wine country, your article provides welcome reminders and support. Cheers to you!

Celeste

Congratulations! I’m so happy you achieved your goal, especially when it was causing you physical issues, such as bloodshot eyes, overweight, brain fog, not sleeping well. I guess alcohol affects some of us more adversely than others. It’s fantastic there are so many great no alcohol drinks that look and pretty much TASTE like an alcohol based cocktail. Something for everyone!

R Marsh

good for you! you are an inspiration!

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The Author

Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®, CeFT® Emeritus wrote the award-winning book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. She owned Rehl Financial Advisors for 18 years before retiring to a six-year encore career empowering widows. Now happily “reFired,” Rehl writes legacy prose and poetry plus assists nonprofits. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, CNBC, USA Today, other publications, and online. Check out her website at http://kathleenrehl.com.

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