The Surprise of Sobriety

Since I had my VSG, I have been in a Facebook Support group that has been brilliant for me, it is literally a space where there are no mutual friends so I can open up about things I wouldn’t necessarily tell people I know in person. It has also given me lots of things to think about.

One thing that comes up at least once a week is “When can we have wine after weight loss surgery?” and rule of thumb is a year, for multiple reasons.

  1. Booze is empty calories – and no you can’t mix protein powder in your chardonnay. (But if anyone has tried this please spill because I am so curious.)
  2. Cross addiction – this is a real thing. Fat people like to eat their feelings, we “misery eat” and when you take that comfort blanket away you run the risk of turning to something else, booze, shopping, sex, gambling, you find something else to fill the void.
  3. It’s bloody dangerous! You have had 80% of your stomach removed, absorption changes, you are now surgically a light weight and that bottle of rose you used to demolish solo watching Friends on Netflix could actually kill you.

But it was the booze question that got me to examine my own relationship with alcohol. Now before I go on with this – please believe me this is not going to be a preachy “You must stop drinking and never have fun” post, it’s honestly just my own reflections on my own drinking habits.

I drank too much. I don’t mean I would go out on Thursday and Friday night and sink a few pints and roll into work a little worse for wear, I am talking a bottle of wine a night, all alone, sitting in my living room watching Eastenders on BritBox, I am talking a bottle of wine to get through the trauma of brushing my daughter’s hair, and if there was a second bottle in the fridge there was no guarantee I wouldn’t drink that one too. I am talking years of “Oops we drank that entire 12 pack” of “Oh go on then just one more shot, one more margarita, one more bottle.”

I had developed my reputation as a party girl when I was in my teens, and in retrospect it helped numb my crippling anxiety and crappy self-esteem, but it also came with years of stupidity. It came with one night stands, it came with black outs, it came with puking, it came with an unwanted pregnancy and termination at 26, it came with stupid choices and stupid decisions. It came with running my mouth and spilling things that were best left unsaid and it came with betrayal. It’s easy to pretend I don’t remember it all but as I have gotten older I have remembered a great many things I had buried deep in my psyche.

We went to the UK over Christmas of 2018 and that was when this idea of sobriety started nagging away deep in my subconscious, but I didn’t really do anything much other than cut back to maybe 4 or 5 nights a week versus 7, and I still fell into that binge drinking category. In my social circle many of us drank heavily, it was just something we did, and oh how we laughed, oh how we gossiped and oh how we made stupid choices.

Then came some physical issues. I had this weird flesh colored rash on my arms and my chest, I seriously looked like I had some kind of weird impetigo. It was diagnosed as granuloma annulare and idiopathic skin disorder. I was so self conscious about it, hated wearing anything sleeveless because the lumps covered my forearms. I had labs drawn for an annual physical and one of my liver function tests was elevated, as was my ferritin, these 2 results together were a huge red flag. Daily drinking was really impacting me physically. My job performance was slipping, I was forgetful, overly emotional, I couldn’t sleep and I was perpetually anxious and depressed. I hated my job and I really hated myself. I felt like a failure, as a mother, as a wife, as a friend and as a nurse.

When I had the VSG I had to stop drinking (see above) and it was easier than I expected. I found that I liked being sober. I found that I liked waking up feeling good, without a headache, without the soul sucking fatigue of yet another hangover. I liked remembering going to bed, I rediscovered reading, and I rediscovered board games with my child. I actually truly¬† liked being sober. I am not going to lie, I have had a couple of glasses of wine – tiny little glasses, maybe 2-3 ounces, and while it has been okay, I have had zero desire to keep drinking, and one tiny glass has lasted me a good 3 hours. So now, it is really kind of pointless. I obviously do not “need” the wine to be social, I can brush my daughter’s hair without the need to chug a bottle (even though brushing her hair is still something that is incredibly traumatic for both of us.). I am a better wife and a better mother, I have more energy and much like when I stopped smoking, food is starting to taste better. I haven’t had my liver function tests checked in a while, so I am curious to see if they have improved, but the granuloma went away…at least until that weekend I had the 2 small glasses of wine. Now call me vain, but I do not want that bumpy “maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s plague” look back again.

Hindsight is of course 20-20, but when I look back over everything we have been through in the past 4 years as a family, I wonder how much of it would have been different had I been sober, and had I been present, truly present, not present just for the 45 minutes it would take for me to open the wine after getting home from work. I wonder how much money I could have saved without dropping $9.99 a night on that nice rose or chardonnay? Oh yes, that would be $3,646.35 a year!

So here I go into this brave new world (at least for me) where alcohol will be something that is just there, but not something I need just to get through the day or the night. I knew that having the VSG would be life changing, I just didn’t anticipate this change. But, I welcome it with open arms, an open heart and an open mind.