January 22, 2018

Mental Health Monday: "Unwasted" (a book review)

I'm having a hard time thinking of topics for Mental Health Monday every week, so I decided to broaden my initial idea of writing things that are directly related to mental health. Since one of my goals for the new year is to read 10+ minutes per day, and reading is good for my mental health (at least I think it is), I figured I'd write reviews of the books that I read. Bonus if the books are related to mental health.

Since I'm such a slow reader, I don't think I'll be posting many reviews, but I think it'll be a refreshing topic for my blog. (I know my blog topics have been all over the place for the past year, but I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going... who I am anymore... what I have my sights set on now... etc. So, there will probably be several changes as I figure all this stuff out.

Anyway, I just finished reading a book called "Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety" by Sacha Z. Scoblic. This book is a memoir of a woman's experience of becoming sober after years of excessive partying and drinking.


I chose this book because, as I've mentioned several times over the past few months, I'd like to quit drinking. After my bipolar diagnosis (almost a year ago already!), I really started to focus on mental health; and I realized that alcohol was definitely hindering me from being the best mentally-healthy person I can be.

While my experience with alcohol isn't severe enough for me to be considered an alcoholic, having even a few drinks with friends leaves me feeling terrible for a few days afterward. When I have a drink, I feel great; two, even better... in the moment. But fast forward a few hours, and I feel really bad about myself--lots of anxiety, sadness, and guilt. Physically, I feel bad, too--hot and cold at the same time, racing heart, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and puffy hands and face.

And the following day, forget it. I have no energy or motivation, and I feel like I'm starving--no matter how much I eat. Alcohol didn't start having this effect on me until the last few years. As I get older, I tolerate it less and less.

Naturally, the obvious answer is to quit drinking altogether. But it's harder than I thought! As a shy introvert, having a drink in social situations is practically a necessity to get me to loosen up and be more outgoing and talkative. I've gone to several parties over the last six months or so, and not drinking at them has been an overwhelming experience--not fun. I feel anxious and out of place. Not to mention boring.

My biggest fear in giving up drinking is that my friends may stop inviting me to do things when alcohol is involved. Maybe they'll feel uncomfortable inviting me out for drinks (it sounds silly, inviting a non-drinker out for drinks--but I could just order a tonic with lime and be content). I guess I'm just afraid that I won't be included anymore, even if my friends don't have the intention of leaving me out.

Anyway, I've been interested in reading the experiences of other people who have quit drinking. The last time I wrote about this topic, I loved reading the comments from others who have similar experiences as me, and/or who gave up drinking. I want to know what it's like to be the only sober one at a party, or how people handle an intimate dinner party where a nice bottle of wine is practically mandatory.

Based on the description of "Unwasted", I thought that was exactly what I'd be getting--a tale of what it's like to quit drinking. I was a little disappointed in the way the book jumped around in the time frame. There was no order to it, and several times, I found myself confused about when in her journey things were happening.

Also, at the end of each chapter, she writes a few pages of a "fantasy relapse". I like this idea, in theory--she writes about if she were to relapse, exactly how it would go in a fantasy-like way. However, the fantasies are so "out there" and odd that I couldn't relate to them. After reading a few, I ended up skipping the others.

Other than those two things, I did enjoy reading her experiences in dealing with situations where drinking was involved--work parties, going out with friends, relationships with former drinking buddies, handling particular triggers that made her want to drink, etc.

I really liked reading about how her life has changed in positive ways since becoming sober. She doesn't have to plan for hangovers on the weekends, she doesn't lose her memory of everything that happened the night before, she can still be fun and have fun with friends (although it took a while for her to figure that out).

I can totally relate to what she writes when she was newly sober, upon meeting new people and turning down a drink. She immediately wants to tell them, "But don't worry, I'm still fun!" She said that for the first year of sobriety, she would have liked to carry around a sign to that effect.

Since I'm worried about being excluded from things, I want to tell people the same thing--"I promise I can still be fun and I'm not judging you for drinking, so please still include me! Things don't have to be any different!"

I enjoyed reading about some of her worst experiences of drunk nights out, too. Since I was married and had kids so young (I was married at 21 and pregnant just a couple of months later), my experiences with drinking have been limited to getting together with girlfriends for wine, drinks at weddings, going out for Mexican food and margaritas, having drinks while playing Keno at a dive bar, etc. I never went through the big partying phase that the author describes, so it's interesting to me to read about that.

My favorite part of the book was the ending (this isn't really a spoiler). The last chapter is about her training for and running a marathon. She writes about how when she was little, her uncle ran the NYC marathon and she was in awe of the "space blanket" that he got at the end (those silvery mylar blankets for runners to keep warm after the race).

She thought about that blanket for years and years; and when she was sober, she saw an ad for a marathon and decided to do it and earn her own space blanket. She said she never could have done the training or the race if she was still drinking. (I can totally understand that! I went for a 10-miler one time the morning after having lots of wine with Renee. I never felt so awful on a run! Learned a tough lesson that day, haha.)



Overall, I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Here is the (affiliate) link to it on Amazon, if anyone is interested in it: "Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety" by Sacha Z. Scoblic

I would have enjoyed the book more if it weren't for the odd relapse fantasies after each chapter, and if the book was in some sort of order to make it less confusing.

On the positive side, I loved reading about her experience (and relating to some of it) in becoming sober. It helped me to foresee some challenges I might deal with and what to expect from those. It also reassured me that quitting drinking is the best decision (for me), considering that my body and mind just don't do well with alcohol--even a modest amount.

I am always very impressed by sober alcoholics (I think that's the correct phrase? I mean people who had a problem with alcohol and are now sober). Alcohol plays such a huge role in our society and it's everywhere. Avoiding being around it is impossible, so for people who are addicted and are able to stay sober, I am just in awe. (My dad is actually one of them--he's been sober for over 25 years!)

I'm sure sobriety is probably one of the biggest challenges they are faced with on a daily basis. (Kind of like my challenge of keeping the weight off--it's incredibly difficult, and something I have to put thought into every single day.)


20 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post! I'm considering giving up alcohol and then get stressed thinking that I'm only considering it - does that mean I feel like I can't? It's a stressful thought for me! I appreciate reading your experience with it.

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    1. I agree! I've mentioned on the blog several times that I'm thinking of quitting, or that I'm going to cut way back--but stating "I'm done drinking" is so hard for some reason! The thought of really never having alcohol again makes me kind of wistful. So, I'm still hesitant to state the final words, hahaha!

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  2. Alcohol has never been a problem for me, however I have pretty much given it up entirely as I find when I do have a drink it is much easier for me to eat off plan. Same thing happens when I have refined sugar. Better for me to just say no :-)

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    1. I understand that! For me, it's the day after drinking that makes me eat more. My stomach always feels acidic and gross, and I crave greasy food. I feel like a bottomless pit when I eat--never getting full! Definitely not good for the diet ;)

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  3. Sounds like a good book. My husband has problems with alcohol so we are both not drinking since the new year.

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    1. That's great that you are so supportive! Jerry enjoys his beer, but has no problems with tolerating alcohol like I do. We like to have drinks together, and one of the things I miss is sharing a bottle of wine with him on our date nights. But we'll just have to find other options. Best wishes to you and your husband in your decision!

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  4. My perception is a bit different since I have NEVER had a drink. But I’ve been married to an alcoholic. I’ve always had a fear of addiction, to anything. And being married to an alcoholic (not anymore), reinforced why I don’t drink. But as I get older I find it very hard to socialize as a non-drinker. I feel very uncomfortable when everyone else is drinking. I feel like I’m being judged, or they think I’m a “goody two shoes”. Even though I’m invited, I always opt out. Either side of the fence is a difficult one. But I’m proud of you for identifying it as a problem and doing something to fix it. Best of luck!

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    1. I can't imagine NEVER having had a drink--the curiosity would kill me! But I totally understand that fear of addiction. The addiction rate is high in people with bipolar (usually from self-medicating to feel better when depressed, or calmer when manic), and I can see why. I, too, feel uncomfortable around people that are drinking when I'm not--I don't want people to think I'm a "goody two shoes", like you said, or that I am self-righteous and judgmental. I wish alcohol didn't play such a big part in social situations!

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  5. You hit the nail on the head with your statement "Alcohol plays such a huge role in our society and it's everywhere." My FIL used to act disappointed, sad even when I would turn down a drink, as well as surprised. Now he's used to it. But I think you also pinned down what the hardest thing for me is - being offered wine at a nice intimate dinner party. Also, its a problem when I see my longtime friends because I really like to drink with them. When you come up for a solution for that, please post!!! I'm on the same page as you as trying to just give it up in its entirety, with rare exception. I wish I could drink it, but it always leads to weight gain for me. It also disrupts my sleep now. As it is, I generally only have wine once or twice a month and its in those dinner party or social situations, but I really could totally do without it.

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    1. I agree about the dinner parties and spending time with friends. The parties aren't as hard for me, because people may not even notice. But I love to have a friend or two over for wine and chit chat, so that one is hard for me. Also, small dinner parties where everyone has a glass of nice wine (and maybe there is even a toast) make me yearn for a glass. As I get older, these situations happen more frequently, so it's getting harder and harder. I'll definitely post if I have any solutions--and likewise, please share with me if you do! ;)

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  6. I think you're not alone (obviously) in wanting to cut back or even cut out alcohol. When I was preggers or even not, everybody actually LOVED that I didn't drink b/c I was the default designated driver! I have a friend who abstains and it's never weird- as far as my friend group goes, we don't care if you drink or don't. If it's a fancy wine party, bring a bottle of fancy mineral water, or some sort of fixings for making fruit-infused water. Besides, I hear Mocktails are very in now b/c we're as a country heading towards drying out a little! :)

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    1. Yes! All summer long, I was the designated driver, and Jerry was loving that ;) I'm sure I'll feel more comfortable with the situation as I have more experiences always being the sober one at parties. One of the biggest issues for me is just that I don't want people to think that I'm self-righteous or that I'm judging them for drinking. I have no problem with people drinking! I wish that it didn't affect my body so much.

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  7. I never drink because it gives me horrible migraines. At first I would worry that friends wouldn't invite me out because I don't drink but they still invite me. If we go to dinner I do club soda and lime. If we are at someone's house I will bring some LaCroix. No one even gives it a second thought. Maybe you are over thinking it. I did at first. Now I don't even give it a second thought.

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    1. You're probably right, in that I'm overthinking it. Also, I'm thinking too far ahead in the future. Instead of worrying about what I'll do in certain situations that haven't even arisen yet, I need to just think about the here and now!

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  8. Check out the podcast, “Edit: Editing our drinking and our lives”. It’s good for those who don’t necessarily have a “problem” but want to stop drinking because of all the reasons you mentioned.

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    1. That sounds perfect for me! It's difficult because I don't really relate to the people whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol, and it's hard for others to understand that I want to give it up for a reason other than being addicted. I'm going to check out the podcast--I need something to listen to now that I'm training again!

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  9. My friend writes a blog sharing about her journey in sobriety at mistakesbythelake.com Id highly recommend it to anyone thinking about stopping drinking or who has decided to stop drinking. I think you’d like it Katie!

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    1. I was up most of the night with insomnia, so I read the blog--thanks for sharing! I do like to read from other people about their experiences, so I appreciate that.

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  10. Here's a secret from a sober alcoholic (11 years). No one cares if you drink or not, they don't even notice most of the time! I had a large group of women that I had hung out with most of my adult life, and found out that when I stopped drinking and got immersed in recovery, it was ME who didn't want to hang out with them. Hanging out with drunk and half in the bag people held no interest for me, and everything they do revolves around drinking. Doesn't interest me anymore. I spend my free time with my husband and a new group of ladies who don't or hardly drink at all from my gym.

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    1. Thanks so much for your input! I have to admit, I've had that same experience at a couple of parties recently. Everyone else was drunk, which I was completely sober, and it wasn't fun for me. Maybe this will be a good chance to meet some new people with the same interests as me :)

      By the way, a huge congrats on 11 years!! I am truly in awe. Great job!

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)

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