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Drinking & WLS: I Choose Not To

What we say is as important as how we say it, and what we hear is most important of all.

I’ve spent a lot of time dissecting my self-talk. I think about how I speak to myself – what tone I use, whether or not I’m condemning myself, and whether I’m being kind, compassionate and loving, or mean, unforgiving and shaming. You’ve heard it said that you should talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend, and if you wouldn’t say it to them – DON’T say it to yourself.

I’ve done pretty well with cleaning up my self-trash-talking (although I still beat myself up and take a little longer than I’d like to express forgiveness), but something happened this past weekend that really threw me for a loop.

Here’s where my tale begins: While I was at the final Obesity Help event of the year (Thank you, Long Island) I found myself doing things that I don’t normally do. For starters, I went out to dinner. Twice. And, I ate something other than a salad. Now, you know my travails and you’ve heard all of my pouch woes, so my food choices are often less about tremendous “will-power” and more about what will actually “go down the gullet” (and stay there.) Typically speaking, there just isn’t a great deal out there that I can really “feast upon,” so I tend NOT to go there (if you know what I mean.)

As a result of wanting to be able to eat well when I travel, I pack (Read: schlep) tons of protein with me. I bring shakes, drinks, bars and soy chips. Yup. I’m a walking processed protein factory, but that’s only because it’s über hard to travel with lettuce, vegetables, cottage cheese, salsa, greek yogurt and feta cheese!

But, I digress.

As I said, this time, I did things I don’t normally do. I went out to eat, and I ate. I made healthy choices (sesame encrusted ahi tuna, antipasto and veggies). For the food, anyway. Here’s where things got squirrelly: I had a drink – no, not water. I had a crazy martini drink. I loved it and told myself that, since I never do it, it’s okay. I don’t have a problem with alcohol, and I always keep it in check, so…no biggie.

Except that, later in the evening, I had ANOTHER DRINK. Yes, Me.
Okay…I bowed to some “peer pressure” (which is no justification, but it makes a super great excuse.) Anyway, that was that and I collapsed into bed for the evening. No harm, no foul, though I was a little worse for the wear.

That might have been the end of it…had I not gone out to dinner. AGAIN. THIS TIME, I had TWO DRINKS. Yes, you read that correctly. I ordered two ridiculous drinks…and got loopy. I didn’t like the way I felt and I wished that I could undo what I’d done. But, I couldn’t. So, I was left with my poor choices…and my self-loathing.

It took me until the next morning to figure out the lesson in the behavior. You see, I try to live my life as a positive example for others – and that’s a lot of pressure. No, I don’t try to be perfect, but I do my best to model healthy behaviors that I believe in. I am honest about my shortcomings (hello, Oreos?) and don’t believe in being someone I’m not. I have values that I live by and respect.

So, what’s the deal here? On the face of it, I can tell myself that I’m ashamed that I did this in front of people who expected more of me (but, hat’s the easy thing to say). I can’t undo it, and I’m finding it really hard to forgive myself for my poor choice – though I know forgiveness will come.

Here is where the self-talk comes into play: For so long, I told myself that I wouldn’t drink any alcohol because I “don’t need it,” and because “I don’t feel it’s appropriate” for my healthy lifestyle. I mean, if I say no to sugar in my food, how can I say “okay” to sugar in booze? It’s dishonest.

In other words, I didn’t drink because I shouldn’t drink, which really translated into something that sounded more like, “I CAN’T DRINK.”


Evidently, that didn’t sit well with my psyche because, logically, anyway, I know that I CAN drink. In other words, I have been lying to myself, and the petulant little Cari found a way around it by saying, “Yes, you can drink. Don’t tell me what to do.” 
So, here’s the ultimate lesson from my drinking episode: I CAN drink, but I CHOOSE not to. In other words, it not a willpower thing, it’s a value thing. It’s honoring and respecting my personal valuesWow! That sounds really crazy, right? But, when I “distill” it down, I realize that I value my health more than I value alcohol.
So I have made a solemn pledge to myself that I CHOOSE to never (yes, never is a long time), ever drink alcohol again. I made this promise because I believe that drinking is detrimental to my mental and physical health. 
  • I am lying to myself when I say it’s “not that bad,” because…it really is that bad.
  • I am lying to myself when I say, “I can do whatever I want,” because I know that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
  • I am lying to myself when I say I can’t, because ultimately, I know that I can.

Chalk it up to personal accountability and taking responsibility for my body. But, make no mistake: Drinking is a choice. It’s not a “don’t” or “can’t.” And that’s where the whole self-talk thing really comes into play. For a long time, I told myself something I knew wasn’t true. Just like a child, I said, “don’t tell me I can’t, because I can.” This weekend, I paid a price, and my self-respect took a hit.

The good news is, it’s only a wasted experience if I DON’T learn anything from it – and I have. Hey, if I have to shovel this much horse-poo, there’d better be a pony under here somewhere, right?

Okay, I know what you’re saying: But, Cari, where is the bigger lesson in all of this???

Here it is: If I CAN drink, but CHOOSE not to, then the same must hold true for FOOD. I CAN eat Oreos, cheap carbs and unhealthy foods, but I must CHOOSE not to because, doing so will compromise my personal values.

Phew..that is some heavy stuff…and I won’t say I’m “there yet” (because I’m not) but I am closer than I’ve ever been  – AND I believe I’ve made a breakthrough. I’m on my way.

Here’s the take-away? I am (finally) learning to hear what I’m actually saying, and learning to say what I actually mean.

How do you talk to yourself and what do you hear yourself saying? Do you have a “sliding scale” of acceptable things you put in your mouth? Do you tell yourself, “Hey, I don’t eat this, so I should be able to have a little of that…?” I’d love to hear the conversations you have with yourself, so leave me a comment and let me know.


1 Nikkie { 10.26.11 at 9:52 pm }

Good for you, Babe! Don’t worry about posting (or, not posting) my comment. I think you learned a lesson and shared your experience. That takes real humility…and thAt’s why I say “Good for YOU!”. Love U XOXO, MA

2 bariatricafterlife { 10.27.11 at 8:32 pm }

Thanks, Ma 😉

3 Sine { 03.07.13 at 7:46 am }

You know, for me, alcohol was such a HUGE part of my teens/early 20's that i kind of went off it. After WLS, I began to have the occasional drink, which then became a nightly glass with dinner. Now i never experienced the "get drunk faster" thing (i think the band is different?), however I did begin to then crave a cigarette with the alcoholic beverage. What i learned out of it, was that I replaced all my previous addictions with food which became my "escape" from my "nightmare" and when the food was taken away from me, i then began to turn back to other forms of escape. Thankfully I caught myself in the act and realised. But it is, still, a daily struggle and one that i know will be around for the rest of my life. Not just till i reach goal.

4 bariatricafterlife { 03.07.13 at 2:20 pm }

You are a wise student, Grasshopper…

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