Mar 2013

My drinking problem

Hope you’re having an amazing week so far.  It’s been so gorgeous here in SF.  I wish I could rescue all my east coast friends and family from the horrible weather and fly them out to enjoy the long afternoons in the park and walks along the beach… sorry to rub it in.

I haven’t told many people this, but last summer I convinced myself that I had a drinking problem.

I was down on myself for waking up with headaches on Saturday morning, feeling puffy on Mondays and even though my intention was to not drink during the week, I still found myself having a glass of wine (or two… ok, usually two) at dinner time.

To me, having a normal relationship with alcohol meant having one glass of wine on Friday night, and one glass of wine on Saturday.  I mean I should be able to have fun without alcohol right?  And shouldn’t nutrition coaches really not drink at all?

When I compared my reality to my expectations, it was clear that I was a maniac.  So I tried my damndest for weeks to cut back, drink more seltzer and not put myself in situations where I felt like drinking 3 glasses of wine was critical to the experience.

But no matter how hard I tried to get rid of my drinking problem, I couldn’t pass up a good glass of pinot noir, which further convinced me that I was an addict.

One day when I was lying on the dock at my summerhouse with 3 of my closest girlfriends, I built up the courage to tell them I had a drinking problem.  Once the words came out of my mouth, they all started to laugh.

My friend Allison took the lead and told me that enjoying wine with good food, going wine tasting and enjoying a glass of wine on a Tuesday with my husband are all normal things.  She also added that I could probably stand to go out and take tequila shots once a month to get some pent up “wildness” out of my system.  Going a little nuts, as long as it’s within reason, can be really therapeutic, especially since I shut down that part of my life when I got married.

Duh. I thought.  I’m such a drama queen.

I was spending so much time trying to reach my goal, that I never considered that my goal was the problem.  And the act of trying to reach my goal was actually preventing me from focusing on how I actually want to feel.

Sure, I could cut back to 2 glasses of wine a week, but is that the kind of life I want right now?  Is that what I choose?  Sure, someday that’s what may feel the best, but for now that feels too restrictive.

Once I got rid of my rule, and realized that my behavior was actually pretty normal for my age, life phase and proximity to Napa, I finally had the softness to tune into my body and what she really wanted.

I discovered that all is took to not have headaches or chipmunk cheeks was a few more glasses of water, maybe a glass or two less on the weekends, and to steer clear of Chardonnay.  And since I’ve started to wake up without a hangover, the slight adjustment still feels like a major win instead of deprivation.

I’ve also found myself not feeling social pressure to drink, or the need to have a glass of wine every night.  When I stopped telling myself I had a problem, the problem went away.

Pin it, Please?

So, are you feeling better about your drinking habits?  So many of us put such high expectations on ourselves to be perfect, when I really think it’s so much more effective (and fun) to just be human.

If you have a friend who struggles with this, I’d love for you to pass this on to them by forwarding this email or blast out this tweetable:

Do you think you have a drinking problem? I thought I did too until I read this (link) @sarahejenks

We gotta help each other out with this stuff.

And here’s what I want you to do this week:

1.     Identify where there’s a discrepancy between your expectations and your reality.
2.     Ditch the expectation.
3.     Focus on how you want to feel and what lifestyle you really want to have.
4.     Let me know what you’re going to ditch in the comments below.  I can’t wait to hear how you’re gonna loosen up on yourself.



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  • I love you, Sarah Jenks! Your honesty and generosity never ceases to amaze me. I’ve shared these same sentiments on and off for years and understand the dramatic inner dialogue all too well. What a relief to share in these feelings with a community of soul sisters, led by ‘brave heart you’. X

    • Sarah Jenks

      Jen, thank you so much:) I’m so happy you have a place to realize you’re not crazy!

  • Amanda

    It shocks me how perfectly timed your blog posts are!! I live in Sonoma, CA and work at a winery, and just THIS MORNING convinced myself that I have a drinking problem. However, after reading this post, I realized that I definitely do not have a drinking problem. I usually go wine tasting once a week, and for working at a winery, I don’t drink that much wine. I will open a bottle maybe once a week and don’t usually finish it before it goes bad. I may have woken up with a headache this morning but that is because I didn’t drink enough water yesterday while tasting. I guess I am just a huge drama queen too 🙂 Thanks Sarah!

    • Sarah Jenks


      1. JEALOUS!

      2. Yes, you’re so normal, and wine is in the blood here, embrace it. Glad you’re feeling better about it. xoxo

  • This is a fantastic post Sarah! I rarely, rarely drink, not sure why, I guess I just prefer coffee anytime anywhere. Even when I do drink it’s usually spiked coffee! lol But the thought of “When I stopped telling myself I had a problem, the problem went away.” is really sticking with me right now. I can tell that I have a lot of that going on in my life, I’m just not sure where just yet. Thanks so much Sarah!


    • Sarah Jenks

      You’re so welcome! That philosophy does apply to so many things, alcohol, food, shyness, stress, coffee;)

      Be human.

  • S. Jenks,

    You are fuckin’ awesome.

    In my B-School shindig, I totally listed you on my Premium Brand Fun Sheet.
    Thanks for giving me a reason to do so.

    Rock on.

    Much love,

    • Sarah Jenks

      You totes made my day! Rock on babe. Psyched to have you here. xox

  • Niamh

    ‘Focus on how you want to feel and the lifestyle you really want to have.” THANK YOU, Sarah! I just adore this post and so appreciate your openness. I’ve been imagining so many problems with my relationship with food, in particular. Combining your advice from your last post with this I asked my body how she was feeling and what felt good for her. Turns out that she’s loving what’s going on right now and requested that I simply trust her to let me know if any changes need to happen. Thanks soo much Sarah.
    Lots of Love.

    • Sarah Jenks

      Smart body! I had a similar convo with mine today and she said the same thing. We should set the, up on a date!

  • Claire

    Love this post, and your openness! I can totally relate, life is all about perspective and the power that comes from releasing judgement 🙂

    Can’t see a link to your ebook?

    Claire xx

    • Claire

      Ahh, found it.. can’t wait to dive in 🙂

      • Sarah Jenks

        Thanks Claire! Enjoy the book, let me know what you think. xox

  • I was drinking a lot too – some weeks I drank a glass or two of wine every night – and was gaining too much weight. I stopped because I got pregnant – the perfect excuse… I think after the baby comes, though, I don’t know what will happen. I use wine to deal with stress, I think.

    • Sarah Jenks

      Good observation. What are some ways you’re dealing with stress now since you can’t drink?

  • This is exactly what I needed. WOW. Thank you.

  • Interesting post, love the honesty. This line blasted out at me: “I was down on myself for waking up with headaches on Saturday morning.” About 14 years ago, after quite a few years of experiencing just that — being down on myself about hangovers, every-day hangovers — I tried to cut back on my drinking. I wasn’t drinking wine though. I had progressed to straight vodka. I called my drinks martinis but they were just vodka on ice. I drank from a coffee cup so it wouldn’t appear to my family that I was having so much booze. The attempts to cut back didn’t work. I’d go one day w/o booze but then reward myself the next day. I tried putting the bottle of vodka in my basement, on the theory that if I had to run downstairs while I was rushing around making dinner I wouldn’t bother. Wrong. Then I noticed that on my drive home from work I would start to visualize the drink while I was a few miles from home, sitting at a very long traffic light. More attempts to cut back. Failure. Then, the last straw: I arrived at work one morning and promptly threw up into my trash can. THAT got my attention. So I decided to try an AA meeting. Flash forward 2 years. Despite going to meetings 4 or 5 times a week, I was still drinking. Oh, I’d get 2 months under my belt, but then something — a bad day at work, a kid unhappy with life, one too many dinner parties that I didn’t want to attend — and I’d start all over again. Finally some sort of magic worked and I stopped completely. I miss drinking terribly. I want to have a nice glass of wine with a good meal. I wanted to toast my daughter at her recent wedding. I wanted to have wine while in Italy a few years ago. I didn’t because I know myself. I don’t want the drink because I like the taste. I want the drink because I love, love, love the buzz it gives me. I wish all of you luck in drinking moderately. I know it can be done. I watch my husband do it. But some people can’t, and sadly I’m one of them.

    • Sarah B.A.

      Pam, I appreciate your honesty, in how you drink for the buzz, not the taste. It is really awesome that you know yourself so well, and have made the decision not to drink. Really awesome!!

Sarah Jenks

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