Gluten and Alcohol

I gave up gluten 6 years ago.  Can I give up alcohol now?

Giving Up Gluten

I remember giving up gluten.  I had been told for YEARS that it was something I should walk away from.  Not just limit my consumption of, but give up completely and forever.  That idea lasted for about 23 seconds in my brain.  Give up gluten?  No.  I wasn’t even going to consider it.  How would I even exist that way?  I didn’t see that as a viable option.  I wanted to fit in.  What would I do at birthday parties?  What would I do for Friday night Stromboli?  How could I live without pizza?  How could I possibly integrate into normal life?  No.

Fast forward a few years later – I was experiencing significant health problems that I thought had been caused, at least in part, by gluten.  Out of sheer desperation and discomfort, I mournfully and quite literally tearfully, committed to abstaining from gluten.  (And I even added in dairy.)  I cried.  I felt horribly sorry for myself.  And yet my symptoms persisted.  I was committed, though.  Because I was desperate.

About a month later, my symptoms still hadn’t abated.  I was still suffering in that way.  But.  But, you know what?  I haven’t had a stomach ache in….what?….days?  Weeks?  And, wait, no headaches either.  How. Was. That. Possible?  I had been on this earth for 42 years.  And had had headaches and stomach aches every single day.  Every day.  Until the past month.  Wait.  I felt amazing.  Clear-headed.  Light.  I had been so focused on the targeted symptom and alleviating it that I had missed the fact that I was feeling better in literally every other way.  And giving up gluten had gotten easier. Might this be actually worth it?  When people told me that I was nuts…..asked for the gluten that I was refusing, ordered additional gluten when I ordered none, told me they could never do it…..all of that.  I could handle all of that conversation and ridicule if I could feel good!  And I have.  And they do.  And I’m glad.  Yes, it’s hard.  Sometimes.  But then a brief reminder of how much better I feel – and saying no is a breeze.

Then I decided that a little here and there wouldn’t hurt.  Would it?  Nah.  I could have a little.  I was sneaking things here and there.  And that was a REALLY tough allergy season.  Wow!  Standing in line at the grocery store an acquaintance of mine asked about my gluten-free lifestyle, to which I confessed a small amount of cheating.  He said – that doesn’t work.  If you have any, you might as well have had a lot.  Your symptoms will come back in full force with only a bit.

Really?  That can’t be true, I thought.  Wait?  Could it?  No….no way.

Fast forward about 2 months and I was still cheating, because who really wants to go entirely gluten free, and I asked my daughters’ doctor to test my daughter for celiac.  I did this because of her rashes.  I did this to actually rule out celiac.  I did this because I wanted to convince myself she didn’t have it.  To be a good mom.    When he called me with the test results – that’s right – he, the doctor, called me with the test results.  I knew.  I knew that she had celiac.  That she had to remain gluten free for the rest of her life.  And I mourned, I marveled, I wept, I hoped.  I did all of those things over the next few days.  Then, on that April day in 2012, I told my 10-year-old daughter that wheat was tearing her body up.  I told her over a gigantic ice cream sundae.  And that day is the last day that I have willingly eaten anything at all with gluten in it.

Now it wasn’t as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my daughter.  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could show solidarity with my daughter so it was….well, easy.  Have I suffered occasionally?  Have I wished I could eat a giant hunk of sourdough?  Have I thought how easy it would be if I could just integrate – order a beer with the rest of the group, share a pizza with the group?  Of course.  But when people tell me that they don’t know how I could possibly go gluten free – they could NEVER do that, they tell me.  I still hear it regularly.  I just nod and understand that they don’t know if they would have or could have done it if they had been me or felt like I did.

Now, what does this sound like if I substitute alcohol for gluten?

Giving up Alcohol

I remember giving up alcohol.  I had been told for YEARS that it was something I should walk away from.  Not just limit my consumption of, but give up completely and forever.  That idea lasted for about 23 seconds in my brain.  Give up alcohol?  No.  I wasn’t even going to consider it.  How would I even exist that way?  I didn’t see that as a viable option.  I wanted to fit in.  What would I do at birthday parties?  What would I do for Friday night?  How could I live without pizza and beer?  How could I possibly integrate into normal life?  No.

Fast forward a few years later – I was experiencing significant health problems that I thought had been caused, at least in part, by alcohol.  Out of sheer desperation and discomfort, I mournfully and quite literally tearfully, committed to abstaining from alcohol.  I cried.  I felt horribly sorry for myself.

About a month later:  Guess what?  I felt amazing.  Clear-headed.  Light.  I had been so focused on the targeted symptom and alleviating it that I had missed the fact that I was feeling better in literally every other way.  And giving up alcohol had gotten easier. Might this be actually worth it?  When people told me that I was nuts…..asked for the alcohol that I was refusing, ordered additional alcohol when I ordered none, told me they could never do it…..all of that.  I could handle all of that conversation and ridicule if I could feel good!  And I have.  And they do.  And I’m glad.  Yes, it’s hard.  Sometimes.  But then a brief reminder of how much better I feel – and saying no is a breeze.

Then I decided that a little here and there wouldn’t hurt.  Would it?  Nah.  I could have a little.  I was sneaking things here and there.  Standing in line at the grocery store an acquaintance of mine asked about my alcohol-free lifestyle, to which I confessed a small amount of cheating.  He said – that doesn’t work.  If you have any, you might as well have had a lot.  Your symptoms will come back in full force with only a bit.

Really?  That can’t be true, I thought.  Wait?  Could it?  No….no way.

Fast forward about 2 months and I was still cheating, because who really wants to go entirely alcohol free?  Alcohol was tearing up my body.  And that day is the last day that I have willingly eaten anything at all with alcohol in it.  (This isn’t true yet, but shouldn’t it be?)

Now it won’t be as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my health.  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could let my body heal from the poison….this will be easy.  Will I suffer occasionally?  Will I wish I could drink a margarita?  Will I think how easy it would be if I could just integrate – order a beer with the rest of the group?  Share a bottle of wine?  Of course.  But when people tell me that they don’t know how I could possibly go alcohol free – they could NEVER do that, they tell me.  I will hear it regularly.  And I will nod and understand that they don’t know.

Wow.  Look at that – so incredibly similar.

When I originally wrote this, I took out the bit about doing it for my daughter.  About an hour later, I went for a walk.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I SHOULD be doing it for my daughters.  I am not setting a good example for them.  Is it too late?  Is the damage done?   I almost couldn’t go on walking with the fear of it all.  So, I’m going to add that part in again.

Now it wasn’t as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my daughter(s).  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could show solidarity with my daughters so it was….well, easy.

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