BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — One size does not fit all when it comes to decisions about drinking.
Choosing whether to consume alcohol is as individual a choice as each person and each person’s experience with it.
The following women share their experiences with alcohol and the decisions they have made regarding its consumption based on their personal health and well-being:
Linda Fayerweather of Maumee sometimes enjoys a glass or two of wine when she settles in for the evening. Like many during the height of the pandemic, those evenings became more frequent, and that is when she noticed the negative effects it was having on her health.
“I love the flavor of wine, but what I found was I was getting more and more joint pain,” she said.
The 68-year-old decided to embrace a “dry January” and noticed a difference right away.
“Lo and behold, within two weeks it was easier to walk. I didn’t have the pain in my feet, so I thought that was interesting,” she said.
When Lent came along, she continued to refrain from wine, and when she went back to it, she noticed the negative effects right away.
“If I have a couple of glasses of wine, I have reoccurring pain in my feet the next morning,” she said. “I have decided that wine is going to be something that I have to think about and decide if I want my feet to feel like that in the morning.”
She has also decided that if she has a glass, it will be one pour, which is about 3 ounces, and that will be all for the day. Kefir water, a fermented carbonated beverage like kombucha, is also now her healthier go-to drink.
“I started making kefir water and a lot of times in the evening when I am watching television and I want something, I will have a glass of that, and I put it in a wine glass. It satisfies the need on the back of my tongue,” she said.
Dawn Duhaime, the executive director of Spring Green Educational Foundation in Maumee, lost her son in 2019 to an overdose and knew that she could not avoid the intense pain she felt and did not want alcohol to “numb her out.”
“Alcohol is a depressant, and I was already so incredibly depressed and devastated. I did not see alcohol as an escape. I saw it more as prolonging the pain. I knew that the alcohol would eventually wear off and not only would my son still be gone, but then I would feel the headaches and problems. So, for me, I just did not want to add to the pain,” she said. “If you’re going to drink, you better be in a happy place because it is naturally a depressant.”
Duhaime does not see herself indulging in alcohol again, anytime soon. On the few occasions she has met friends for margaritas, she discovered an adverse reaction to it.
“I used to love them, but my body has had a terrible response when I tried to drink one – I would get headaches, and I noticed that my recovery the next morning was diminished significantly,” she said. “Over time, I realized that I don’t have the desire and now, nine times out of 10, if I do order a drink out of habit, I don’t end up finishing it.”
In her younger college days, she went to parties and indulged in drinking. Now, she considers how the alcohol will make her feel.
“I don’t want that bad feeling. I’m not making it a rule (to quit) because I am not a good rule follower – rather, I am giving myself permission to say that this is not that big of a deal,” she said.
A 45-year-old mother of four who lives in Toledo and prefers to remain anonymous, found sobriety after years of heavy drinking. Her journey with alcohol began in high school, where she would hide beer in her closet.
“Whenever I would get anxious, I would drink it and it was awful,” she said.
She continued drinking through college, where she said, “all bets were off,” and weekends included binge drinking on a routine basis. As she got older, she did not like being seen with a drink in her hand, so she would sneak it, and – as she now admits – she would continue to drink until she was “blitzed.”
“I was a closet drinker,” she said. “My husband had a bar and I would find the drinks on the bar with the highest-proof alcohol, and I would slam that.”
Her rock bottom was not remembering one of her children’s baptisms because she was drunk, and that is when she turned to Alcoholics Anonymous. It took about one year to fully embrace the program and she eventually found a group that met daily and a sponsor, with whom she is still close and to whom she attributes much of her success in staying sober.
“She (her mentor) has guided me through the program. I could not imagine myself with any other sponsor and I could not imagine having five years (of sobriety) without her.”
She also began to see a therapist to work through her pain, much of which resulted from childhood traumatic events and likely contributed to her drinking. Now, she does not feel an urge to drink, even when she encounters stressful situations.
“I play the tape all the way through,” she said. “That’s what we say in the meetings. Sure, that drink sounds really good right now, but I know where it is going to take me. I know that I can’t have just one, I know that it is going to be disastrous if I pick up a drink.”
Kate Gugerli is a 41-year-old mother of three living in Switzerland. Originally from New Jersey, Gugerli and her husband have lived in cities in the United States and Europe.
Her drinking began in college to cope with anxiety, then continued in her career life with after-hours and networking events. When she quit her job to stay home with her first child, anxiety became overwhelming, and she turned to alcohol to manage.
“I just didn’t know how to cope, I lost a piece of myself,” Gugerli said. “I thought who I was as an adolescent was defined by academics and then as an adult was defined by work professionally, and now suddenly, I am home with a child wondering who I am.”
She had two more children and moved overseas, where she says access to vodka is easier than access to English-speaking therapy.
“That’s when things really got gritty for me,” she said.
Postpartum depression, an overwhelming schedule and sheer exhaustion led to excessive drinking, which prompted her first stint in a treatment program. It was a four-week program in Scotland, but it lacked the medical support she needed to address her depression. The program also implemented the 12 steps embraced by AA, to which she could not connect.
“AA just isn’t for everybody. There are many ways to get around drinking, and for me that wasn’t it,” she said.
Another move to another city brought a new resurgence of feeling isolated and depressed, which led to extreme anxiety and more drinking.
Finally, in January 2020, Gugerli entered a six-week treatment program for help, which included medication to address anxiety and depression and ultimately led to her sobriety.
“I managed my sobriety even with lockdown. I was happy to be home with my kids and I enjoyed the simplicity of life because we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said.
She also turned to exercise and as her body became stronger, her exercise routines became more intense.
“I’ve biked (using a stationary bike) a little over 13,000 kilometers last year, which is a little over 10,000 miles,” she said. “I was a maniac for this bike, but it was something that could make me feel good about myself. I knew that if I exercised, I could manage the challenges of the day.”
Gugerli posts regularly on her progress while encouraging other women to embrace a healthy lifestyle. She can be found on Facebook under the name Kate Gugerli and on Instagram, where her handle is “fitfraugugerli.” She also recently launched a website: www.liftweightsnotwine.com.
“I wanted to share my story because I want to let women know that there is no shame asking for help and to end the stigma associated with alcohol misuse. We do recover,” she said. “As for living an alcohol-free life, I gave up one thing and gained everything.”