john mcelhenney, life coach, relationship coach, dating coach, divorce coach

DRINKING: Dancing with the Ghost of My Dead Father?

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Alcohol as medication is a terrible idea.

Covid drinking is a thing.

But for me, the transformation of myself into a “drinker” has been an interesting progression. We laugh at it now, but in my primary relationship, I still like to say, “Well, I wasn’t a drinker before we got together.” And while it’s funny, and I say it with loving affection for this woman, the truth is I did not drink. A beer or a cocktail a month was fine. No been no wine no cocktail was also fine. So, what changed?

Even before the shutdown-shut-in drinking of Covid, I had developed a taste for fine tequila. It became part of a habit (or do we call these rituals in relationships?) that we would sip some tequila at night as we were reconnecting and getting ready for bed. And then I’d join her for a beer at 4 pm as a daily routine. Not “day drinking” per se, but a lot more drinking than I’d normally embark on by myself.

And then we’d have a tequila-infused cocktail as the evening began. Then we’d have another cocktail or beer. And it became a regular thing. Drinking. Except, for me, it was not my regular thing. Perhaps it was a new “we” regular thing, but I wasn’t sure.

With the terror of the virus, we hunkered down in self-quarrantine. I started making masked visits each week to the liquor store. (I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been in a liquor store prior this period.) I was buying a less expensive premium tequila. And then I was buying two larger bottles of the same tequila each time I shopped. We both joked about how fast one of the big bottles would be emptied and clunked into the recycle bin. It wasn’t really funny. It was a bit shocking. How I went from not drinking to going through $100 of tequila a week. (I guess my half would only be $50, but it was a significant amount of booze.)

Not Alarmed

I am not alarmed by my adventure into intoxication as an anxiety releaver. Except, it didnt’ seem to help. Sure, I loved the warmth of the first cocktail, but I didn’t enjoy feeling immediately tired at the same time. Maybe it was called relaxation, but I just wanted to take a nap after a drink. But on we sailed through the summer and into these most recent holidays.

We talked about drinking less. We took a night off. I bought two more big bottles.

It Runs In the Family

Often it runs in families, this love of drinking. A culture of getting loose on a regular basis. The idea that a drink is a reward, a soothing comfort, a medicine for the relief of the day’s stress. It was certainly an anesthetic. I got more carefree after the third cocktail or beer. I got to “oh, fuck it” a lot quicker when I’d had a few drinks. And I got a bit fatter than I would like to admit. Sure, yeah, covid-20 and all, but my belly was growing and my ability to sprint around the tennis court was being adversely affected.

Today, we’ve talked about doing a sober January. “It’ll be easy for John,” they say. And yes, it probably will be easy. Easier if my partner is also on the wagon for a month. But the stretch for me, will be letting go of the late-night “high” of sippers that would sometimes lead to a deeper connection. We’ve got to form that excitement and connection in other ways.

I’ve been drinking much less this holiday season, and tonight, NYE is going to be a dry one for me. If you would like to join me on a Sober January challenge, let me know in the comments. I’ll start an email chain or FB group for folks that are wanting to modify our relationship to alcohol.

I’m happier when I don’t drink. I’m duller when I’m anxious and I drink to cover it up. And in the morning, I’m less energetic and a bit deeper on the depressive scale than I’d like. And that’s the connection for me. Perhaps my meds would work better without the added depressant of alcohol. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s a given. It’s already started happening.

#soberjanuary #sober2023 #dryjanuary #alcoholism


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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I Wrote a small book about drinking
Available Now on Amazon

The Third Glass - By John Oakley McElhenney

Some datapoints from a recent article on alcohol and its effects on our mind and body.

Psychology Today: Does Alcohol Really Help You Relax?

According to a recent study released by the RAND corporation and supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), drinking has soared during the pandemic. Heavy drinking for women has increased by 41 percent.  “The magnitude of these increases is striking,” Michael Pollard, lead author of the study and a sociologist at RAND, told ABC television. “People’s depression increases, anxiety increases, [and] alcohol use is often a way to cope with these feelings. But depression and anxiety are also the outcomes of drinking; it’s this feedback loop where it just exacerbates the problem that it’s trying to address.”

Sleep is the ultimate self-care activity. The importance of quality sleep in all mental health issues, and overall well-being, cannot be overstated. It is the first line of defense against chronic anxiety and depression. Researcher Matthew Walker, the author of the excellent book, Why We Sleepsays it perfectly, “The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” Midnight ruminating, 3 am wake-ups, night sweats, morning headaches, and brain fog, are all signs that alcohol is impacting your sleep, and bringing along the anxiety you are trying to avoid.


Imagine your doctor suggesting you take a medication that will help with anxiety for about 30 minutes, then will make your anxiety worse. It is also highly addictive. It causes sleep problems, depression, headaches, stomach issues, infertility, and birth defects. Further, it markedly increases your susceptibility to many types of cancer, is associated with reckless behavior and blackouts, and is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in America (and 3,000,000 worldwide) each year. Hopefully, you would find a new doctor.


Alcohol as medication is a terrible idea. If your drinking is medicinal, it’s time to look for safer, more effective ways to cope. Here are some steps to take if you’d like to shift your alcohol use.


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