Moderation is the Pitcher Plant

What is the pitcher plant?

The pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that has modified leaves known as pitfall traps. They’re a prey-trapping feature that forms a deep cavity filled with a digestive liquid almost nectar. It attracts insects, and once they are in the pitcher plant, they soon realize that there really is no way out. At first, they enjoy the nectar, but when they slowly try to get out of the pitcher plant, they find it has a really slippery slope. And as they try to get a grip on the slippery slope, they see other dead insects that fell for this sweet nectar.

I celebrated my first year alcohol-free on June 1, 2021. I had read This Naked Mind in the spring of the pandemic and had decided to do the 30-day alcohol experiment that Grace suggests doing. That experiment was an eye-opener and really, deciding not to drink after the 30 days was pretty easy. I saw so many benefits of not drinking. My sleep at night was way more sound and peaceful, my skin felt so much better, there was no battle on the scale regarding weight gain, my overall energy increased tenfold, I was less agitated, my anxiety and stress were way lower, and I felt an overall sense of happiness and peace that I had not experienced in my life in a very long time … years, actually.

The mind is a very powerful tool. I had set one year as my goal, and once I achieved that, I decided to celebrate by enjoying a cocktail. Shortly after my first alcohol-free anniversary, it was my birthday, and then more cocktails. And this is where I feel like I can relate to the fly in the pitcher plant. You see, I tasted that nectar, and it tasted OKAY. I can’t say it was one of those experiences tasting something that “hit the spot,” so to speak. I didn’t realize this, but I was already S-L-O-W-L-Y starting to slip down the inside of the pitcher plant’s leaf.

In August of 2021, my husband was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called minimal change disease. It is idiopathic in nature, but his nephrologist does not rule out the Pfizer vaccine. Little did we know that the journey ahead of us was one of many medications, weeks in the hospital, a lot of stress, a lot of crying, a lot of praying, and a lot of taking it day by day as his body adjusted and adapted to the medication.

When he was in the hospital the first time around, I remember feeling like all of a sudden, alcohol was that ex-boyfriend that really isn’t good for you, but something about his lure is intriguing. That is when alcohol really reached out to me. It extended its hand to me. It didn’t want a serious relationship with me but wanted to support me the only way it knew how. It wanted me to know I was not alone as I walked on this health journey with my husband. I didn’t take complete hold of its hand … I only held on to two fingers because deep down, I already knew that my life without it was way better, way more peaceful, way more filled with love; there was no back and forth, there was no toxicity in my life, there was no balancing act, there was no hiding, and there was no lying when alcohol wasn’t in my life.

My husband did great initially when he first started all his medications, and we decided to do a complete main floor renovation once he was back home from the hospital. We even added a wine fridge and wine shelf amongst other things. During this time, as they lowered his prednisone dose to 30 mg around November 13, 2021, little did we know that he would relapse really bad. Which is very common with his condition, as many become steroid-dependent and even develop blood clots. Another amongst all the medications he takes is MCD, which increases your blood pressure, increases your LDL (bad cholesterol) and causes water retention and weight gain.

So, December of 2021 was very stressful for us because my husband ended up gaining 50 pounds in four weeks, and he got a blood clot in his lower right leg. The day that he went into the ER to rule out a blood clot was the day I quit my job at the dental office I was working at. It just wasn’t a good fit for me, and I knew that I had to close the door on that chapter. We consulted with our nephrologist, and from the results of my husband’s most recent urine and blood collection, he saw that my husband’s kidney function had declined, so we decided it was time to go back into the hospital – Internal Medicine.

So, on December 29, I drove him to the ER, where he waited two long days before he was admitted into Internal Medicine, where he ended up spending two weeks. At this point, I know that I was clearly using alcohol to cope. And I can’t remember how many bottles of wine I drank, especially in December and January, but I can tell you this: I knew there was no backing out of this pitcher plant. I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t ready to do it yet. That wine fridge and the wine rack were getting depleted faster than I could replenish them. And in the back of my mind, I started to think was it really a good idea to add these to our renovation?

I am a doer. I take charge. I get things done. I make things happen. BUT I could not fix my husband’s health. I had no control over it. I had to go with the day-to-day of adjusting and adapting to the medications. Days quickly rolled into weeks, as he had to do a 24-hour urine collection and blood work every two weeks to measure all his levels – sodium, creatinine, potassium, GFR (kidney function), albumin, and the big one, how many grams of protein he was leaking. Just to give you an idea, zero is healthy, and three is considered high. We should have zero protein in our urine. Back in August when he first went in, he was leaking nine grams of protein, and now after being discharged from the hospital on January 11, he was at 19 grams. That is a shitload of protein (pardon my French). Slowly, he was getting better; every two-week collection was showing better results.

I realized that my struggle with the pitcher plant was going to have to come to an end. Being an Empowerment Mindset Coach, I knew what I had to do. I had to change my cognitive dissonance. “What is that?” you probably are wondering. It is the term used to describe the discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values or attitudes. In this case, telling myself that I needed alcohol to help me relax while I went through this stressful time all the while knowing that alcohol is not good for me, and it’s a depressant that brings me down more than it uplifts me. I also had to change my false beliefs about it.

So, I decided the only way to do this was to go back to the drawing board. You see, if I tried to change my relationship with alcohol at this point without doing the following, it wouldn’t work. YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK, PUT IN THE TIME AND MAKE A CHANGE HAPPEN. What I did from May 31, 2020, to June 1, 2021, is called “spontaneous sobriety.” What this means is quitting drinking without any formal treatment such as rehab, inpatient treatment or a 12-step program. In February of this year (2022) I decided to RE-read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace , and I also decided to do her 30-day alcohol experiment again. So currently, I’m on day ten of her alcohol experiment and twelve days alcohol-free. And I can’t believe how easy it has been.

I’m done. There is no end date. There is no more lure of the pitcher plant. No lure of the crazy ex who is super unhealthy for you. Remember one thing: alcohol is addictive. That feeling you experience from the very first drink you have is caused by an ARTIFICIAL rush of dopamine. Sure, you will feel good, maybe even lightheaded. Your body will try to compensate by releasing cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) and then it releases a hormone called dynorphin to bring that dopamine rush down. What do you do after this happens? Pour yourself another drink. You will never experience that high again. The only thing you are doing is raising your BAC (blood alcohol content).

My question for you:

Is it really worth drinking for that 20- to 30-minute high you first feel to only experience two to three hours of the alcohol acting as a depressant when it brings you down and makes you experience all those low, depressing moods, sombre thoughts and low-energy feelings? Is it worth ‘moderating’ a substance that is known to be carcinogenic, an anesthetic and a depressant? Is it worth going back to that internal struggle of how much alcohol you will allow yourself to drink?

My personal experience is that the freedom I felt in the year of not drinking any alcohol was beyond anything I had experienced when it comes to overall happiness and peace. I was not shackled to a drug that brought me down, ruined my sleep, was the cause of arguments, gave me terrible wine hangovers, caused excessive amounts of bloating, made me irritated, agitated and short with the ones I loved. I just recently read Jason Vale’s book Kick The Drink Easily and I loved it when he wrote – If you tried to sell alcohol to someone that has never ever drank it or heard of alcohol before it would be virtually impossible especially after you read the long list of all the disadvantages. I know what lies ahead as I embark on living my AF life and I am more than excited to know all the riches and rewards that I’m going to experience living this lifestyle.