I’ve heard it said, you don’t ask the question unless you are. I’ve asked the question many times in my life. It seemed the prudent thing to do. The answer was always no. But simply asking the question often led to stopping, cutting back, or drinking very mindfully for a time.
Like many of you, I read a lot of blogs. Lately I’ve been reading blogs written by recovering alcoholics. They give me hope that my brother can remain sober and create a happy life for himself.
Some of the blogs have me wondering about me. They quit because they used alcohol as a coping mechanism. Because they drank too much one night and had a terrible hangover. They found themselves having a couple of glasses of wine every night. They looked forward to drinking on the weekend after a week of abstinence. They use it to numb anger or pain. So they declare themselves alcoholics and start going to meetings.
And then there are the women who get together and “binge” drink. This apparently is an overlooked and alarming issue.
There are (were) three alcoholics in my immediate family. My father and my two brothers. My father was a binge drinker. He traveled a lot and was rarely home, so I imagine he drank a lot more than I knew. He always came home with pocketfuls of the little airline bottles. My brothers progressed to drinking all day every day. Clearly, all three of them qualified as alcoholic. My sister appeared to be in a gray area. She hid it better. She made herself appear to be a social drinker. But when she couldn’t go out on the boat to scatter my father’s ashes without grabbing a beer to go, I wondered.
Sometimes I think about quitting. Sometimes I think about going to AA and saying, “I’m Ella, and I’m an alcoholic.”
But am I? When is there a reason to abstain permanently?
Sometimes I use alcohol to cope. At the end of my relationship with Mack, I drank with him constantly. I didn’t know what else to do when I was around him. It was his favorite thing to do (neck in neck with sex), and there wasn’t much else going on. I suppose it was boredom drinking. On two occasions, however, I had a shot of vodka right before he came over because I didn’t like being around him any more. I think it was a way to numb the disgust. With him, and with myself for not ending it.
Sometimes, I wanted to be stone-cold sober to be present. The nights I spent with my father in Hospice. I knew the rest of my family went home and drank. Or in my mother’s case, ate sugar. But I didn’t want to dull the pain. Or the love.
After my brother’s intervention, I couldn’t wait to get home to have a glass (or two) of wine. Yes, I understood the irony. But at that moment, that’s the coping skill that came to mind. A walk or a cup of hot tea would have been a better idea.
As I read these blogs, I consider stopping. Why not stop? Why should I stop? I don’t want to stop. I like social drinking and now and again wind-down drinking. I don’t drink every day. I can have a glass or two and stop. I can pour the remainder of a glass out when I feel I’ve had enough. I can go on a detox diet and stop altogether for several weeks.
I can also drink way too much. And too often. Does this mean I can go to an AA meeting and honestly say, “I’m Ella, and I’m an alcoholic”?
I know I can say, “I’m Ella, and sometimes I drink too much.”
I do want to refrain from over drinking and hangovers. I do want to stop using it as a go-to coping mechanism. I want to replace it with healthier coping mechanisms. But I also want to have part of a nice bottle of wine with dinner once or twice a week. I like cooking with wine. It makes a great low-fat sauce when used to deglaze the pan. I like to get together with the girls now and then and have a few. If I don’t want to stop, does that mean I have a problem?
- How much is too much?
- Why stop if you don’t truly qualify as an alcoholic?
- When is drinking a problem such that you should stop?
- What are the advantages to stopping completely if you aren’t an alcoholic?
- Is it always a bad idea to drink alcohol, like it’s always a bad idea to smoke?
- What might I learn about myself if I stop completely?