I follow a lot of blogs written by alcoholics in recovery. According to my therapist, and by my own assessment, I am not an alcoholic. I am an abuser of alcohol, however. No one has told me this; they don’t have to. I know.
I go through phases of drinking a glass or two of wine every night. I go through phases of not drinking during the week and limiting my intake to the weekend. Sometimes the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Sometimes it includes Sunday. And on occasion, when I’ve opened a new bottle of red and haven’t finished it on Sunday, it stretches into Monday. How can I toss this somewhat pricey bottle of wine? And if I wait until Friday, it will go bad. Usually, I don’t play that game and I don’t open a new bottle of red on Sunday. I have a glass of white, which will keep, or I have nothing. And many nights, I do have nothing. At times I do pour the last of the bottle out.
Then there are the times when I go weeks, months, or once, an entire year, without drinking. These periods generally are prompted by my desire to reduce my caloric intake. Rarely have I curtailed my drinking because I’m concerned about turning into a “real alcoholic.” A “real alcoholic”?, you ask. Yes, you know the type: the alcohol controls them; they do not control the alcohol. They drink every day, starting in the morning because they have the shakes. They need a little something to take the edge off. They drink on their lunch breaks, and eventually hide bottles in their desk drawers. They have trash bags of empty beer cans or bottles piled up in the garage. They don’t eat. They’re in poor health. They fall and hit their heads and nearly bleed out. They don’t care for their pets. They lose their wives, their jobs. But they don’t lose their homes because their mother and father enable them. Eventually, after several attempts at rehab, they die of cirrhosis. Or maybe, against all odds, they achieve sobriety.
Or they’re the type of alcoholic who binge drinks. They hold down jobs and provide for their families. They’re intelligent and charming and fun. But once they’ve had a few, they can’t stop. And when they don’t stop, they become mean. Violent. They abuse their children both physically and verbally. They break down doors. Their faces turn red and their veins bulge on their necks. You hide from them in the attic off your closet until the house gets quiet. The next day, they apologize. They give you gifts. They’re truly remorseful.
These are the kinds of alcoholics I’ve known.
Because of this, because alcoholism is in my blood, I monitor myself carefully. Sometimes I feel guilty when I drink. Why do I do it when it’s caused so much misery in my life and in the lives of those closest to me? Because I can. Because it’s easier in this culture to drink, than not.
But I read your bogs. I see how your lives change when you don’t drink. I see how different things are without the crutch. You go to social functions and you don’t rely on a drink or two to loosen up; to feel comfortable. You never have a hangover. You don’t turn to a glass of wine when you’ve had a hard day. You play with the dog. You run. You write. You create. You relate. You cope. You cope without the bottle.
You are you.
My therapist told me yesterday, when I confessed I’ve gotten back into the habit of having a glass of wine every night (and sometimes two, but I did not tell her this):
“Alcohol is a primitive way to fix the nervous system.”
She suggested I try a more modern approach: meditation. Ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening when I return home. Meditation instead of wine. No wine six days a week. A glass or two one day a week. (But what about the rest of the bottle? I might last a week, but it won’t!) The 6/1 meditation program.
Fine, I’ll try it. But I was going to meditate for 50 days in a row, anyway, culminating on my 5oth birthday. I suppose I could start early.
But here’s the deal: I’m currently on a plane to Tucson. It’s a lawyer continuing education boondoggle. How am I to begin not drinking (save one day a week) at a lawyer boondoggle weekend? Lawyers drink. Heavily. Especially whilst boondoggling. And how can I be the only sober boondoggler? I’ll be anxious. And boring. And bored.
Maybe I’ll start Sunday. Or even Saturday. But tonight? And Friday night? On a mother-loving boondoggle?
I’ll have to ponder this evolution thing. In the meantime, we’re about to begin our descent. So I shall wrap up and report back later.
- Am I an alcoholic? (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
I love thie post! Thank you. Escpecially the quote about alcohol and the nervous system. Perfect.
When my therapist said that, it made quite the impression.
Funny, my therapist was asking me today if I drink at all , and I lied, saying “only on social occasion” although the truth is at least twice a week, I’ll have one to three glasses of wine in the evening. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic either, having grown up with one, but maybe the reason I didn’t tell her the truth is that I didn’t want her to tell me I needed to stop drinking? Good luck, it’s not easy to try the substituation with meditation but I’ll be anxious to read how it goes!! 🙂
I think any of us who grew up around alcoholism are sensitive about our drinking habits. I haven’t started, yet. The boondoggle won.
Our doctors, some of them, says 1-2 glasses of wine on some evenings or most evenings are not only not bad, but healthy. I know people (women mainly) have a glass or 3 every evening, and I know alcoholism. At the same time wine is such a treat, and so is parties. For some reason it seems alcoholism is a bigger problem in the US, but of course, it could be a major problem anywere. For some people.
You’re right, Bente. If you can do moderation, you’re okay.
Your post is very honest! I am one of those that has more than one glass of wine per night, every night; red diluted with spring water. In my past I was an abuser of drinking. I learned when I was ‘self-medicating’, going over-broad, and/or enjoying the nicer things in life. Never before 4pm, most evenings not until 7 or so; having 2 yoga nights a week helps! I want to get back into my meditation practice and other practices that have been shelved due to that family nut case. I need to spend less time/energy there and more on ME. Bottom line, be honest with one’s self and start anew. Good luck
That’s the issue with me, Gert: I don’t want to use it to medicate; to cope. I’m going to give the meditation RX a try. After the boondoggle is over.
I want to hear how the meditation goes. I’ve been pondering that myself, because I want to avoid Zoloft.
And drink water…lie and tell them you are on a diet and prefer not to drink your calories. That works for me.
And also, sorry that came out a little bossy. Not intended. Nobody listens to me anyway. 🙂
You’re not bossy! I should have listened to you!
That’s not even a lie, Katie. But I didn’t do it. I had two glasses of wine Thursday. I was fine with that. Last night I lost count. Our host ordered bottle after bottle of wine, and the waitress kept topping off our glasses. I didn’t stop her. I had way too much to drink last night. We all did. We did have a van take us to dinner, so we were mindful in that regard. But I felt like death warmed over this morning and missed the morning sessions. As penance, I climbed the mountain again. It was harder today. After all that, I’m ready for the meditation!
Great post. I’m glad to read your honest self-reflection. You got me thinking!
I’m beginning to call myself an alcoholic and I don’t fit neatly into any of the types of drunks you’ve labeled. I share your visions of what an alcoholic should look like. I mean, don’t we all have one of those in our family? However, one trait I do have that you describe is once I open a bottle of wine (in my own comfort zone at home) I almost always finish the whole thing. I don’t become red-faced and mean; quite the opposite, really, I get calmer and nicer. My emotions become muted by the wine and that’s why I drank (yes, past tense). I never liked how I felt the next day.
I was able to stop at one or two glasses. I could altogether pass on a glass at a party or in a restaurant; but who wants to do that if others are drinking? I agree that drinking is so accepted and expected in our society that it’s hard not to participate. People relax, let go of their inhibitions and are more open to laughing and socializing. I certainly was; I enjoyed it and writing about it makes me miss that piece of drinking.
I wonder if I’m wrong to think once I get control of my emotions and learn to not numb them with alcohol I can rejoin the social drinkers. Alcoholics tell me alcoholism is a progressive disease but if I were a true alcoholic wouldn’t things have gotten much worse by now? Considering the fact I’m 50 years old and started drinking when I was 13, shouldn’t I have hit the hard bottom by now? Lost everything? Gone to rehab? I wonder.
I know I’m hogging your blog with my reply but your question intrigues me. I once read if I spend time thinking about whether I have a drinking problem than I probably do. For now I’m going with that and choosing not to drink. I’m rebooting my system and restoring my nervous system back to its “factory settings.”
For someone like you with a significant family history of alcoholism I think the lines get muted. Of course you would think about your drinking because you don’t want to follow the path of those before you. That is not the same as a person worrying they drink too much. I want to tell you not to put such emphasis on that part of your life. Your drinking habits don’t sound extreme but what do I really know?
Good luck to you with meditating. I’ve been using guided meditation cd’s and I love them. Oh, and, if you so choose, have fun boondoggling on your trip.
This was such a great response.
Fern, I’ve had those same thoughts about the progression, and being 50 (in two months!) wouldn’t it have grabbed ahold of me by now? But I do abuse alcohol. There’s no denying that. Last night was particularly bad. We all drank way too much at dinner. I feel awful today. So I climbed the mountain to purge some of the nastiness from my system. I’m ready to go home and start my meditation program. I wish I could stay in my room and rest tonight. But I’ve got one more dinner. No alcohol tonight!
As a fellow drinker of reds, I know exactly what you mean about opening a bottle. I know that if I open a bottle, I’ll be having wine for three nights in a row (or sometimes, but rarely, two). Otherwise, the oxidation will just take over and I may as well use the rest of the bottle to enhance my spaghetti sauce.
As Bente said, doctors (apparently in Norway as well) tell us that a glass a day may even be beneficial to our hearts. So I ask you this… if it’s good for you (in moderation), and you enjoy it, why make yourself intentionally do without? When people starve themselves of something they enjoy, that’s when they usually end up binging, to make up for not having any. However, having some occasionally, in moderation, usually fends off the urge to binge (this could apply to anything you like… candy, cookies, wine…).
And if I still haven’t convinced you to not give up on the wine… I have an idea. After you’ve opened that nice bottle of red and poured yourself your single glass for the week, immediately re-insert the cork and overnight the bottle to me. I’ll make sure that it doesn’t go to waste for you… 😉
Hahaha! You made me laugh. I’ll not stop. But I don’t want to use it as a nervous system crutch. So I’ll see how i do with the meditation.
Now I’m craving spaghetti.