When I was a teenager, I used to say that I could never be an alcoholic because I hated the taste of beer.
While I never really learned to love beer, I certainly learned to love the confidence it gave me, and I drank plenty of it in high school and college. In high school I prided myself on drinking Moose Head and St. Paulie Girl while all my classmates swilled Coors Light or Budweiser. I was proud to be a beer snob.
I started drinking rather seriously in my 20s. I remember driving home from the bars so drunk that I wouldn't stop at the red lights for fear I'd fall asleep. How I didn't get a DUI or hurt someone is a miracle. I was always up for going out, dancing, having fun, taking it too far. I was the life of every party. I thought I needed alcohol to be fun.
I fear that I still do.
In my 30s I would have a few glasses of wine at dinner parties, but for the most part I was busy being responsible: starting a business, buying a home, having a child.
Parenting proved to be more of a challenge than I imagined. I had very little patience for my opinionated child. I found myself enraged when she refused to take a nap or go to bed when I was more than ready to be done parenting for the day. While I never harmed her physically, I scared her and myself on more than one occasion with my anger. My marriage was disintegrating, we HATED living in the non-stop rain of the Oregon coast, we could not sell our house or our business, and I began to implode. I felt like I had NO control over my life. I discovered that the occasional glass of wine after work helped "take the edge off". Time passed, we finally sold our house and business and we moved to Washington. We hoped that the move would save our marriage. It didn't. I continued to drink a glass of wine every night, to help me relax and "cope" with my life. Soon, I noticed that one glass wasn't having the desired effect. It took two. More time passed, we got divorced and I found myself living alone (for a brief but BRUTAL time) while Anna lived with Eric. There was certainly no harm in having a couple glasses of wine in the evenings to help me sleep in that big house with the strange noises. Was there?
More time passed, life improved, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man. And yet, I still "needed" that glass of wine (or 3) every single night. I didn't get "drunk"...and yet I started noticing how many empty bottles were in the recycling bin at the end of a week. A real eye-opener came when Anna drew a "still life" of sorts:
We've got Anna off to the left (all you can see is her bottle of root beer), a Christmas tree, a menorah, , a large vase of flowers, Moby, David in the kitchen, and Mommy's big ol' glass of wine. I told myself at the time that it was hilarious!! And so was this: How cute! How funny!
I look at that now and want to cry.
Still, I continued to tell myself that a glass (or 4) of wine a night wasn't hurting anything: I was functioning perfectly. I just had a higher tolerance than most. On Saturdays I found myself wondering when it was too early to have a glass of wine. 4:00? 3:00? 1:00??
Then I read a book called "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction." He and his son reminded me so much of my relationship with Anna. And I had an epiphany of sorts: my daughter is CLEARLY aware of the fact that mommy drinks wine every. single. night. What kind of example am I setting for her? Do I want her to grow up to think that that is normal??
And so I told myself I would stop. That I wouldn't have wine in the house any more. I tried. But I kept finding excuses: it's been a rough day and I need to chill out. It's a beautiful evening to sit on the porch and have a glass of wine. I'll just buy a bottle and make it last all week. I asked friends whom I love and respect (people who have perfectly "normal", high-functioning lives) how much they drink; a surprising number of them say that it's not unusual for them to go through a bottle of wine a night. So what was the problem with me doing so?
But I kept coming back to the thought that I am teaching Anna that this is what grown-ups do. And then, a couple of weeks ago, when I went out with my friend Sarah and rode my bike home drunk off my gourd, I realized that not only was that REALLY not cute for a 43 year old woman, but it was stupid and dangerous: what if I'd run into a parked car (as I almost did) and knocked my dumb-ass out cold...I wasn't wearing a helmet; I could have been seriously wounded or even killed, laying there in the road in the dark.
And so, it's time to admit that I have a drinking problem. Am I an alcoholic? I don't know. I hope not. I don't want to have to go to AA and beg for help from a "higher power" that I do not believe in. Right now I'm hoping it's merely a close call.
I sat down and talked to David about it and he is an amazing source of strength, having overcome his own addictions years ago. He is quietly supportive but knows that change has to come from within myself; he isn't going to be (nor should he be) my babysitter.
I am putting this "out there" because that will force me to be accountable for my actions. I've gone a week now without a glass of wine. And, as in the past when I tried to stop, I "picked a bad week to quit drinking". I received some very bad news about the health of a friend and I really, really wanted to stop at the store on the way home and buy a bottle of wine so that I could have a glass (or 5). But I didn't.
I hope that some time down the road, I can enjoy a glass of wine when we are dining out. I hope that in the future when my girl-friends get together for the weekend, that I can have a couple of drinks and that I can leave it at that. But for right now, I need to know that I can stop. I need to prove to myself and the people that I love that I am stronger than the urge to drink.