You might have a drinking problem if you are me

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Actually, I don’t think I have a drinking problem, rather I have a living problem and a drinking solution.

Here’s how I am currently solving for wine. About a year ago, a doctor person suggested that I get acquainted with a book called Under the Influence. I picked up an old copy and reading it over, the information seemed very familiar. It was just technical enough to make me feel smart, as it explained the way alcohol is metabolized.

You see, it’s all about portions and pacing, very science. A person will pass out because their system can’t cope with the quantity of alcohol and the pace with which it is presented. Prior to that, the person may behave in an unhinged manner or say stupid things; and prior to that, they either feel pleasantly relaxed or merely encouraged to say stupid things.

Huh. I realized I read this book in the 1980s. Back then Debbie Reynolds would say that she wasn’t an alcoholic, she only drank like an Irish person, and it was funny. I used that joke myself and forgot to give her credit. By 2018 my memory was being pickled. Sorry Debbie.

Trapped Wine 2012
Susan Sorrell on flickr cc fiberart

Anyway, the clues had piled up. One Christmas, every single gift I received from the family was wine themed. Wine signs, wine accessories, and even books on wine–it would have been funny if it happened to somebody else.

Another symptom was the way I caught myself making old person errors. I bought the same book for the same person twice and had to start using technology to keep track of… everything.

Since then, I have cut back by measuring and pacing my wine consumption. “The dose makes the poison” after all, except when you are consuming actual poison,  in which case the poison makes the poison, but you can pretend to control it with dosage if it makes you feel better.

It’s working, kind of. I’m still drinking more than I think I should, but I’m firmly planted in reality about it, pretty much, most of the time. I don’t have black-outs or hangovers or any of the extra-bad consequences, and while I’m all cognizant and superego about it all, I watch myself pour one too many on a regular basis. Precisely measured excess.

Perhaps this is the bargaining phase, and if so I’ve been here quite a while.

I think the evidence is pretty compelling that I have forgotten a lot of things I would rather have kept hold of in the past several years. Having snoozed through more movies than I can count, I’ll admit most of them didn’t deserve my full attention anyway. Other memories are far less optional, probably. Why do that?

Social drinking isn’t a big deal, except when it is. I have gone to gatherings and skipped the booze and it was… fine. I wasn’t miserable, in fact, when the drinkers slipped into stuporous conversation I just went home and read a book.

The problem with other people, as usual, is that they are other people with their own ideas and motivation. Some of them are highly motivated to make you drink with them, but that doesn’t mean you have to oblige just to be friendly.

You don’t need alcohol, except sometimes I do. Don’t I?

So here’s where it gets really weird. I’ve been working on trying to understand why I’m doing this. Why am I stuck in this cycle? I’m not getting drunk any more, so why exactly am I drinking? It certainly feels like a requirement. My days have the bookends of coffee in the morning and wine at night. Symmetry. Comfort. A reason to have both mugs and glasses.

If I skip a night, nothing terrible happens. I don’t see kangaroos peaking from behind the couch or feel like someone is waiving raspberries near the back of my neck. If I have a bad day, however, skipping the wine doesn’t feel truly optional. It is front and center demanding to be had.

Part of the problem of forgetting things is that you don’t know what you’ve forgotten.

I have forgotten that I need to be uncomfortable, at least some of the time. A bad day means there are some bad feelings that need to be had. Babies know that, but somehow I lost track of it.

Problems don’t just go away, except when they do, and sometimes they go away only to get some friends and come back to kick your ass. So sneaky.

There are two parts to this quote, even though people like to truncate it:

I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim…
and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.
—Frida Kahlo

My sorrows aren’t so terrible, and I guess–without researching this like a sensible person–Frida was saying that you have to wade through your sorrows to splash with your joy.

That’s a pretty important thing to forget.

You don’t get to chose which brain cells die, so maybe keep all of them, for now. The cells that knew I needed to meet pain head-on and not play peekaboo with it were some pretty important brain cells.

Don’t avoid your feelings, my kids. If they are too much, visit them and just keep the visits short, like with Grandma.


This is a very compassionate and thorough discussion of alcohol troubles, and it’s from 1974 because apparently these things just don’t change that much:

And, just because: Thinking ’bout Drinking

What are you thinking ’bout?




4 Replies to “You might have a drinking problem if you are me”

  1. Hi dearest. I myself am not unknown to the complications of the drinking. I’m finding I need to cut back my already modest habit (just within the limits of some organization’s recommendations). Most often I have a glass or two of wine to help me sleep, but now I find that more than one (4 oz) drink is most likely to let me sleep through most of the night. I think you also have mentioned sleep being an issue, so I’m mentioning it. Hope your book is coming along well. Love, me.

    Liked by 1 person

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