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Who, Me? A Drinking Problem?

Though not a daily drinker, Patty Nasey found her imbibing increasing—until the day her daughter posed a reasonable question.

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Just one beer in paradise? Photo via

By Patty Nasey

07/20/11

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Last month, my 11-year-old daughter and I were playing Kadima on the beach in the Dominican Republic. It was early evening and we were waiting for my husband and youngest daughter to get ready for dinner.

“Let’s meet them at the bar,” I said. “You can get a mango smoothie and Mommy can get a Presidente.”

“Why do you keep ordering beer?” my daughter asked. “I thought you didn’t want to drink anymore?”

She was right. Sort of.

Almost two years ago, I quit drinking. There was no intervention, no DUI, no court-ordered rehab, no AA. I didn’t think I had a “problem.” Sure, I sometimes had one too many and was often the last one at the party, but it’s not like I carried a flask of in my bag or drank every day. I just liked to have fun. Then I turned 40 and the drinking became less fun.  I had trouble remembering conversations after two drinks, yet I would keep refilling my glass. And my hangovers had become debilitating, sometimes lasting for two days.

Instead of feeling like the successful, accomplished professional who enjoyed a social drink once in a while, I felt like a pathetic, out-of-control, sloppy drunk.

My self-imposed abstinence began in April 2008. I was consulting for a fashion magazine and had been invited to a staff dinner at a Mexican restaurant. After two (or three? or four?) cucumber agave margaritas, I rallied some friends to meet me for a nightcap. I remember champagne, Grand Marnier and a plate of fries. I do not remember the cab ride home. I do not remember losing my phone. And I do not remember anything my friends and I talked about.

The next morning, I had an 8 AM breakfast meeting at Conde Nast with the magazine’s publisher and her management team. I slipped quietly into the executive dining room and kept my throbbing head lowered, trying to avoid making bloodshot eye contact with anyone. I hoped nobody would notice my trembling hands as I picked up a piece of plain toast and a cup of coffee, and prayed I wouldn’t have to speak since at any moment I could start projectile vomiting like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

“Are you okay?” one of my colleagues asked after the meeting. “You looked like you were dying in there.”

I was dying. Instead of feeling like the successful, accomplished professional who enjoyed a social drink once in a while, I felt like a pathetic, out-of-control, sloppy drunk.

“I’m quitting drinking!” I announced that night at dinner with my husband and kids.  Perhaps because I’d worked for so many magazines, I had a habit of making big, headline-style declarations of some new self-improvement campaign. They had heard me announce with great gusto…

“I’m getting organized!”

“I’m through with carbs!”

“I’m joining a gym!”

“I’m not coloring my hair!”

…only to see me come back from the salon with fresh highlights, eating a bagel while trying to find my gym membership card in my messy, disorganized purse.

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