Buying That Bottle of Wine

By Sheila Hageman 05/12/17

It doesn't matter what other moms do on the Internet.

wine bottle with chains on it
Avoidance and prevention can work for many people with addictive tendencies.

I'm not a drinker. I haven't been a drinker in a long time.

People are always surprised when I tell them how long it's been since I had a drink. 20 or 25 years.

I don't remember the exact day. Or the exact moment, or exactly why I quit drinking.

I do remember the last time that I smoked pot. My first husband and I were living in New York City and struggling to make friends. He had met someone, somewhere, who had a wife and lived nearby; they seemed like a couple that maybe we could get along with.

My ex and I had been big pot smokers; we'd even grown our own for a few years. I guess I was kind of addicted to marijuana. It's what I managed my depression with at the time. Not that I knew it.

So, the last time I smoked pot, we were at this couple’s apartment. And he said, the guy (I don't remember his name), “Who wants to get high?”

It was a Saturday night probably and my ex and I hadn’t been smoking that much since we had moved to the city, so we were just kind of like, “OK.”

We all smoked a joint. And it wasn't too long before the weirdness started.

I had trouble breathing. I started hyperventilating. I think I was having a panic attack.

I remember thinking I was going to die and I guess everybody saw that same thing in my eyes and thought that I might be right. I remember them standing me up and walking me around the room and telling me I was going to be fine. And I remember everything rushing around me. I remember feeling spacey and sad and scared and that this was the way I was going to die and that this would be how I would be remembered. As a druggie.

And then it's like a dream—that when you wake up, you can't remember. I can't remember what happened next. I seem to remember them putting me in the shower with my clothes on. But I don't think that happened. I think they probably sat me on the sofa and put a cold washcloth on my head and gave me something to drink or eat or something. But I don't remember those specifics; all I remember is the fear of thinking I was about to die.

So, it wasn't strange that I quit drugs after that. I remember just knowing that I would never smoke again. But the stopping drinking is a little hazier.

I started drinking when I was 16. I wanted to be a model and an actress. I was doing a lot of work in the local community theater and doing some modeling. And drinking. I was hanging out with older people in the theater world and we would go out drinking afterwards and no one seemed to even question what my age was.

I was dating an older guy, like I always did. So, there wasn't any trouble getting alcohol. Trouble was, I was a lightweight. After two or three drinks, I'd be throwing up or passing out. I'd be sick for days afterwards. That's why I liked pot more.

Somehow I managed to graduate high school, but then I became a stripper. I moved to New York City with my ex and my double life was tanking. I didn't drink much after that initial late teens/early 20s drinking. Even as a stripper when I could've gotten free drinks all the time. I never drank at work. I still saw stripping as a job and I was responsible. I did not want to be drinking at work because that would be a problem.

Come to think of it, my last day stripping ever was the day that I had to buy a drink to get on stage. That was what told me I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn’t play pretend-sexy without being buzzed. I quit; I walked out and never looked back.

Then there was that relationship in my mid 20s where I dated a drug addict and alcoholic. This was after quitting stripping…who knew I could fall down even deeper than that? No one knew that I was dating an alcoholic/drug addict and that he was abusing me. I still haven't spoken about that. But anyway, with him, I was drinking again.

I remember when we were first dating he was trying to get me to do coke. But for whatever reason, I knew myself well enough that it would not be a good idea for me, so I resisted. And then as we became more serious, he no longer offered me the drug.

Actually, I think that's why I quit drinking. I've always told everybody that it was because of my stepfather who was an alcoholic and I saw how badly it ruined him and my mother. But no, I stopped drinking after I left the abusive drug addict.

Then I watched my mother get sick with cancer and watched my stepfather struggle with sobriety and the toll it took on my mother. Yeah, that was enough to keep me off of alcohol. I was clean. And at this point, I had realized that I had depression and I had gotten on medication. I guess I stopped self-medicating. And I've been on and off antidepressants since then, since my mid-20s.

Fast-forward to now; here I am in my mid-40s and I bought a bottle of wine. I blame it on a couple of things. I've been doing well with managing my depression the last couple months. I felt the best I had in a long time. I've been on my antidepressant for years at this point.

I heard some people at work talking about what their favorite wine was and I see all the memes and all the funny jokes on Facebook about moms and wine—you know, moms drinking wine out of gallon buckets…mom and her wine—ha, ha.

Well, for whatever reason, I thought maybe I’d be happier if I drank wine. I went to the wine shop when I was picking up pizza for my kids. I bought a bottle of wine.

I asked myself, why am I going to break all these decades of sobriety for wine? I don't even like the flavor. Maybe it had to do with my husband looking for a hobby and buying some expensive whiskey a few months back and I remember taking a couple little sips thinking that doesn't count. And I really disliked it. But there was a part of me that wanted to like it.

At the time, I told my husband that I didn’t think his new hobby would be good for me.

Maybe those couple sips opened the door. And then about a month ago, we went to a friend’s wedding. During the reception, a waitress was walking around with premixed blue drinks. I took one because it looked pretty and hey—why not? I’m an adult. There was no good reason I had quit drinking.

I didn’t even like the mixed drink, but I felt kind of edgy. Having a drink.

And then a couple weeks ago, when I think the depression might've been peeking its head out, but I didn't notice it as such. I bought that bottle of wine. And it wasn't bad. It was fruity and sweet and I sipped it with my husband and I even mentioned to my husband I didn't know if it was a good idea for me to drink.

I finished that bottle of wine over two weeks. A sip here and a few sips there. I felt a little guilty every time I had a sip, like…why am I drinking this? What is it doing for me?

It made me feel a little swishy inside. I was feeling like I needed that little extra dizziness from working so hard: one full-time job, three part-time jobs and three kids. I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed to relax. All those moms on the Internet drink wine. It can't be bad.

But then my depression broke free this past week and I was mad at my husband and instead it turned into suicidal thoughts. And I thought of the wine. I thought of the wine and its ability to make me not care so much, to forget, to feel better.

I hadn't told my psychiatrist about it. I have therapy with him once a week. But today I told him about the bottle of wine I drank over two weeks and that last night I thought about leaving the house to get a bottle to help me feel better.

Like I said, I've been doing well. I've been managing the depression well. But this week I came in and I broke open and told him about the fight with my husband. I told him about the depression. I told him about the suicidal thoughts. And I told him about the wine.

“Should I drink wine?” I asked him.

“No,” he said.

It was the first time that I realized that I don’t drink for a reason. Maybe I shouldn't drink. That maybe I've been keeping my sobriety for all these decades for a reason. Maybe I had a problem with addictive habits that kept me down and maybe I stopped drinking to help myself.

And when I left my therapist’s office today, the last words he said to me were, “No drinking.”

I agreed and I said, “No drinking.”

I think there's a reason I've kept myself sober all these years is all I'm saying. I do not want to add a new problem to the ones I already have. To try to make myself feel a little swishy. It doesn't matter what other moms do on the Internet.

I should not drink. And I need to see those words in print, like this. I do not drink—not because of my stepfather, and not because of my abusive ex-boyfriend—but because of me.

I do not drink because I have an addictive personality. I do not drink because I do not want another problem in my life. I have enough to deal with now. And so, this is me, saying, I choose to not buy that bottle of wine.

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