Thinking About Moderate Drinking
I have been doing alot of thinking…thinking about moderate drinking. Everyone who knows me has heard me say that every attempt I have made to do that has resulted…eventually….in me waking up with a debilitating hangover and full of self-loathing. Today, I am going to expound on my experiences and why I know I cannot be a moderate drinker. It isn’t just that I hit an occasion where I fail to moderate and get drunk. It is much more than that. Accepting that abstinence or sobriety is balance for me, means understanding why even somewhat moderate drinking opens the door to obsession.
January 27, 2015, I woke up with a hangover and dumped out the last of my magnum of wine and said enough is enough. I joined Hello Sunday Morning (where I met the people who started this new online community ) and I stayed sober for about 18 mos. I am not sure why I then decided to try moderation, I think I just missed sitting and drinking with my husband. I now realize I never got to a point in my journey where I feel okay opening up and being vulnerable. That’s a post for another day.
If success in moderating, is measured by whether or not you get drunk, I can successfully moderate for many many months before I get drunk. I don’t believe that getting drunk or not getting drunk is a good measure of success for me because it ignores my state of mind. My experience with moderating is that once I decide I can and will drink moderately, I become obsessed with alcohol. Years ago, I recall AA people talk about “the obsession” and I thought “that’s ridiculous! I never obsessed over alcohol!” Now, I see that I do.
Here is what happens1. When I have decided to moderate and that I can have a few glasses now and then, my heart leaps with joy!
Really? Do you think that is normal? I don’t!
My heart doesn’t leap with joy when I decide I can have an ice cream sundae. I am happy about that but to have my heart leap with joy? Really?
2. When I moderate, there are always “rules”.
Whatever the rules are I hope for “today” to be one such occasion. As the work days get into the afternoon, I start seriously hoping my husband will say “hey, let’s go to wing night” or whatever. That means a few drinks. If I am honest with myself, I don’t give a hoot about wings or the place we go. If he comes home from work and goes right to garage to get out lawnmower to mow the grass, I am bummed out.
Is that normal?
I don’t think so.
3. I can always justify a reason to fit my rules.
If I feel like it is just taking too long for him to decide he wants to go out, I decide to offer to buy him dinner. If he says “not today, maybe tomorrow”…. I am very disappointed. Too disappointed for what it is. If am honest, it isn’t about not going out to eat, it is about not going out to drink and I don’t want to wait until tomorrow.
4. So the occasion comes! Yay! Once again, my heart has leapt with joy!
I notice that any little thing that impedes the progress of getting that glass into my hand irritating. Too irritating.
We have to stop for gas on the way?
Can’t that wait till tomorrow?
Or if we see friends, we have to stop and hug them and say our hello’s before we make our way to the bar. That annoys me.
I might have to wait 10 more minutes (or 5) to get that drink?
Even more disturbing is that getting that drink in my hand is, in that moment, more important to me that connecting with a friend.
5. See the picture?
Finally! The bartender or hostess brings our drinks. Ahh! I notice that one glass has MAYBE a millimeter less than the other. I NOTICE!! Not only do I notice, but I feel cheated if I get the glass with less Yeah, if I get that glass on the left, I am annoyed. Of course, I know not to say anything. How would that look?
6. I become greedy and self centered
Now we have our drinks. I notice that the level in my glass is dropping much faster than everyone else’s glass. I wonder if they notice that too.
7. One is never enough
Now my drink is gone or about gone and I want another. Everyone else still has 1/2 left. I think hard about whether I will go ahead and order (or pour) another or (egads!) wait for them to catch up. Usually, I go ahead. Who cares what they think.
8. I am Obsessed
That my “date” is coming to a close. My second glass about gone now. My rules probably limit me to 2. I notice that I feel very disappointment, even sadness that my allocation for this occasion is about gone.
9. Making sure I have another Opportunity
I start planning the next “date”.
Let’s not forget that I cannot buy more than one bottle at a time if I buy it at the store for home consumption. I am afraid to. I know there is risk I will drink it all. Of course, eventually, I do that. I decide other people get drunk from time to time and don’t seem to be bothered by that, why should I be? Because I am bothered by it. Maybe they are too, they just aren’t saying so on Facebook.
Now, it has taken me that last 2 1/2 years of on again off again moderation to recognize these feelings about alcohol and to stop denying the obsession.
For me, it isn’t just about getting drunk and the debilitating hangovers and self-loathing that go with that. It is an obsession with alcohol and actually caring more about that than anything else. It is insidious.
One doesn’t have to be so extreme as to be buying alcohol instead of baby formula to be obsessed with alcohol.
The cure? For me it is simple. Once I decide, and I mean DECIDE that alcohol has no place in my life, the obsession is gone. Just like that.
So I trade my obsession with drinking for a bit of daily focus on why I want to stay sober. And that trade works well for me! Freedom!
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