You can’t always get ….

There is a cruel irony to alcohol.  The more you need it, the less you can — or should — drink it.  It’s like the old Bob Hope joke about banks:  “A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove you don’t need it.”

I think a lot of our attempts to moderate, or take a “break” from alcohol, use this same line of reasoning:  if I can go without alcohol for a month/a week/a year, I’ll have proven I don’t need it (so I can drink again!).

When I knew I was drinking more than I should, I would find reasons, each day, to drink.  Holidays, social occasions, of course.  “I’ve had a stressful day,” that was always a good one.  But those rare nonstressful days were an event — a special event!  And what better way to celebrate a special event than to have a drink?

It took up a lot of mental space, all this excuse-making.  I’m realizing that for those two weeks that brandy bottle was in my desk, my mind was searching for an excuse to drink it.  I was thinking about alcohol again daily, like I haven’t for months.  I read somewhere once on an addiction blog — this was food addiction, but the principle is the same — that she used to binge-eat, in part, in order to stop wondering if she should binge.  Think about that for a second.  It sounds so backwards and contradictory, but somehow it also makes perfect sense.

Holiday blues

I had a near miss.  A very, very near miss.

This was two days ago.  Looking back, I can see that over the holidays, my frustration and resentment at not being able to drink was building up.  I both was and wasn’t aware of this at the time — or maybe aware of it, but not wanting to admit it.  Holidays are always busy, and we had guests, two three holidays to celebrate (Christmas, Hannukah, and a family birthday).  Work is busy for me around Christmas.

And I was mad I couldn’t drink.   But I did it, I made it through.  The holidays were celebrated, the guests departed, and life went on.  But, my resentment lingered.  If during the holidays I wanted a drink to cope with the stress, afterwards I wanted one to wind down from the stress.

I was chatting with my sister-in-law, and she mentioned in passing that her husband (my brother) “needs lots of downtime.”  I said I thought a lot of people in my family are like that, including me, and (laughing) I never get it.  Ha ha.

This little exchange stuck with me, as a partial explanation for why I drank.  My husband and I occasionally joke that after a long day of working and parenting we “need a sensory deprivation chamber.”  Well, alcohol was my sensory deprivation chamber.

Somehow, my mind twisted this into a reason that I should drink again.  See, you’re not an alcoholic or anything, you just need alcohol to get through these stressful years!

My co worker (who doesn’t know I quit drinking) had given me a bottle of brandy as a Christmas present.  I didn’t know what to do with it but I thought I better not bring it home.  I stuck it in a drawer at work.  I forgot about it.

Monday I was the last one left at the office and suddenly a voice in my head said, you can have a drink from that bottle.  You deserve it, and no one will know.  I took out the bottle.  I took hold of the little tab to peel off the foil.

Only one thing saved me.  I had to leave in ten minutes to catch the bus.  I told myself, if I’m going to drink this, I don’t want it to be in a styrofoam cup with only ten minutes to drink it.  I want to  have a real glass and I want to savor it.

That night I was making dinner and, I thought, not acting any differently.  But my husband suddenly asked, “Are you all right?”  I admitted I wasn’t.  Later we talked.  I didn’t talk about drinking but admitted I was still stressed from the holidays and having a hard time switching gears.  He said, “I think you’re very brave.  It must have been hard not to drink, not to have that outlet.”

We haven’t talked about drinking, or not drinking, for months.  How did he know just the right words to tell me?

I need to get rid of that bottle of brandy. I don’t want to take it home, or keep it until I see someone who might want it.  I don’t want to open it even to pour it down the sink.  I guess I’ll just have to throw it in a garbage can.

Where it belongs.  Gah.