Through high school, college, and most of my twenties, I drank like I had something to prove. I was proud when men were impressed with how much I could drink. I hung out with women who could drink as much (or more) than I could.
I don’t think I proved anything other than how easily you can gain weight and block out any significant memories while pushing your emotions way down deep.
Even into my thirties, drinking was still something my husband and I could enjoy together. We’d be bored on a Saturday afternoon, so we’d hit a tex-mex joint for margaritas and nachos. As if drinking empty calories wasn’t enough, the funneling of alcohol was frequently accompanied by “snacks” that packed on thousands of extra calories.
And did I mention bouts with chronic depression?
Drinking wasn’t just something I did with my husband—our whole circle of friends were in on the action. Out at bars all night, it is amazing how often it seems like a good idea to go for a late-night meal to soak up the booze.
One day, with people over for brunch, I got some really bad news about my family. It caused me to quit cold turkey for several months. Suddenly, I didn’t want a drink. I didn’t like how drinking made me feel. Then, I started having the undiagnosable health problems, dehydration and such, and I really didn’t want another drink.
Over ten years ago, before I went through this drying out, I ran into someone I knew casually from high school. She was going through a tough time, I now realize, although then, I just thought she was a little unbalanced (said the person finally coping with her own ‘little’ imbalance!). She told me, in response to a very generic and polite inquiry about how she was doing, that her husband had just quit drinking, told by the doctor he had to do so now or risk losing his liver and life, and they were having to re-learn how to be married.
Now I know what she meant. As weird as it sounds, I think both my husband and I went through a rocky period of mourning for the person I was when I drank like a fish, and the way we lived our lives together then.
I’m not sure that I was, or am, an addict, because it has not been very hard to quit, although I’m not trying to deny that I had a problem. Clearly, I drank too much and was not engaged in healthy behavior at all. I just didn’t feel a compulsion to continue. Clearly, too, struggling with depression as I have, drinking certainly might have caused more problems than I’m willing to admit or allow myself to be conscious of having.
Now, every once in awhile, maybe 2 or 3 times a month I will have a drink. And by a drink, I mean ONE drink, generally fairly weak and diluted. I’m bad about emotional eating, but I think I’m much more in control of drinking. I never do it because I feel like I need to drink—I have no problem being the only one in the room without wine, or the person at the bar ordering a club soda.
Wow, as I type that, it sounds like a champion rationalization.
My husband and I are still learning how to live with me as a non-drinker. I’m struggling with getting used to experiencing a full range of emotions on a regular basis. No more alcohol to push it way down deep, or anti-depressants to stanch the flow of feelings.
And, I realize with an undue amount of secret snarkiness, the extra benefit is all of the calories I don’t have to worry about because I’m drinking water instead of wine with dinner. I ate a cupcake (gluten free and delicious) after dinner tonight – baked salmon and asparagus with a veggie-heavy salad. My husband and dinner guests ate cupcakes, too, but they also had at least 3 glasses of wine each. At least, in other words, 360 extra calories they consumed, and that’s being conservative and assuming only 3 6-oz. pours.