I don’t drink anymore.
In November, it will be three years since the last drop of Shiraz passed my lips. Or Pinot Grigio, for that matter. Red or white, I wasn’t picky toward the end. As long as it was 12 bucks or less and came in a 1.5 liter bottle, I was all good.
When people ask me why I quit, it depends on who’s asking as to how I respond. Professional acquaintances get the most diluted, simple explanation: “It became a problem, so I stopped.”
Friends I see or talk to sporadically get a bit more:
“It stopped working for me.”
“I wasn’t good at it anymore.”
“It controlled me; I couldn’t control it.”
But friends I trust get the whole, unfettered story. I’m not ashamed of it anymore… it’s just a part of who I am. So I thought it was time to write at least a few pieces of it down:
Nearly every night at 5 o’clock, or the minute I got home, I poured myself an oversized glass of wine. Most nights, I skipped dinner in favor of two, three or four more of the same. That last year, I could knock off two bottles by myself in just a couple of hours. I would black out, then pass out on my couch, finally dragging myself up the stairs to bed around 4 a.m. I slept fitfully until my alarm went off, got up, most mornings promptly threw up, then went to work with a raw, piercing hangover, swearing to myself all day that THIS WAS THE LAST TIME.
And then at 5 o’clock, I did it all over again. For years. Sometimes I’d mix it up on the weekends and go out, but the scenario above was the norm. Alright, so this is an oversimplified version… there was a lot of good stuff during those alcohol-soaked years, too, and somehow I managed to be a halfway decent, responsible mother to my son through it all. But looking back, my drinking habits truly and profoundly affected every area of my life on a daily basis.
Each day, long about 4 p.m., I would mentally catalog how much wine I had left in the fridge or cupboard, and decide if it was enough to get me to oblivion. When necessary, I would build in a trip to the liquor store on my way home. Of course, I did the liquor store lambada, making sure not to hit the same one two days in a row. BECAUSE GOD KNOWS I DID NOT WANT THE CLERK TO THINK I WAS AN ALCOHOLIC. That makes me laugh at myself now. I mean, really? My concern was with the CLERK? Ha!
And then one night, I finally had enough. I mentioned in an earlier post about “one particular occasion” when my best friend and her husband saved my life. Yeah, that was the one.
I heard the actress Mary Tyler Moore talk about her alcoholism once. She said people were surprised to find out she was an alcoholic, because she never let it affect her work or her “public face.” She did most of her drinking in the evenings in the privacy of her own home. I can relate to her story. I was definitely a highly functional drunk, but I was a drunk just the same. I hid it successfully from a lot of people, but I ultimately couldn’t hide it from myself. I am SO grateful I didn’t do more damage than I did. That right there is grace, and I know it.
Anyway, I got help… the end. OK, not really. That first year was rough. I was a canoe without a paddle, and I was forced to come up with a new way to navigate the pond. Another oversimplification... it was more like I had to build a totally different boat. Thanks to the love and support of others who went before me and a new found faith in a higher power, I managed to create a veritable Princess cruise ship. To this day, you can still color me amazed by that. I got far better than I deserved.
Yes, my life these days is very, very good. But it ain’t perfect. The beauty is, I am OK on the inside no matter what’s going on around me on the outside. This is not to say that I don’t deal with some serious shit. Divorce. Teen-age son. Major job changes. ‘Nuff said.
Today, my 5 o’clock wine is 5 o’clock coffee. I don’t go to clubs or bars to imbibe like I used to, but I still enjoy meeting friends out from time to time to hear a band or snack on greasy bar food. I go to bed most nights by 11 p.m. and SLEEP SOUNDLY ALL NIGHT. I am a much better mom, daughter, sister and friend. While I am lucky my work didn’t suffer during my drinking days, I am also a more effective professional. All in all, I am proud to say I am the best possible version of myself today.
Every now and then, I miss the taste of Shiraz, but I do NOT miss how I felt when I was drinking. I now realize that I was trying to fill the “hole in my soul” with alcohol. Funny thing is, that hole just got deeper with every drink I took. I don’t know how the hole got there, or why I had one when other people didn’t. All I know is mine was black, bottomless and insatiable. It’s still there today, but it’s more of a divot than a chasm, and I feed it with faith.
So no, I don’t drink anymore. And I thank God every day that I don’t have to.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After 10 years, she's still just saying.