While you’re drinking, everything feels fine. You stay up, and you keep going, because you know that when it’s over, when you finally set your glass in the sink, when you finally stub out that last cigarette, you’ll lie in bed and think, well, fuck, here it comes. Real life. And you’ll wish you could rewind to a few hours earlier. And the next day, sure as shit, there it is. Real life.Your alarm goes off because you must get your kids to school. You gulp down water. You take ibuprofen. You drink whatever coffee you can get down. And you wait for four o’clock, when you can get some hair of the dog and feel better again. All those daily struggles—the dishes and the kids needing dinner and the laundry and the overgrown garden and your failing career and your husband who doesn’t give you enough attention and your life not at all how you pictured it—those struggles will all go away at four o’clock.
Most days, I slept in because I had to, because I had overdone it the night before. On those mornings, I knew what to expect: I would spend most of the day thinking about wine. Red wine. Thick and deep and dark enough to wash over my insides and make parts of me disappear. Make me feel like things were okay after all, even when they weren’t. I watched the clock. Noon. Three. Still too early. Four. Four thirty. Then finally, five o’clock would come. Wine o’clock, that old joke. Except it wasn’t all that funny, because I was struggling with this wine thing. My friends were too. We talked about it regularly. We said, I must stop. I did something stupid again. Really. Need to just have one or two glasses a day, just a few times a week.
I managed to get my kids off to school with breakfast in their bellies and to show up at my office, most days, to greet my therapy clients. I need to acknowledge that I did not show up to therapy sessions drunk or even tipsy. I always waited until I was done with work to start drinking. I did worry about what my clients might find out. If a client mentioned she went to a bar, I’d wait until she was done, and then ask, “Which bar?” I’d tick that bar off my list of possible hangouts.
There’s a sequence many problem drinkers go through. They set rules. It’s okay to drink, as long as I never drink alone. It’s okay to drink, as long as I only drink at night. It’s okay to day drink, as long as it’s only on weekends. Okay, or if someone else is drinking with me. Or, okay, if it’s after noon. To this day, I read other people’s accounts of their alcoholism and I think, “Well, I never kept fifths of vodka in my car and snuck sips before picking up my kids from school. I don’t have to drink every last drop of alcohol in the house until it’s gone. I don’t drink liquor just because it’s the only alcohol in the house.” So I can’t be that bad off. I can’t have a real drinking problem. But here’s the deal: once you start wondering if you have a drinking problem, once you start checking your stories against other people’s drinking stories, you probably do have a problem.
Reprinted Courtesy of Sourcebooks.
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