Writing about my teen/young adult partying exploits resulted in some significant inward groaning, but it was pretty effortless. Lots of people have similar stories to tell, though not everyone can talk about launching the African Queen from its floating berth at the 1984 World Fair in New Orleans.
It’s much harder to write about how drinking affects my life now.
I suspect there are a number of people who read Part I and assume this will be a glowing endorsement of some 12-step program, a penitent account of how I came to realize the error of my ways.
That’s not the case.
I know a couple of people who don’t drink, never have. I know lots of people who don’t drink very much – Husband included. And I know several people who don’t drink anymore because they did realize the error of their ways and quit.
But mostly I know people like me, who like to drink and drink often and sometimes drink too much.
Husband and I don’t argue very much about serious stuff. I mean, we argue about the dishwasher (AGAIN with the dirty blender!) and whose turn it is to pick up dog crap in the front yard.
But here’s one thing we’ve fought about often: drinking.
It bugs him that I enjoy my wine. It bugs him less now than it did because I’ve come up with some rules. I’m always able to drive the kids to the hospital if I’m alone with them. I limit drinking before the kids’ bedtime so I won’t be too cranky while putting them to bed. I don’t get mad at Husband when, thinking I’m acting tipsy, he makes me eat something, or passes me a glass of water and tells me to drink it.
But I guess it’s still an issue, because we fought about this very column. Statistics say that at least one of our children probably will battle a drug or alcohol problem, he points out. How can we best prepare ourselves to deal with that eventuality? And is it okay for our children to grow up thinking that alcohol is something fun and whimsical and harmless?
Now I know you’re thinking – uh, if it’s causing problems in your marriage, and you have to come up with rules about it, you’ve got a problem.
Well, yes and no. Yes. But no. And I’m working on it, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to remedy the situation. Except, perhaps, what it takes.
My shrink once asked me if I’d ever thought of not drinking. “No,” I said. She looked at me sort of knowingly. I’ve been looking for a new therapist.
What is about drinking? It’s not like I even get drunk any more.
Okay, I’ll be honest with you, after that last sentence, I shut down the computer and met a girlfriend for drinks. And, unfortunately, we met at Pusser’s and it was half-off all wine, and it seemed downright irresponsible not to just get a bottle. Getting the second bottle was definitely irresponsible, but by that time a third friend had joined us, and after all we were celebrating my friend’s first grandchild. I’m pretty sure my friend was desperate to prove that she’s not yet grandmotherly, which she isn’t (she’s six months younger than me!), and so I felt obligated to help her feel young and vibrant and still able to party.
The next morning I woke up with a hangover. When you’re my age and at my alleged level of maturity, you don’t like to think of yourself as having been drunk, and you come up with a number of reasons for why you have a hangover. On that day, yesterday, I reminded myself that I had not eaten anything for many hours before I started sipping wine. When my friend and I realized we needed to eat, we ordered rare ahi tuna. So for dinner I had wine and raw tuna. Then I arrived home an hour and a half late — babysitter wasn’t too happy — ate four oatmeal raisin cookies, four Advil and a bite of cold pizza, and fell asleep in my clothes. And I broke rule #1.
On the bright side, I did a killer workout the next morning at the gym to sweat out the toxins and my guilt and did not have any wine at all yesterday or today.
Why did I do that? Why do people drink? There’s tons of research on that, and I can only speak for myself. I consider myself a “social drinker,” but what does that really mean? That I don’t do shots any more? Which I don’t.
Again, the real issue here is how all of this affects my children. The Diva, now 7, has definitely reached the age at which she’s aware that there’s something attractive and mysterious about “grown-up” drinks. Yesterday while I was cleaning the kitchen, the kids were playing family and I heard her tell the Tyrant, “Ok, honey, the babysitter’s here. Mommy and Daddy are going out to have cocktails.” But I’m not alone here. My BFF’s son named one of his imaginary friends Chardonnay. Though really, my friend’s more of a Pinot Grigio gal.
I wonder sometimes what my life would be like without drinking. Better? Boring? Would I play more board games? See more movies? I do think I would lose 10 pounds pretty quickly, and that’s an attractive motivator.
I don’t think I’ll find out anytime soon, though I haven’t ruled it out. I think my lifestyle — kickboxing instructor and full-time mom — keeps my drinking issues in check. I’m healthy and I love being strong of body and mind, and on the vast majority of nights I go to bed early and sober and wake up rested and happy. But I really like having a drink or two, and on the rare occasion, three or four.
I wonder if I’ll change my habits when my children are teenagers, and I believe that if I have to, I will. Husband is hoping that the Diva, who was born in Vietnam, has the somewhat common Asian trait of being allergic to alcohol. Sometimes, frankly, I wish I had it, too.
(Man, this was hard to write.)