A while ago I read a book in which one character tries to soothe another character by bringing her a glass of rosé. She says something kind of rueful-yet-encouraging — “Boy, you look like you could use this” — and the second woman accepts it gratefully and takes a bolstering sip, armed with a tiny bit of comfort in the midst of her personal crisis.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been tempted by alcohol. I had my last drink in 2013, and for eight years prior to that, I’d been the occasional, ultra-secretive type of drinker — someone perhaps more likely to be triggered by the mention of a clandestine gulp straight from the vodka bottle than a socially acceptable glass of wine consumed right in front of another person.

Still, there was something about that little scene, an innocuous moment in an otherwise not-terribly-memorable memoir, that snagged me like a fishhook. I kept coming back to that moment. The drink. It’s true there is something evocative about the word rosé, rather than wine. You picture it chilled, the little beads of condensation on the glass. But it wasn’t the drink itself, not exactly. It was the exchange. “Here,” says a person who cares about another person. Because that second person was the type of person who could drink a single glass of wine.

This is the part that pulled at my insides. It is no longer sad to me that I can’t have the drink (or the mood-altering fill-in-the-blank). I think of myself as having a severe allergy: when I expose myself to certain substances, I cannot control the reaction, no matter what. This is how things are. One is too many and a thousand is never enough.

What I cannot help is the aching wish that I would have turned out differently. That some other combination of brain chemistry and lifestyle and self-esteem and coping mechanisms had taken place, and I would have side-stepped this towering shit-pile of addiction-fueled shame and regret I have to wake up and look at every single day.

Imagine having such a normal relationship with alcohol that someone hands you a drink. And you drink it, maybe you even leave an inch or so because you only wanted that little bit, and you go on with your day, and the drink doesn’t open a howling void in your center, chanting more, more, more.

It is dangerous, in recovery, to long for the substance. If peanuts put me into anaphylactic shock, I’m pretty sure it would not be considered a healthy fantasy to imagine plunging a spoon into a jar of Skippy. But wishing, now and again, that the nut allergy had passed me by altogether? I don’t know. Acceptance and sorrow aren’t that far apart. A thing is acknowledged, a thing is mourned, an alternate and vastly preferable thing is also mourned because it will never be true.

Comments

13 Responses to “A glass of wine”

  1. Shana on August 27th, 2017 10:12 am

    As someone with severe food allergies, that is a perfect analogy. I would also speculate it’s quite possible you are allergic to alcohol, because that drive to consume more can be a symptom of an allergic reaction, as bizarre as that sounds. Keep up the good work. Sometimes I sneak a bit of goat cheese, because it’s less reactive for me than cow cheese, but I still pay the price. It’s always a better idea to refrain completely.

  2. Kim on August 27th, 2017 11:28 am

    Yesyesyes.
    My problem was opiates, almost 9 years clean now, but the number of thoughts, regrets, yearings, etc., I still devote to those substances really surprises me. It’s not even that I wish for the thing itself (most of the time) but that my wiring wasn’t defective in the first place. Especially after a painful dental procedure.

  3. Mary Clare on August 28th, 2017 7:05 am

    I don’t have much to add comment-wise except that I’ve come to understand a bit better the people in my life who have addictions through your words. Thanks for sharing yourself here, your joys and the pain. Wishing you the best in your recovery journey.

  4. Jennifer on August 28th, 2017 7:26 am

    This is a brave post! I appreciate how honest you are about the difficulty of accepting the “as is”. It’s so crucial, and also one of the hardest things. It reminded me of a book written by my yoga teacher Adam Grossi, about his struggle to accept himself fully as a bipolar individual, without shame and regret and without believing that he was broken: http://www.adamgrossi.com/wind-through-quiet-tensions/

  5. Eryn on August 28th, 2017 9:49 am

    Oyyyyeeee. YUP. That’s it, exactly. I love when you write about this stuff, it’s like you’ve unscrambled my brain and laid it all out.
    Thank you.

  6. Cheryl on August 28th, 2017 12:06 pm

    Thank you for this. And the dreams, oy the dreams. I’ll even think IN THE DREAM, you don’t drink/smoke and yet I’ll still be doing it in my sleep. It freaks me out for the whole day that it happens.

  7. Amber Lena on August 28th, 2017 12:59 pm

    This might sound trite and silly to you, but for me, it’s sugar. When I have “just a bite”, all of a sudden, I cannot eat enough and I find myself sneaking it until I’m sick (and then I still want more). I can’t fathom that it’s totally socially acceptable to bring someone candy/cake/other sugar-laced crap to help them feel better or cheer them up. I am surrounded by it non-stop and even admonished because I don’t eat the fucking stuff. (The ice cream man gave me a lecture the other day in front of my kids, for crying out loud!)

    I am not downplaying alcoholism. Just giving you a different perspective.

  8. Donna on August 28th, 2017 1:06 pm

    And mine is an ongoing, everysingleday, battle with food. You speak for all of us.

  9. Felicia on August 28th, 2017 1:28 pm

    This struck a chord for me. I was just reading “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, & Change Your Life” by Annie Grace and there is a chapter about the advertising of alcohol (chapter 9: Oh S#*%! We’re Stuck). She writes about how the people marketing booze don’t really market the actual booze at all. It’s more about the experience – if you drink X, you are this kind of person, or you are more likely to be young/rich/sophisticated/etc. Anyway this post made me think of that when I read “Here,” says a person who cares about another person. (Great line btw – but there are so many ways to be that person who cares about another person, not just the rose, right?)

  10. Fiona on August 28th, 2017 3:21 pm

    You tell your story so beautifully, and help me understand things I wouldn’t otherwise know. Thank you.

  11. Lori on August 29th, 2017 8:09 am

    Such a way with words, Linda. Your insight is equally beautiful and heartbreaking. I’ve felt that same way about wine, but from the “I love someone with that allergy” side. You put into words what I could not.

  12. Laura on September 5th, 2017 3:47 pm

    I’m glad you’re back! I’ve really missed your posts.

    I can really relate to what you’re writing about, here. I think what you’re longing for, in addition to the ability to have a normal relationship with alcohol, is the ability to be cared for by another person in such a simple, easily-obtained way. Not the wine per se, but what the wine represents: “I see you. I see you are suffering. I care about you. I want to ease your suffering.” All in a $17 bottle they grabbed on the way over to see you.

    I mean, who wouldn’t want that message?

  13. Tea Bag on September 8th, 2017 11:15 am

    Yes. What really pisses me off is that for 15 years of my adult life I was that person, but fate and biology collided and now she no longer exists. Others have sacrificed more; I’m lucky and should cut my losses, but I still miss her.

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