Monday, January 23, 2012

Shopping Trip

On Saturday morning, I headed out early to do some grocery shopping. I knew that I'd need another bottle of white wine before the weekend was over so rather than lug all my groceries through the liquor store after the market, I decided to pop in and pick up the wine first.

It wasn't even 10:30. There was no one in the store. I had nothing in my reusable shopping bags. I didn't even carry my purse, but just took my wallet. The moment I walked into the store - empty except for a couple of clerks stocking shelves - I had an unpleasant little flashback.

In the old days, I'd often head out to the liquor store first thing to pick up the day's supplies. Back then, I'd usually have on sunglasses or a baseball cap to disguise myself hoping the clerks wouldn't remember how often I came in. I'd also make sure that I'd done my grocery shopping FIRST so that the clerk could see that "Hey, I'm not a wino. Look at me! I've got bread. I've got apples. I've got lettuce for crissakes! I'm just a normal person out for groceries. The wine's for dinner tonight ... we've got company coming ... yeah, that's the ticket!"

I'm sure they saw right through me because alcoholics - women especially - come up with all kinds of ways to camouflage their drinking problem. I thought I was the only woman in the world who used different liquor stores or put on lame disguises so cashiers wouldn't recognize me. It always made me feel so ashamed. But after reading Caroline Knapp's "Drinking: A Love Story" I realized that I have lots of company with little liquor store tricks out there. It's also where I learned about the key role that dopamine plays in the addicted brain. That book was the beginning of this whole journey from me and I'm so grateful for it.

Having said that, I still felt a little awkward at the cash register buying my bottle of wine first thing on a Saturday morning. Empty bags. No purse. No makeup. Yikes. I definitely got a judgmental little nod from the clerk and I couldn't help it ... I felt a twinge of retro-shame. As if it was still the old days.

But I left the store with a little smile on my face because even though the excursion brought back memories, I know I'm not that woman anymore. It gave me this incredible sense of relief.

When I got home, I told my husband about it and we both got a good laugh. Having said that, after I'd done my shopping a few doors down, I walked past the liquor store very slowly with my full grocery bags because I could see the clerk at the cash register and I was hoping he'd turn around and see me. "Hey, look! I'm not as pathetic as you think! See? I've got lettuce for crissakes!"

Old habits die hard, I guess.

By the way ... he didn't see me ... and I didn't care. :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Spicy New Year

"Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor."

It was the English poet William Cowper who first introduced the idea that "variety was the spice of life."

But it is a thought that goes back to the first century when the Roman slave and poet Publius Syrus said "The most delightful pleasures cloy without variety." And the Romans knew something about pleasure, didn't they?

I'm convinced - as I've said before - that one of the reasons this plan works so well for problem drinkers is because it has such variety in it. Not only are there not stringent rules that bother the free spirits who usually find themselves indulging - and then often addicted - to drinking. But even when you can't drink, like on an off-day or during your cleanses, the whole idea is made easier by the notion that not only "do you have another drink coming" (and soon), but also by the fact that not drinking is "different." It's a nice change. It's part of the variety that is the spice of your new life.

I can say that because after three weeks of drinking, sometimes a lot (New Year's) and sometimes a little (a random Tuesday), I had my first off-day and you know what?

It was great.

I didn't miss drinking at all. Okay, well, maybe there was a moment here and there where I'd think, "A glass of wine would be nice right now" but it was very fleeting and it was never what I'd call a "craving." More a habit that already feels ingrained after three weeks of no off-days.

But there was no depression. There was no withdrawal. There was no feeling of resentment or bitterness or feeling ripped off. It was a lovely, pleasant day - and evening. Completely without drinking for the first time since before Christmas. I was very happy about it - yesterday and this morning when I woke up at least an hour early to get a totally clear-headed start on the day.

And ... I'm really looking forward to being able to enjoy tonight. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Party's Over

Well, it's my first "off-day" in about three weeks. And you know what? I feel ready to get back into my routine of two days off a week. I honestly don't mind the idea of putting daily drinking behind me again. I didn't get to as many blog posts as I meant to over the holidays - and I didn't share as many nasty Christmas memories as I thought I would. But, to tell you the truth, I was having too damn much fun to dwell in the past. Hope the holidays were happy and peaceful for everyone.

Part of the reason the plan works so well is because there is the freedom there to indulge when the occasion calls for it. Birthdays, vacations, holidays, New Year's. But because you're not drinking every day for an extended period of time - and because you're keeping up with your regular cleanses - you're not going to fall back into the cycle of addiction. Or dopamine depression. I feel fine today. Happy, normal, excited, ready for a new year.

I told my husband, alkies are like cats. You really can't tell them what to do. And you certainly can't expect them to stop playing with something you try to take away from them. If the cat wants something, it wants it and there's nothing you can do about it. So if you let the cat have the toy - or the ball of yarn or the mouse - they'll play with it like crazy, but eventually get bored of it and move on. Just don't try to take the toy away before the cat's ready because he'll want it more than ever.

That's sort of what partying during holidays and other special occasions is like. You get to have what you want ... but because nobody's trying to take it away from you or tell you can't have it, when it's time to get back to reality, you'll be ready for it.

Happy New Year! Here's hoping 2012 brings us all peace, health, happiness, prosperity - and fun!