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. :)