Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Impossible Dream

So I open the fridge this morning and there sitting on the top shelf is a half-finished glass of white wine (lipstick mark included). I put it in there after dinner cuz I switched to red - with the intention of drinking it later. And I forgot all about it.

Too drunk to even remember? NO SUCH THING! I remember the days/nights when it didn't matter how blotto I was, I could sniff out the last drop of alcohol in the place with my eyes closed. Nothing got saved. It all went into my gullet. But last night, I simply forgot. Small victory, I know, but you take 'em where you can get 'em.

Last weekend was a different story. Friday night saw us having another couple over for drinks - and then heading out for dinner at a pub down the street. We started here with a lovely cocktail that always feels fun and special. We actually got the idea from these friends - the woman owns a gourmet food shop.

You have to find Wild Hibiscus flowers in syrup. They're lovely edible flowers in a cherry-flavored liquid. You put one flower in the bottom of a champagne flute and add a teaspoon or so of the syrup. Then you pour champagne or sparkling wine over the flower (I used Astoria Proseco which worked really well). The bubbles make the flower open up in the bottom of the glass, all the petals floating about, and the syrup makes the drink slightly pink. It's very festive and fun - and as pretty as it sounds, even the guys enjoyed it. My husband especially.

We finished that bottle off and then the boys switched to beer and Shannon and I went on to white wine. We had a couple glasses each here and then went for dinner.

It was a perfect night, balmy and warm, but not too hot. We got a great corner table on the patio right by the street so we could people watch both ways. Not that there was a lot of that. There was mostly talking - and more drinking. Shannon and I polished off another bottle of white wine there. So I was going on at least five glasses of wine ... maybe more. Who knows? I sure don't. Because yes ... I had a rolling brownout.

I do remember standing up from the table and stumbling badly enough that my husband had to reach out and grab my arm so I didn't fall. I remember thinking: "Whoa! That was too much to drink!" And it was. Though you won't find an MD who'll agree that four drinks on a social occasion should be my limit, that's what it is. In fact, one of the MAIN RULES of the whole plan is to know your limit socially and stick to it.

But I was just having too much fun! So - I threw caution to the wind. And - yes - got too drunk. I came home, washed my face, and went straight to bed, knowing I'd had waaaay too much to drink. In the morning, holy f*ck!! Did I feel it!! I was soooo hungover. The ginger tea and milk thistle supplements (not to mention Advil) were in high gear.

Even so, I got up a couple hours before my husband so that gave me lots of time to stew, worry and feel guilty. As I said, I don't remember every moment of the night (but, in my defense, I don't remember every moment of every night even when I'm stone cold sober!) and I knew I'd passed my limit. So I felt badly. Not the sort of soul-wrenching guilt that I used to have because I knew I didn't fight with my husband. But I still felt pretty awful about it.

When my husband woke up, I was back in bed with him. The first thing out of my mouth was: "I'm so sorry!"  He's like "For what?" - legitimately confused. I said, "For drinking so much." He said, "So? Nothing bad happened." He gave me a kiss and we spent the next little while in bed.

He honestly wasn't angry. In the old days, when I overdid it, it usually meant a terrible, drag-out, no-holds-barred fight between us. But it's been so long since that happened, he just doesn't have the same tension about my drinking. It was such a relief. (By the way, the last time we did have a bad blackout fight was four years ago - almost exactly to the day - at Shannon and Wil's wedding. It was one of the first vicious blackouts I'd had in years - since I'd already been on the plan. But it was a real learning point for me - I'll write more about it later.)

Anyway, I was obviously SO thrilled and relieved that on top of my hangover, I didn't have to deal with any fallout from the hubby. My "guilt" evaporated instantly and was replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude and happiness. It lasted all day - and night. Even now, really.

The next night, Saturday, was impossible dream night. Believe it or not, I poured one (generous) glass of red wine before dinner - and I nursed it all night. One glass of wine - all night? And I didn't even get it finished. I enjoyed myself so much and I was so goddamn proud of myself in the morning. Still am. One glass of wine a night? It's been a while since I've been able to pull that off. Say twenty years?

But I think it was important too. The more research I do for this plan, the more I learn about the dangers of alcohol. It doesn't mean I'm a shining example of moderation - as you can see. But it does mean that I'm much more aware of the damage I'm doing to myself say, when I pass my limit or have a bad hangover.

Alcohol is absorbed by every organ in the body. Which is why it can cause everything from cirrhosis of the liver to pancreatic cancer to cancers of the stomach, mouth or throat. When you overdrink, it's a good idea to give your body a chance to recover. Even the Department of Health in the U.K. suggests a break of at least 48 hours after heavy drinking to "let your body recover." Nursing one glass of wine is not exactly a perfect recovery, but it was much better than doing it all over again the very next night. Because when I woke up on Sunday I felt not only proud of myself, but so healthy. And I'd had so much fun the night before - even on one glass of wine.

It really does make me wonder sometimes why I drink more than that so often. But it's a process. I know that. I'm learning from it and even though I'm not perfect, I get better all the time.

And it didn't even cross my mind to polish off that glass of white wine in the fridge with breakfast. Well, hardly anyway. ;)

Sources: "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp
International Center for Alcohol Policies - "International Drinking Guidelines"

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