Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Off Switch

So I'm sitting there in a chain-type restaurant waiting for the hubs to show up after work so we can do some Christmas shopping.

I have several minutes to wait so I order a 9 oz glass of pinot grigio. I put my glasses on and, feeling very studious and celebratory at the same time, I start reading the book Drinking Diaries based on the popular women-and-drinking blog.

I read about one young girl's plight trying to get drunk on a "dry" university campus (they actually have those? Not where I grew up!). And I read about one woman who seemed to remember every glamourous drink she'd ever had and how much her life changed after her husband quit. How their friends abandoned them. How people seemed uncomfortable around him. Nobody likes to talk about drinking problems except people in A.A. ... and me, I guess.

Anyway, I sat there, sipping my vino, feeling as if I was half accomplishing something because I was reading blog-related material ... instead of say, news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy. (btw here's a cool look at the many UK newspapers that trumpeted the royal news on their front pages. It's like Kate wallpaper!)

The hubs showed up a few minutes later. Neither of us were hungry. Besides, the fishy scent in this unnamed restaurant didn't exactly whet the appetite. So I finished my big glass of wine in a relative hurry and off we went to do some shopping.

Did not score.

So we were home earlier than expected and still weren't hungry. I poured another generous glass of wine. Without any food in my tummy and on two big glasses of wine, I started getting a little tipsy. The hubs commented on it at one point, calling me "all muddled because I was drunk."

There's nothing a drunk hates more than someone who calls them on their drunkenness. This is just the sort of thing that would send me into a drunken rage ten or fifteen years ago. It wouldn't end until all the wine was gone and the plaster around the bedroom door needed filling for all the angry slamming. Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I was flattered by the comment ... but I wasn't enraged either.

Instead, I kind of shrugged to myself. Yeah, he was right. I was kind of drunk. So, after dinner, instead of having another glass, I poured myself some water with a big wedge of lemon. But the hubs was surprised, looking at my glass."Aren't you going to have another drink?"

"I've had enough," I told him, feeling quite sure of that. Sweet of you to ask, though. That's another big change from the old days. 

So I sipped my water and was totally fine. Not angry, not bitter, not feeling ripped off. In fact, more wine would've probably put me over the edge and I wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself at all. We settled in for some chatting and TV and then afterwards, the hubs actually poured me a glass of red wine and set it in the living room for me. But you know what? I barely touched a drop of that, either. I had a relaxing night and woke up feeling clear-headed and healthy this morning.

I actually do have an 'off-switch' now. I don't have to drink and drink and drink until I drop. And if I'm in the mood to listen, I can just reach out and click ... switch that switch right off. Caroline Knapp talked about that "internal alarm" in her groundbreaking memoir Drinking: A Love Story.

I remember ten years ago, when I read the book for the first time, knowing exactly what she was talking about. How she was envious of people who could just 'stop' before they went too far. I was in Knapp's position before I started cleansing, too. I couldn't really stop ... But now, I'm grateful to know I  finally have an 'off-switch.' Something that was sorely missing from the walls of my psyche most of my life.

I don't always use the off-switch of course ... :) But the point is, I can. And on a Monday night, that's usually a good idea.