My dad’s a sober alcoholic. He has been, without one single relapse, since I was 12. Despite his iron resolve not to relapse, and his real success in dealing with some of the things that caused him to start drinking in the first place, I’ve always been cautious about my drinking, because I know that drinking runs in the family, so to speak. I was therefore interested to read an article published this week in the NYT that personal and cultural expectations can affect our decisions of how much alcohol to drink, and how to act in response to the amounts consumed.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve consumed so much that I was violently ill, drunk, obliterated, wasted. But the number of times I’ve drunk to just short of that, to feel that marvelous floaty feeling, to lose the feeling of being tethered to all my cares and woes? I couldn’t even begin to count– which is why I am trying to not drink much at all anymore.
Medical effects of excessive drinking aside, my concern is my psychological reasons for drinking. When I am having a glass of wine or two meant to complement my meal, I don’t worry. When I have a cocktail or two at a social gathering, no big deal. But it’s that third drink that’s the charm. I need to watch it– because not only am I a lightweight, and that fourth will leave me feeling all dried out in the morning, but because I’m clearly more stressed, more worried, more unhappy than I though I was when the evening began.
I’m convinced that some of it is pure sugar cravings, to which I am doubly prone as a bipolar and as someone with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But the rest of it is more complicated. I’ve always felt that smart people do a “better” job overthinking, overinvesting emotionally, and criticizing unnecessarily– they do a better job at driving themselves nuts. So they need a drink, to stop that cycle. I am sure that much of this was behind my dad’s starting drinking. And I know that it’s behind mine, when I need a drink.
I try not to drink when I need a drink, but sometimes I am better at recognizing it than at other times. That’s why I have that third drink internal alarm. But now that I’m realizing that I could do a better job of calming the inner critic, I’m trying to not drink as much at all. Better to learn to deal with that nasty inner voice with some yoga or a favorite book or going to bed early, than with a drink. I’m sure as I do a better job of taking care of myself, the need for a drink will go away, but in the meantime, I’m going to try to learn to do without altogether, in the hopes that I can convince that need that what it really wants is a long, hot bath, not a bourbon.