With this second part of Women and Alcoholism at Midlife, we continue our online dialogue. Read Part 1 of Women and Alcoholism At Midlife here. We encourage you to post comments below and to email this article to your friends to increase awareness about this growing issue.
Drinking is part of my heritage. My grandparents owned a bar. My parents met there one summer night, my father behind the long oak bar, my mother perched on a leatherette stool. I always drank. No big deal. Life was one big party.
At 50, I continue reaching for that familiar touchstone, huddling with friends around a bottle, disinclined to go quietly into the good night. We’d rather dance on tabletops and surf the leading edge, if we could only get to either one with some sense of grace. Then morning would come and I’d misremember the night. Who did I insult? What was I crying about? What did I agree to do? Then came one magical morning when I decided I needed a break from this rut I’d pored for myself.
I Googled “Women and Alcohol” and found tons of references, nearly every single one directing me to a 12-step program. Rehab facilities offered help. Medical assistance was available. I tried a 12-step program, but was turned off by the drumbeat of failure, the recanting of ancient drinking tales. I know it is a lifeline for man and I hear it works if you work it. For me, not so much.
Next came journaling and pages and pages all beginning with: “I feel like death today.” And this may seem obvious to most of you but it took a while to put A + B together. If you don’t want to feel like death, don’t drink.
Easy enough. In theory. Day one: Don’t drink. Day two: Don’t drink. String enough of those together and you’re not drinking.
Until you are again. Because sitting with a glass of soda water while everyone else has a delightful crisp sauvignon blanc on the table makes you feel isolated, alone, prudish. So you order one too. But here’s where you realize it’s a different book. The story has shifted, so tomorrow you don’t drink. That one magical morning where you decide to stop repeats itself again and again until you understand it’s not about the drinking. You don’t HAVE to have a drink. But you do have to have a reason to not drink and you find things to fit into that hole. A new career. Travel plans. Yoga, if you must.
Then one morning, you wake up sober again and it happens the next day and the next day. It keeps happening until you sit down for lasagna and a glass of Chianti would be perfect, but now, you realize you’re OK to go ahead and drink that Chianti. Or maybe you won’t. Your choice. What’s important is you’re no longer a statistic waiting to happen. You’re just a woman who needed to remember there are other things worth doing in life. Different things from those first chapters that have already been read and put away.
Life changes. Some people can change lanes and find a new course. We all have to do it. Nests empty. Markets change. Relationships dissolve and reform. It throws even the best of us off course and few are ready for the inevitable. So we buy time. I bought mine at the wine shop at the corner market. I didn’t have a drinking problem. I had an aging problem I solved with drinking.
Disclaimer: If you worry about your drinking, please consider help. If you worry people will think you have a problem, take comfort in the fact that most of them already suspect that anyway and are wondering if you’ll ever face reality. There will be physical consequences when you stop. Your head will hurt for a while. So will your liver. You’ll have extra money in your account, but you’re learning to deal with new situations so you’ll figure something out.Your face won’t look as blotchy and your eyes will be clear, but you’ll learn to deal with that. You’ll probably lose some weight; I’ve heard this is a problem for many people. Talk to a medical professional.