Do you ever ask yourself if you're an alcoholic or have a problem with alcohol? I do, and I've been asking myself this my entire adult life. I have had periods, long ones, of not drinking at all, and not craving it. So there. I'm not an alcoholic. Right?
I took this quiz and it wasn't pretty. I'm not someone who presents as an alcoholic. I doubt anyone I know would know this about me. I don't drink and drive, I'm perfectly respectable when intoxicated. My biggest issue is that I often drink alone. When I do that, I drink to excess. I do it to 'mellow me out.' That's a pretty standard reason for drinking. My other issue is, that despite my desire not to drink at all, I still do. That is the definition of having alcoholism. If I drink to excess when alone, and I have remorse and don't end up getting things done the next day, I have a problem. Houston: we have a problem.
I'm really good at seeing alcoholism in other people, and using my energy to get them to see it. Then I don't have to look at my own.
My therapist said today, "If you don't need a drink, then you can have one. If you need one, then you probably shouldn't have one." Tricky mind shit. My alcoholic thinking leads me to believe that I can moderate myself, and if I have one instance of doing so it proves I'm not an alcoholic. So, Mr. Therapist, funny man that he is says, "It's like saying that just because I don't drink and drive and kill someone every time (Just some of the time), I'm not an alcoholic." Mr. Smartypants.
So why, you may ask, am I so publicly lifting the curtain on this one? Because I think a lot of people abuse alcohol, and when I'm secret about it, it means I can still get away with this behavior, even though I don't want to. Because I'm going on a cruise next week and there will be wine and cocktails galore and I will be refraining. This quote from Pema Chondron sums it up nicely, "Refraining comes about spontaneously when you see how your neurotic action works. You may say to yourself, “It would still feel good; it still looks like it would be fun,” but you refrain because you already know the chain reaction of misery that it sets off."
But hey, I'm the gal who likes a martini with my Oysters Rockefeller.
I'm that wine tasting gal who enjoys a trip to Napa or Amador County to barrel taste. I enjoy wine and food pairings. I enjoy beer tasting.
But I don't enjoy the chain of misery this sets up for me and that's why I want to refrain.
That's why I need to understand that living the good life is possible without alcohol. For me, it is possible and preferable. In fact, my even wondering if 'the good life' is possible without alcohol is indicative of the problem. Plus, I take medications on a regular basis that do not mix well with alcohol,
and in some cases completely negate the effects of the medication. That there, boy howdy, is reason alone not to drink it.
So I'm going on this cruise and have already told my shipmates that I'm not drinking alcohol. I've set myself up for success. And I'm attending a Buddhist 12 step program every week. Because I know I need help. Because I need to learn to think differently about my drinking: it's not something that those people have a problem with. It's something I have a problem with. Sure, it's something I can continue to do. Just because I'm not killing people in the streets by driving drunk doesn't mean my drinking hasn't caused problems in my life. I may have minor outcomes compared to other alcoholics, so my alcoholic thinking tells me then that I don't have a problem. But that's foolishness. And I don't want to be a foolish person.
There is a sign over a large bell at Tassajara Zen Center that reads something like, "Wake up! Don't Waste Time!" Exactly.