Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Test


http://www.tshirtbordello.com/images/this-one-goes-to-eleven-l1.gif 
Today is day 11 (it's evening, actually) and I am currently enjoying a bottle of FRE Merlot. Tomorrow, my Ariel Cabernet arrives. The anticipation is killing me!

HUMAN BRAIN: 4
BOOZE BRAIN: 0

 
On Sunday evening, my boyfriend and I visited a local casino. It's a rather large place with many, many temptations. Gambling, indoor smoking and, of course, drinking. Instead of grabbing a glass of Cabernet, I opted for a diet coke. We poked around a few shops and he placed a couple of horse racing bets. The biggest indulgence of the evening was giving into a warm Krispy Kreme donut. While I am not proud of myself for eating the donut, I am excited about resisting the booze.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Le Test

We were invited to go to our neighbor's house last night for an evening of Hammer film fun. For those not in the know, Hammer films were the campy vampire films of the late 1960's starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Lee was usually the vampire and Cushing the Van Helsing type guy. There were all sorts of kooky themes and scenarios, but the look and feel of the pictures was pretty consistent.

Anyway, there is usually drinking in some form at these get-togethers. I was armed with a bottle of FRE and worried that I would be laughed out the door. Not the case! The dude was not drinking alcohol because he'd had too much the night before. And the chick was enjoying Shirley Temples all night. I fit right in, it seems. The movies were great, incidentally.

HUMAN BRAIN: 3
BOOZE BRAIN: 0

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Score!

I made meat-free Polish golumpki the other night. I basically substituted the ground beef with Smart Ground, a very convincing soy product. Golumpki is a dish that my Grandma used to make and if you didn't grown up eating it, it could take a while to warm up to (cabbage + rice + spices + onions + ground beef + diced tomato). Anyway, you are supposed to serve, as a side dish, Kielbasa. Poles are huge carnivores. Well, don't you know ... Tofurkey makes meatless Keilbasa now! I purchased some last night and I can't wait to have one with some leftover vegetarian golumpki. I also ordered 3 bottles of Ariel Cabernet while I was shopping last night. They arrive on Wednesday. Meatless Polish food and award winning alcohol free Cabernet. I could die from swooning!

Going on day 8 and doing fabulously. Buying really good coffee is helpful. I encourage that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nightmares

This used to happen to me a few weeks after I quit smoking. I would have a horrible dream in which I went nuts, bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked them all. I would wake up wondering if I had done it or not until I came to my senses. It's scary business to lose a quit. You have to deal with all sorts of self-judgment. We can be really cruel to ourselves.

Last night, my dreams were filled with a smorgasbord of evil indulgences. I was drinking a bottle of wine in the car (while driving) and I was smoking at the same time. I was also driving a stick shift, which is odd because I haven't owned a car with a standard transmission is years.  Anyway, it was a little frightening until I realized that it was just a dream.

I am definitely my own worst enemy.

Leave it to the USA

I've been reading about non-alcoholic wines and beer and whether or not it is safe for alcoholics to consume such beverages.

Why did I research this? Only in the USA will you find hoards of people opposed to consuming these libations. It's dangerous! experts say. They lead to relapses, according the message boards. I love it. Our country is so tightly-wound, that alarmists come out of the woodwork to warn against the dangers of drinking non-alcoholic drinks. I can understand the logic, but this NEVER DO IT attitude is a little much. There are some people who really enjoy them. Why paint every drinker with the same brush? I take serious issue with these people. How on earth do you know whether problem drinker A is going to have the same relationship with these beverages as problem drinker B? I'm not surprised. I love this country, but come on.

Day 7 Update

It's been 7 days of sobriety and I'm feeling and doing just fine. Of course, this is a Booze Brain dream. See? You're doing fine without me. This means that you aren't an alcoholic. Hurray! Why don't we celebrate with a margarita? Oh, Booze Brain, you are so predictable. While I may not be an alcoholic (or perhaps I am), I am quite committed to the 30 days of being totally dry. Non-alcoholic wine has been a God send, it seems. I am going to purchase more Merlot later and ask the shop keeper who promised to order the Ariel Cabernet to do so. The unfortunate thing is that the Ariel isn't cheap. Nine bux a bottle for non-booze wine. A little steep, but I do understand that it isn't grape juice. It takes longer to prepare than wine because after it is distilled or whatever, they need to extract the alcohol. Fine, I get it. But 9 bux is 9 bux. Maybe I can get a volume discount? 

I do notice that I consume less of the non-alcoholic wine than the boozy kind, but I could probably polish off a bottle in one night if I wanted to. I've been starting the evening with Merlot and ending it with either herbal or Lapsang Souchong tea. I LOVE Lapsang Souchong. It's got a smokiness that is just perfect for the winter (or whatever it is you want to call this odd season we've been having here in the Northeast). It is lovely with a splash of lowfat milk and a teaspoon of honey.

The thing I was most concerned about when I stopped drinking was sleep. I enjoy sleeping. And there's nothing nicer than the kind of deep sleep you experience after several glasses of wine. The first night without booze, I struggled to get to sleep. I also got restless legs. But, I figured that it would only last a few nights and then I would get back into a more natural sleeping pattern. Lucky for me, I was back to normal drowsiness by night 2! I am sure that my daily exercise does help with this, however, it was a true bonus. So far, I've been fine in that department.

HUMAN BRAIN: 2
BOOZE BRAIN: 0



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alcohol Free Wine

Last night, my boyfriend and I had our annual Valentine's Day meal and I typically buy an extra nice bottle of red for the occasion. I was horrified to think that I wouldn't have a dark, delicious beverage in my glass so I decided to check out the local selection of non-alcoholic wines.

FRE is the only brand that my city seems to have and there were only 2 locations that stock a merlot. I don't drink the alcohol versions of white or blush type wines, so why on earth would I drink the non-alcoholic ones? To my surprise, the non-alcoholic merlot wasn't bad! I wish it could have been a little less sweet, maybe a little smokier, but that would be a carbernet and I don't know that FRE makes a cabernet. In any event, I bought an extra bottle for the future. Bonus: the non-alcoholic wines have way fewer calories. Another bonus: Two of the shops I went to offered to special order non-alcoholic wine for me (I think they were a little embarrassed about their lack of selection).

Isn't it just like grape juice, you might ask? No. They prepare the wine like normal, but extract the alcohol after. So, you are left with all of the various complexities, etc., without the booze. And, you get all the same health benefits!

The brand ARIEL gets great reviews and you can order online. Also, they make a cab. So, that's worth checking out, for sure.

 {Description:} Rich in color and flavor, this oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon offers aromas of blueberries, blackberries, black pepper and chocolate, with a hint of toasty oak, soft tannins and a dry finish. At its optimum maturity eighteen months after bottling, it can be enjoyed immediately or held for up to 5 to 7 years.

It's funny, I stopped eating meat years ago, so when I have an artificial meat prepared in a delicious, convincing way, I feel a bit guilty. I imagine that a really lovely non-alcoholic wine might feel the same way. 

HUMAN BRAIN: 1
BOOZE BRAIN: 0

Monday, February 13, 2012

Liquor Store Games

My favorite liquor store is just up the street. I can buy 3 bottles of decent red table wine for 13 bux. It's a ridiculous deal. Some of the brands go for $10 a bottle in other stores. Don't ask me how they can offer this deal. Anyway, this is the preferred store, for obvious reasons.

However, after a while, whether the guy behind the desk is passing judgment or not, I would get a little paranoid. I walked in every few days and left with enough wine to last an average two-person household more than a week - only to march right back a few days later. So, I would spread it around. There's the place near the grocery store, then there's the other place near the grocery store, there's the place a mile down the boulevard and the place a little further down than that. You get to know all the people who work at all the stores. But you secretly hope that they don't remember you.

Then, you have to do the whole "keeping track of when each store closes on Sunday" thing. In a nearby state (one that I work in on Sundays), the liquor stores close at 8PM. The liquor stores close at 6PM in my state, so I need to remember to buy my booze before I leave the state I am working in for the day so I have something to drink that night.

Because, let me tell you, there is nothing worse than realizing you didn't plan well and you have nothing to drink for an entire evening. You have to go to plan B: Eat out and order several drinks at dinner. There isn't much of an alternative.

You see how tiring this game is?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Different Expressions of Alcoholism

I've been doing some reading about Moderation Management vs Alcoholics Anonymous. In MM, they try to rehabilitate you, retrain your Booze Brain to go back to that time when you could have a drink, enjoy it and stop at that. In AA, they tell you that you're dreaming if you think you can stop at that, but, okay, go ahead and give it a try. You'll be back.

I have committed to stopping for 30 days (yesterday was my first full day without). MM mandates that you do and AA says that it needs to be forever, so I figure the 30 days is a given, anyway. I will evaluate how I feel at the end of that time and sort of decide which road I want to take.

There is a part of me that is desperate to believe that I can go back to the old days. After all, I am not the kind of drinker that needs to get up in the morning and drink, then continue to drink all day just to make it through. I have learned, though, that there is no "one size fits all" type of drinker. I am a highly functioning drinker. Most people have no idea how much booze I consume on a daily basis. But I never drink before 5PM and I usually stop after 3-4 drinks. (An aside: If you are not a drinker, then 3-4 drinks sounds like A LOT of alcohol, especially for a woman. If you are an addict, that isn't really much, trust me.) I wake up everyday with a dry mouth, but I get on my running shoes and exercise for an hour, eat healthy all day and by the time 5PM rolls around, Booze Brain says, You deserve a break today!

In AA, they say that only you can determine if you are an alcoholic. What I think separates problem drinkers from alcoholics is craving. A problem drinker can go out and binge a bunch of times, but then spend 2 weeks "drying out," not really thinking much about it until the next party. Problem drinkers get plastered. Alcoholics might not necessarily get drunk, but they can't stop drinking, even when they really, really want to. The magnetic pull of the liquor store is too strong. Usually, an alcoholic has a tremendous level of tolerance and can surpass a problem drinker in terms of quantity and speed, anyway. It's the dependence that separates the two. At least, that is what I have surmised after reading a lot about it.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter what kind of drinker you are. If you don't have a healthy relationship with alcohol, then you really need to do something about it. When you are ready, of course.

Booze Brain

I read this really helpful article on how one might stop drinking without going to AA. I love how the writer suggests that you separate your brain in two. One is your normal, human brain. The other is your booze brain. Your booze brain, the writer explains, is wired to survive. And since you have been physically or physiologically (or both) dependent on alcohol for so long, Booze Brain thinks you need it to survive. Booze Brain is sneaky. Sometimes, BB tells you straight out that you need a drink. Other times, BB sings a soft song about drinking while you are going about your day, promising a relaxing time on the couch and a good night's sleep. If Human Brain tries to suggest a night without drinking, BB goes into bargaining mode. Just one, BB says.

My Booze Brain looks and sounds like Audrey Hepburn. So innocent, so sophisticated. If I decide I want to dry out for a while, Booze Brain makes clever associations to try and tempt me. How about you go to Whole Foods, buy some fancy cheese, gourmet chocolate, French bread and a fine bottle of wine? None of it would get me to the store without the promise of a fine bottle of wine. But, BB knows that in order to get me on board, it needs to bring the other things into the fold.

I drink every day. Got to have my 3-4 glasses of wine. Sometimes, I am really pooped out and all I want to do is get home, but Booze Brain demands that I take a left into the parking lot of the liquor store. I feel like a robot being programmed. Swinging open the doors, taking in the intoxicating liquor store smell and marching over to my favorites. More on Liquor Stores later. That's a whole blog post unto itself. The point is, BB is a mighty force. Non-addicted people do not understand, and they never will because their brain chemistry doesn't work like mine. I've never done cocaine, heroin or any other horrible drug, but I certainly understand the power of addiction. You might watch a show about an addict who chooses junk over her children and think, How? Well, I know how. They've got Junk Brains.

When Human Brain says: Geez, what are the neighbors going to think about all of the wine bottles in the recycling bin?
Booze Brain responds: Throw some of them into the trash and hide a bunch of them at the bottom of the bin.

When Human Brain says: Maybe I won't drink tonight.
Booze Brain responds: Sure you will, silly! Start your quit tomorrow.

When Human Brain says: My health is going to fail.
Booze Brain responds: There are people who drink more and harder than you. What's the matter with a little red wine? It's got health benefits, you know. By European standards, you are quite normal, dear.

Basically, my British sounding Booze Brain has an answer for everything.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My name is Jane Doe and I'm an alcoholic.

Well, maybe. Okay, I probably am.

Let me first say that I will never divulge my real name. It isn't relevant anyway. What matters is that I am beginning a new and sober chapter of my life.

It feels so strange to type that. Writing the words sober and alcoholic and thinking that they have any attachment to me. But, I am really not surprised that it has come to this. Here is a little history (I will probably explore much of this in great detail over the course of time):

  • I am 40 years old and I have been drinking a bottle of wine (give or take) a day for 10 years. 
  • I used to have a nicotine addiction, but I quit 5 years ago for good.
  • My father was an alcoholic, had a 2-pack a day nicotine addiction and was a regular pot smoker.
  • Two of my uncles are alcoholics.
  • My mother was a binge drinker for several years.

It's somewhat ironic that I started drinking. I was president of Students Against Drunk Driving in high school and I was about as square as they come. My first memories of drinking are unpleasant.

  • At 5, my father gave me a shot of brandy before walking to school in sub-zero temperatures. I was a buzzed kindergartner a couple of times.
  • Also at 5, I curiously drank from an unattended glass of booze at one of my parents' parties. I later threw up all over the bathroom floor.
  • At 10, I took a sip of beer from a can my father had abandoned in our garage. I swallowed about a teaspoon of cigarette ash at the same time and nearly gagged. 
  • After high school graduation, a friend's mom bought a celebratory case of cheap beer for us. I drank a few and got horribly ill. 
  • The first weekend of freshman year in college, I attended a frat party and drank loads of punch with vodka, then did shots of tequila. I was hungover for my first day of classes. 

I started drinking more regularly in college, but not more than my friends. In fact, I probably drank less than most college students. My tolerance was low, so I would get blitzed at a party after 1 or 2 cocktails.  Back then, smoking cigarettes was way more important. My best friend and I worked ourselves up to a half a pack a day by the summer of sophomore year.

My twenties were spent drinking moderately. And smoking lots and lots of butts. I never drank alone. Ever. I assumed that was a sign of a person with a real problem. I would stop after one drink, with the exception of Saturday nights, when I would have 3 beers at my favorite nightclub then dance and sweat each one of them out before the night was over. I did not crave alcohol. I never really thought about when I would have my next drink. I was too busy chain-smoking to care.

Quitting smoking is something I am sure I could win a prize for. My friend and I used to laugh at those Let's Make Smoking History bumper stickers. We wanted to add the tag line: Smoke Like You've Never Smoked Before! However, I did quit many, many times without much success. I once quit for a day only to be weakened by watching Peg Bundy light one up on an episode of Married with Children. I had a few quits that lasted up to a year. While I wasn't smoking, I was missing it a whole lot. It wasn't until I was totally and completely sick to death of it that I was ready to stop for good. I figured that I didn't have the willpower to do it on my own, so I decided to do it for my father, who, at that time, had been dead for almost 7 years. I gift wrapped my little quit and gave it to him that day. And it was as if a switch went off in my brain. Suddenly, my hardcore smoking addiction that had a serious stronghold on me drifted away. Peacefully. I still can't explain it.

I came to realize that I was the type of smoker who could either have no cigarettes or 10, 000 cigarettes. There was no in between. What I didn't want to admit then was that I am that kind of drinker, too. No fucking brainer, right? Denial is a kooky thing.