Lately my husband has been swimming through difficult territory at work, and asking him to bring home the celebratory bottle—“Hey! It’s Monday! I hate them! Let’s celebrate!” or “Hey, I’m done grading papers and only one third passed! I need to celebrate!”—often didn’t pass anymore. More often than not my suggestion for a bottle of red was met with silence and what I thought was judgment that oozed out of the phone all over me in shameful waves. I bounced between embarrassment and anger when I asked, and when he dared to respond with, “Honey, didn’t we talk about cutting back? How about some Chunky Monkey?” I wanted to howl with rage or slink away in contrition. I could never tell how he would react to my request for booze, and I was also never really clear on how I was going to react to his reaction.
This is why I started contemplating mail order. It is by the glory of my God that I never actually acted on this, otherwise there would be no book, and no Dana, for that matter.
It was an interesting way to live—so completely snowed under by emotions and then so completely numb to them. I was on that carnival ride that strapped you in and swung you perilously from side to side in a pendulum death grip. I found relief from all the extremes in my heavy pour of afternoon wine, but lately I needed more and more to even touch my feelings. It was as if the wine had decided I was too nutty to deal with and had sidled off into another party, where people were at least a bit less dramatic.
When provided with some nightly relief, no matter how muted, I still clung to it with increasing loyalty. It worked less, so I clung harder. Wine was a problem, so I decided I needed that problem even more. It was a bad boyfriend, and all I could do was continue my devotion in nutball Charlie Manson groupie style. The wine, in its own sickening pendulum swing, would give me dizzy relief for a few drinks, and then, within an hour or two, I’d be arguing with Brian, in tears, or asleep. Or a sickening combination of all three.
The thing is, I don’t measure. I don’t watch for levels or pour alcohol in jiggers, and I certainly hadn’t been checking the barometer on my marriage. Sometimes I felt a cold lump of dread in my heart, and I wondered if measuring or what some call “moderating” my alcohol would ease it. But that was far too scary for me to think about for long.
I tried to moderate. It worked great for about twelve minutes.
So I kept hiding, kept rationalizing, and kept increasing for months. Brian was a fan of scotch, especially the really expensive kind. My first sips of scotch were with Brian when we were on a date. As he tried to tell me about the deep notes and the importance of the bog, all I could think was how it tasted like I was chewing on moss. This, I guess, is what you’re aiming for when you drink the expensive stuff, but initially it just seemed a bit too fibrous and brown for me.
Flash forward a few years, and Brian’s scotch had become a fallback to me—the “If there’s nothing else, this-will-do-the-trick” drink. It was a hit of instant numb, and I grew to love its smoky flavor. If I could write a love letter to my alcohol, wine would be adored for its constant shoulder and its sweet okay-ness. A lot of mommies drink wine, right? So, no problem. Wine is the good guy boyfriend, the one the family loves, who is humble and so nice. Wine would be the boyfriend that would help me move my television or be there for a late night phone call when I’m sad. Dependable. Wine had no problem seeing me without makeup in my baggy flannel pajamas.
Scotch, on the other hand, hit me. And I just kept drinking it.
My husband was cluelessly patient. “Dana?” He would come into the living room as I dialed through Netflix, “Where, um, did all my Glenfiddich go? The good bottle? The one from my dad?” I had a variety of responses. Sometimes I went for a sullen shrug, which never really worked for me when I was a teenager, but my husband was too nice to ground me. Sometimes I would simply act as if I had never heard of scotch before and had no idea what the brown liquid was over there. Most of the time, however, I would go for cute and pleading, all puppy-doggish with big “aw shucks, sorry” eyes, as I would come in for kisses and hope to distract him. Did all this behavior come up preplanned and intentional? No, I was neither that manipulative nor smart. I leaned mainly on my feelings these days to lead my communication, and I did not necessarily mean to lie my way out of every instance. I loved Brian. I had just drained his ninety-dollar bottle in about three days, with absolutely no care about its woodsy top notes or whatever else the scotch tasters found so laudable about the brown stuff. I gulped it. It burned. It did the trick. For me, it was all about the end result, and Brian’s precious scotch was simply a means to an end.
I have no idea why, one morning, I woke up and felt like I wanted all this to end.
But I did. My eyes opened, and I stared at that nauseating ceiling fan and thought, I want to end. Or, I want all this to end. I stared. The ceiling fan didn’t stop, neither did the world, and I took a breath. My children were talking quietly on the monitor, and Charlie came down the hall, all soft feet and tousled hair. “Dood morning, mommah,” he announced as he jumped up on the bed. I closed my eyes and reached for him. I decided I would stop drinking.
I would do it.
I would stop.
In three days.
This is an excerpt from Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press. All rights reserved.