We are all the same distance from our next drink

I don’t write much about cravings and control any more, and that’s because it’s rarely an issue.  To the extent that I miss drinking, I miss it in the abstract.  I miss the idea of a future evening, curled up on the couch with LH, sharing a bottle of wine.  Or I miss the future toast I’ll make when my first daughter marries, holding vintage champagne aloft.  In the here and now, I very rarely think that what I want, right now, is some alcohol.

Yesterday, a craving hit me out of absolutely nowhere.  I had had a reasonable afternoon, the kids were in bed, I was cooking a couple of meals for the freezer.  I didn’t really want to be cooking, but I’d promised the school that I’d donate a pot of soup to an evening event, and some casserole steak needed turning into casserole, so there went my evening.

Anyway, I was most of the way through this process, and I picked up an open bottle of cabernet to pour some into the slow cooker.  Usually, I get a brief wave of ‘Goodness, it’s lucky I’m not going to go out of control and just gulp this down’ in the same way that one thinks, near the edge of a cliff, ‘I could throw myself off this cliff.  I won’t, though’.

Yesterday, the urge to glug some down was immensely powerful.  Even as I willed my arm to keep moving so that the liquid glugged out into the casserole instead, I was watching myself from the outside.  Right now I’m managing to resist, but God.  I still really want to drink this.  I could pour some into a glass and just drink it fast.  Then it’d be done, I wouldn’t have to struggle with the craving any more, and I could just move on as sober again.  Even if I regret it, regret is easier than this wanting.

Just as I used to when I drank, and I wanted to drink, and I knew I was going to break the promise I’d made to myself that morning, or the previous night, or last week, about cutting down or stopping.  There’s a disassociation that happens in those moments.  The addict brain starts frantically wheeling out every single argument in favour of the fix.  It jabbers so fast, sometimes, that the arguments don’t even coalesce; there are just remnants scattered across the brain.  I deserve, it’s only one, just liquid, stop again tomorrow, moderate, self-discipline, everyone does… And the other part of you sits clear of the shrapnel.  Watching.  And that voice is cold and clear and it says ‘you’re lying to yourself‘. It says ‘you’re lying to yourself because you have a problem, and you know that you’re going to drink and you know that you shouldn’t drink and you’re going to anyway‘.  And then you drink because both voices are going to shut up if you do, and that feels like a good enough reason, frankly.

So there I was, thinking my thoughts about this.  And the icy voice crept in.  Here you are, watching yourself pour wine into a dish.  You’re holding a bottle of wine.  You’re an alcoholic, and you’re alone in a kitchen, and you’re holding a bottle of wine.  Your arrogance will be your downfall.  (My inner voice really does speak like this.  It has Shakespearean aspirations).

You know those movies where someone has telekinetic powers and they can control inanimate objects with the force of their mind?  That’s what I felt like I was doing, when I forced my arm to put down the bottle, screw the lid back on and take it into another room.  As if it wasn’t my arm, as if it wasn’t my mind.  There was me and there was the body holding the bottle, and they were not the same person.

I’m not going to lie, it pretty much scared me.  And once I’d got past it, and finished cooking, and was once more safely ensconced in my well-lit lounge room with my creature comforts – specifically my comfortable creature – around me, I immediately wanted sugar.  I wanted an entire packet of Haribo Tangfastics, those nasty, chemical-laden, artificial-in-every-way chewy sweets that I relied on heavily in my initial withdrawl from alcohol.  Sugar from shock, or stepping down to a secondary addiction?  I don’t know.  But that craving persisted throughout the entire evening, whereas the alcohol craving hit hard and fast and was gone as soon as I put the lid back on the bottle.

And tonight I’m going to eat slow cooked beef casserole, and enjoy it.

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12 thoughts on “We are all the same distance from our next drink

  1. So there I was, thinking my thoughts about this. And the icy voice crept in. Here you are, watching yourself pour wine into a dish. You’re holding a bottle of wine. You’re an alcoholic, and you’re alone in a kitchen, and you’re holding a bottle of wine. Your arrogance will be your downfall…..

    I don’t worry much when i go out or to others homes about alcohol in food, I don’t ask and it has never bothered me. Early on I had that same moment though, adding some crap wine to a crock pot beef stew. I poured it down the sink and haven’t cooked with wine or alcohol since. I don’t want my arrogance, my thinking “it’s fine, you’re over 3 years away, you can add a little wine to the stew” to be my downfall. I leave cooking with spirits to others who can do it safely. Dishes are just as tasty without alcohol.

    I love your blog….I really look forward to it arriving in my inbox! You always make me thing, remember, feel something.

    • It’s not the first time I’ve done it, and a couple of times early on I was really self-pitying about it – like, here I am, cooking with this wine I can no longer drink, or pouring a glass for LH and abstaining myself, oh, if only the world knew how strong and brave I am. It hasn’t been an issue at all since I hit the 60 mark, which was a really magical mark for me. Until yesterday, and there was absolutely no sign it was coming. So, yes, I shall be asking LH to do the wine-adding for a while!

      • Of course he can! It was my attempt to prove to him that my addiction doesn’t change anything, and you know, it’s a nice gesture to set the table and pour drinks for dinner.

  2. Wonderfully evocative post. I recognized myself (and the bottle of wine) making a beef stew (with Autumn vegetables) in the slow cooker. Mostly those thoughts flit by underneath everything else; sub-conscious little “phantom pangs.” But, yeah, sometimes the sensation can be vertiginous. Thanks for the post.

  3. I was glad and comforted to read this post as just recently I have really wanted a drink myself. I feel that I should be past that feeling/desire but I am relieved to hear it still creeps up on others now and again. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Because we both gave up together we don’t have booze in the house so have never had to face this. I’ve also never slowed my thinking down enough in the craving moment to figure it out – but if I did I think it would be pretty much as you described! 🙂

  5. Whew, you really took ne through that one, what a powerful lesson. Thanks for sharing that. I have not kept alcohol in the house thus far, so have not had this experience, but I could so easily see arrogance being my downfall. I hope to hear more from your Shakespearean inner voice as well, it sure helped me 🙂

  6. Your writing is so fantastic lady 🙂 Soooo glad you’re sharing it with the world. I often have those thoughts, both about the wine and the cliff. Just an observation, nothing to worry about. But I think you’re making the right call asking your hubby to add the wine to the cooking for awhile. If that happened to me, I’d be pretty rattled too.

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