The other night was TV night. TV night is Thursday nights, a tradition that started some years back when Lovely Husband started going to an evening class once a week and leaving me in control of the remote. Since it is only once a week, it’s a night I look forward to. No idle channel surfing for me; TV night involves a DVD set or something highly recommended from Netflix. It involves an indulgent meal, eaten solo after the children are in bed – recently I’m favouring spicy buffalo wings and fries, but it can be a smoked salmon and Brie affair or a huge bowl of lentil soup, as the mood takes.
And back in the day, it also involved a lot of wine. A lot of wine: TV night was my free-pass night, because I was drinking sight unseen and I knew LH was nearby in case of emergencies. I just added that last bit in case I sounded irresponsible; let’s be frank, here. I was just drinking a lot because nobody was watching.
When I gave up drinking, one of the things I mourned was the end of my Thursday nights. Because, you see, I can’t watch television sober. That’s why I only do it at all once a week. I needed the wine to make the television fun, without seeing through the tiresome cliches and the telegraphed plot points. It was worth it, of course, but it was a loss. And I stopped Thursday TV nights for a little while.
And then I started them again, and I found other ways to keep occupied. Once I learned to knit, it helped a lot: I can’t knit without doing something else and I can’t watch TV without doing something else but the two things go together like the newly sober and oversharing. TV night was back.
Anyway. Last Thursday, I started the next episode of my current series (which is Nashville. How good is Nashville? LH hates it. I’m particularly a fan of the fact that nobody kills one another and so far zero women have been raped) and I realised that I’d somehow skipped ahead. I couldn’t remember which episode I was up to, and the blurbs weren’t helping, so I spent a few minutes cueing up past episodes and watching the opening to see if I’d seen it. It took me four episodes to find the one I was actually up to, and all the time that I was doing this I was feeling The Oh. The Oh is when I see a previous memory in a different light and – Oh. Oh, that’s what was going on. How did it seem like it was fine? Oh.
I thought that wine helped me watch TV! For maybe a YEAR after I stopped drinking, I still thought that! (And not without a soupçon of smuggery, either: you guys, you normal people with your normal intellect, you might be able to enjoy the entertainment of the masses. Some of us can’t descend to popular culture without a deliberate deadening of our insight. Jesus. How anyone ever stands me in real life, I don’t even know.) And yet, here I was, mimicking a time when I used to have to re-watch episodes of my given show because by the end of the previous TV night, I was too drunk to remember them clearly.
The difference was that this time, it took me less than a minute to check each episode, because I remembered seeing it within that time. Before, it would take me longer. I might have seen this one? I remember this bit, I think, where the guy comes in and shouts, but that whole sequence before it is new or is it? I wasn’t enjoying TV. I was barely registering it! I had to give up on Sherlock because I couldn’t follow the plot!
Here’s another example: books. I’ve written before about my love of reading with wine (and TV, in fact – here I am, at six days sober, two years ago, talking about exactly the same thing I’m talking about now). Reading + wine. Heavenly. But again, by the end. Not so much. It became normal to pick up a book where I’d left off and then flick back until I reached a page that I remembered reading. Sometimes that would be a page or two. Sometimes closer to a chapter. What was the point?
It takes everything. It takes EVERYTHING. Back when I drank, my only hobbies were reading, drinking, and occasionally watching TV. And arguing on the internet, I guess, but I was trying to quit that one well before I got sober. Forget the me that I now am, with a birthday list stuffed full of gorgeous hand dyed yarns, running gear, and courses I want to do on power tools and window glazing. Reading and watching TV. It’s not a big demand on the universe, to have those things to enjoy. But I didn’t. I no longer had even those.
In an abusive relationship, the abused partner adapts to the demands of the abuser. She tries to become better at acquiescence, hoping that if she can show him enough love and understanding, he will return the favour in increased trust and openness. Instead the demands grow, and grow, until the victim is backed into a corner and she has nothing left, and if she is lucky she will realise that nothing she can give will ever be enough and if she is really, really lucky she will be able to get out of that corner and away.
When we say the words ‘alcohol abuse’ we tend to mean that we abuse alcohol. But alcohol abuses us. It takes and it takes, and it lies and it lies, and we give up everything rather than lose it. There is nothing we need it for, and there is nothing it won’t take.
It takes everything.