Thursday, 19 May 2011

My name's Debbie, and I'm an alcoholic...

Photo: Jocelyn Durston
Or at least I will be, if I keep drinking wine like I do.

What’s the big deal I hear you ask? It's only a couple of glasses of wine at night. Where’s the harm?

I’ve been drinking at least two or three glasses of wine every night for maybe a year, and what I don’t like is that my little habit has turned into a battle of wills, with wine winning more often than not.

Like most women, I'm always trying to shift a few pounds. Following my recent health problems and surgery, in January I made a decision to get back in shape and thought giving up alcohol for a few weeks was bound to help the waistline. Easy enough, yes?

No. I made the decision mid-week but by Thursday my resolve was weakening.On Friday when hubby poured himself a glass and asked if I fancied one, I found myself justifying the craving. "It's only one glass. It’s your only vice. You deserve it” ‘Oh, go on then.’ The words were out before I could stop them and I caved. A few weeks later in March I tried again. I lasted two weeks, and actually, every day since, I’ve told myself I won’t have a drink, or I’ll only have one glass, but every evening my willpower ends up round my ankles, not to mention the guilt, the castigating, and disappointment with myself.

This realisation of my unhealthy relationship with fermented grape juice has crept up on me. I don’t remember exactly when the penchant began. Like many people, when I worked, I liked to come in from work at night and pour a glass of wine while preparing dinner. After the kids came along, it was "wine o'clock," that magic ‘me’ time after the little blighters had gone to bed and calm was restored chez nous, and I’d sit and watch TV, or read, with a glass of wine clasped firmly in hand. When I retired from work on ill health grounds, I carried on the habit. Hubby would come in from work - I’d already have a glass on the worktop as I prepared dinner - I’d get him a beer and pour myself a top up as we chatted and ate dinner. After clearing up, I’d pour another glass as the family sat down to watch TV. Three or four glasses said in context doesn’t sound excessive, does it?

The trouble is, then there's the occasional glass of Dutch courage I need if I'm going somewhere and feel unconfident, like one of hubby's work parties. Or the habit I've developed of having one while I do the ironing in an evening. And there's nothing like sitting on the patio, admiring the view and watching the swallows while sipping a cold glass of white...

These little associations to alcohol aren't healthy. Don’t get me wrong, drinking doesn’t affect my day to day life. I’m not out of control or a binge drinker. I rarely get drunk. Two or three bad hangovers in my early years of drinking are deterrent enough to stop a desire to get blotto. And unless we’re having Sunday dinner or on holiday, I can't stomach a drink before tea-time.

But am I the only woman, who around the time of 'The Weakest Link,' finds themselves watching the clock, waiting for the magic moment when it will be six o’clock somewhere in the world so I can get the corkscrew out and open the next bottle?

Evidently not. When I speak to my friends, some of them share the same habit. And according to several articles there's a growing trend for middle-age women to hit the wine bottle in the evening, not falling down drunk, but a glass or two at the end of the day. Every day. That's me. Who would have thought about the 35+ units it adds up to.

Photo:Luis Rock

As many as 1 in 6 has a problem with alcohol dependency. More than 1 in 3 women over 35 drinks more than they did in their teens. And 1 in 5 women over 35 admits to regularly binge drinking.

It’s a standing joke in our house about "Mum and her wine."
Even the kids see the association. It was funny at first but now I’m starting to feel it’s all a little sad. I don't want to turn into a bag lady. I started buying boxes instead of bottles. It didn’t look quite so desperate (or was it because it hid how much I was drinking?) But then I realised I could get through a box of wine in three to four days. It’s too easy to keep topping up with a box. And it was even more of a shock when I calculated how many units are in a box. Mum’s psychological crutch had increased to a bottle of wine a night. How shocking is that?

The fact that I've been able to stop in January and March without any ill effect shows I’m not physically addicted as such. However, I don’t like the thought that psychologically, my drinking habits are hooking me in, as alcohol insiduously teases me towards the slippery slope. It might be a way of helping me to wind down, but is the increase because it takes more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects, as your body becomes used to it. Because eventually alcohol might become the only way to wind down...

Am I over-analysing? Do I have a drink problem? I should be the one in control, not the wine, so I guess that makes it one, if it’s a problem to me.

I'm not addicted, but it's a habit which is starting to make me unhappy, and therefore one that needs breaking. Besides anything else, I take a lot of medication already for my Behcets disease – Methotrexate (an anti-cancer drug,) Sulphasalazine, (an anti-rheumatic,) Celecoxib, painkillers (sometimes morphine based.) I won’t bore you with them all, but you can see the amount of toxins my system has to cope with. I really shouldn’t punish my body by adding more.

And also, I have a new set of health worries to contend with - more about them in another post - but I need to make sure I’m strong and able to cope with whatever the outcome. Time will tell. Perhaps it's this scare which has given me the jolt I need, and to this end, I’ve stopped drinking. No wine has passed my lips for...err... forty-eight hours... but it's a start, and giving up for one night was the first psychological hurdle.

I won't set myself up to fail by declaring I'm going teetotal. For the time being, I’d like it to stop for longer than the two weeks I managed earlier in the year and to show I’m serious, I’ve posted this blog for the world to see and that I can re-read it as a reminder to look after myself better.

Right, it's your turn to be honest. Do you drink more than is good for you? And if so, have you tried to stop? Or if it's not the booze, what habit would you like to break?

Until another day

Above statistics and information obtained from:
NHS live well
Alcohol Substance Abuse
The British Liver Trust


Karen Walker said...

Wow, Debbie, what an honest and revealing post. It takes guts to look at yourself the way you have here and to share that with all of us. Confronting our issues is hard enough. Sharing them is another story. It sounds to me like it is a problem and I am glad you have stopped, if for no other reason than mixing alcohol with all those meds can't be good. I attended Al-Anon meetings for years when I had people around me with drinking problems. The 12-step programs are a great resources.
Sending you blessings and hugs,

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Your title reminded us of a woman whom we casually met in a coffe shop one day who introduced herself with the phrase..."hello, I'm Millie....I'm schizophrenic....but, I'm not aggressive". At the time, we did think this the most amazing way to start a 'relationship' and, after more consideration, we felt that if Millie could verbalise this then she was surely on the way to some form of resolution, whatever form that may take.

So too with your relationship with drink. We really feel that it is when one cannot or do not see any need to talk about it, then the problem really has taken a hold.

Far from our being able to offer any advice, we feel that it has got to be in the interest of your long term health to not only be aware of how much one is drinking[and one must be honest]but also to discipline oneself to stay within healthy guidelines. We have read that 'the retired' are more likely to have a drink problem rather than any other age group, so caution must be the watchword for all of us.

Ivy said...

Whether it is a "problem to the world " or not doesn't count. If you feel it is a problem , and you clearly do, than you must attack it. Ask your OH not to offer you an (alcoholic) drink and make it a habit not to open a bottle yourself.
I have never liked wine or alcohol so I can't say if it works, but I heard it works with smoking , so maybe it does also with wine.
good luck! I'll be here to cheer you when you feel you need it! xxx

Sarah said...

I used to drink 'a couple of glasses a night'. I messed up. Once. Now I drink a couple of times a year. This must have been a tough post for you to write, I admire your strength and determination. Don't forget to ask for support if you need it.

Also, I'm really sorry to hear you're having more health problems. Sending best wishes your way.

Flowerpot said...

I agree with Karen - a very honest post there and I think youve done the right thing in having a break for a while. I drink regularly but I never have more than two or at the most 3 glasses of wine a night. You'rwe the one that knows about your relationship with alcohol - if you're not happy with it then well done uyou for tackling it. You are one brave lady. xxx

cherie said...

Hi Debbie! I love your new pic by the way, you are so pretty!

I don't drink alcohol at all. Never had, and never will. My uncle died from liver cirrhosis. He drank all his life. On his deathbed, when they asked him if there's anything they could get him, he asked for a drink. Kinda funny and sad at the same time.

You are such an honest soul, Debbie. I'm really inspired by your bravery.

Melissa Marsh said...

Very honest post. Good for you for having the courage to put it out there like this.

I don't have a problem with drinking at all, but I DO have a problem with food. It gets to the point where I calculate when I can have my next snack and how much time elapses before I can. I'm trying to lose weight, but it feels like I'm addicted to food, or rather, the idea of EATING.

I don't know that it's an addiction, but like you, I reconize that it IS a problem.

I also can't go a single day without chocolate. Not one. single. day. The fat content in dark chocolate isn't good for me, and while dark chocolate in MODERATION is good for me, I'm having a hard time eating it in moderation.

Caroline said...

Like the others I can't but help admire your honesty. It is hard to give up something you like/love - such I'm wishing you all the success in the world. You can do it! Caroline x

Posie said...

I know how you feel, I often feel I could reach for a glass of wine in the evenings, but wonder how much the media has to play in this. So many programs seem to have the characters, young and trendy, reaching for a glass of wine, or whisky if there is a crisis. Every magazine seems to have wine associated with fun and girlie times in it, a bit like the smoking thing of the 60s and 70s. It is almost drilled into us, we are bombarded with this lifestyle image.
Wishing you luck with it all, and do hope your health problems improve.
Take care,

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Love your pretty new photo, Debbie! What an honest post - I hope it helps you to find support here in cyber space, as you know we're all rooting for you.

I don't have a problem with any kind of alcohol, as I only have half a glass of red wine occasionally with a meal. But food - yes, I've had issues with that before and I still need a chocolate fix (or two) every day. But if I can stay away from the milk kind (especially the one beginning with C) then I can enjoy a couple of pieces of good dark chocolate without guilt.

I know it's not the same as alcohol, but I suspect all of us have something we're half-way addicted to.

Fennie said...

Hi Debbie, - can I ask what it is you want to do? Is it just to reduce from 35 units to 21 units (more or less?). You've proved you can give up altogether - but you don't want to give up - why should you give up? Your body after all it has been through probably needs the therapeutic effects of moderate alcohol consumption. So if it is just cutting down then here are some tips I have found useful.

Unless it is a really special occasion, don't drink before 6pm; don't load the glass; don't feel the need to drain a glass if you notice there's still a little at the bottom; don't take more than you want - just to finish the bottle; always have a glass of water (or some other non-alcoholic drink) to hand when you drink wine so that you don't use the wine to slake your thirst; do experiment with non-alcoholic drinks - and there are some really tasty ones like elderflower cordial which properly chilled taste wonderful on a hot day; never drink on an empty stomach.

But then even sticking to 21 units gives you the chance of two small glasses of wine a day. In little sips that can go a long way. Good luck.

Frances said...

Good evening Debbie.

Our differing time zones have again got me arriving here after so many thoughtful comments have been left for you.

I would want to align with the wise words Fennie has written above. Perhaps this is because I love having a glass or two (never more) of wine after I return from my workday to prepare and feast upon my dinner. Often this dinner does not get served until almost 10 p.m. I look at the preparation (never involving a take out or a microwave) as a very relaxing, creative time of day.

I never have any other alcohol. Perhaps I am fooling myself, but have been enjoying this pattern for decades.

A dear friend of mine is an alcoholic, and has an entirely different pattern of daily life.

Again, I think that Fennie has offered wise words.


Anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita said...

(Sorry, typo in first post...)

Oh, my friend, you are such an inspiration to me! Your courage and honesty are so heartfelt and touching.

This interesting little adage: "wine o'clock," really caught my attention because I have a that on my clock, too. Once the kids are both in bed, I pour myself a glass of red wine. That's all I ever have, one a night, but it is something I look forward to. Why? Because it signifies my quiet time, I guess? Like you pointed out, maybe that's an unhealthy attitude. You've given me a lot to think about.

I didn't drink any wine for several weeks when I had my gallbladder probs because I didn't want to do anything to make it worse. So I guess that proves that I can go without and not miss it. But, I was excited when it was time for "wine o'clock," again.

You've taught me that I need to adjust my mindset, so that's what I'll work on. And you, my dear, do whatever you have to to feel confident about yourself and your health. We are here to cheer you on in any way you need it. <3

Jarmara Falconer said...

You are already one step there by seeing you have a problem. I'm sure you will find the inner strength to be able to cut back in no time at all.

Well done, BM

Margo Kelly said...

Oh my. I am addicted to chocolate. I weigh a ton, and I know it's a problem. I need to tackle the problem.

In the last two weeks I have only had one small brownie (okay, and some strawberries dipped in chocolate). The scale has gone up, not down.

Sometimes tackling a problem takes more effort than we first think ... but in the end, our health is the most important thing.

I wish you the best in your journey!!

Colette McCormick said...

A wonderful, honest post. I cut back on the amount that I drank several years ago and I fell better for it. I didn't choose to cut back but circumstances dictated that I had to and I feel so much better for it (most of the time)

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I so hear you! I do love a glass of wine. A lot! And like you, I use a similar justification.

Every once in awhile, I do limit my drinking. I think it's good break 'the habit' to see that if you don't drink, the world won't fall apart.

Keena said...

I am so proud of you for being so open and honest. My "habit" is a I like to eat. Mostly garabe food. Burgers, pizza, fries, chips, ice cream. I too am trying to break this habit, mainly for health issues. I have a slew of them myself. I will keep you in my prayers and we will win this battle. If you ever wanna vent or chat, email me @

KarenG said...

I don't drink alcohol but have many other problems of excess that are probably worse for me. I know several women who drink wine every evening, just like what you have described. Funny, I never thought of them as alcoholic and I'm sure they never did either, but when you put it like you did here, it makes one question. I've got my own little addictions so I wouldn't dream of judging how much wine is right or not, or how much of anything is right or not for that matter. But I guess the issue is that you are feeling it's too much, and that what counts.

Norma Murray said...

Debbie, I've been away so I've only just come across your post. It takes a lot of courage to face how close you've got to wine. Often it's the ritual involved, and the associated relaxation. I have a friend who for years has controlled his drinking by having drinking days and non drinking days, that he sticks to without fail. I'm crossing my fingers you can keep to your plan, you are right, wine and medication are not great mixers.

Angela Ackerman said...

Kudos for you for baring all in this post. It sounds like to me that you have really evaluated this honestly, and weighed everything and how it's affecting you and how you feel about yourself.

I think it's great that you are taking steps to make yourself happier. No one but you can truly say whether you have a problem or not, but my feeling is if it is affecting you psychologically, it's worth paying attention to, and you are.

Hugs--I know it isn't easy. We all have our addictions--mine is definitely the internet. I spend too much time on here (oh how ironic as I type this post!) than I should. Your post is a good reminder to me that there is a big wide world out there and the sum of mine should not be a keyboard.

Hugs! I'm going to log off for the night, I think!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Reasons said...

OK Debbie, you have been honest and it would be unfair not to do the same. I do think it is too much. You don't say if you felt better when you stop.?? Don't get me wrong, I am not judging you cos I like (really like!) a drink too and have been known to have one, two, three, four too many... Nowadays though I do feel TERRIBLE afterwards. My liver is just not up to it and I cannot beleive yours is either. I am trying to loose weight at the moment and have palled up with a friend to do so. Is that a possibility? I don't think you should stop, but what I do is save it for fridays and saturdays and only rarely during the week. Good luck whatever you decide. You know I would really like to meet up sometime. What do you think?? Leave me a post if you think it's an idea. I think perhaps it would be nice to share a cuppa soometime but am not sure how far you are from me.

Langley said...

Many of my friends have the same issue. I enjoy my glass of fermented wine as well but my real addiction is sugar. I can always justify more sugar.

Jo Schaffer said...

Uh oh. That's a tough and sneaky addiction to beat. It crawls in slow and gentle until you realize you depend on it to unwind or feel "good". I don't drink-- my grandfather was an alcoholic. I try to find other ways to unwind-- yoga, TV, blogging...other snacky things.
Being honest and examining the issue will work in your favor. Make no mistake--this is how it starts and if you don't stop it you will unravel. I have seen it happen too many times.
You can do this. You don't need wine to feel good. You're obviously a bright and fabulous woman. Celebrate that in other ways. Spoil yourself with a hot bath or new lingerie-- or an awesome book. Because you don't want to lose yourself to the wine.
Best of luck and positive vibes in your efforts. (=
Now if only I could break my addiction to Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler...

Shirley Wells said...

Oh my, what an honest and thought provoking post.

I like wine, a lot. If I decide I'm having a glass, the bottle's empty almost before I know it. On the other hand, I go days/weeks without even thinking about it. I'm sure it's good to have a break from it now and again.

Rob-bear said...

That's a very gutsy post, Debbie. Recognizing a challenge is the first step towards resolving it.
There was a time when I would drink, and probably more than I should have. So I quit. No 12-step program or anything like that. I just decided it was bad for my health, and quit. I'm not suggesting you or others should go that route. You're the only one who can decide what is important to you.
Blessings and Bear hugs on the discovery path.

Frances Garrood said...

I think lots of people drink "too much" - in fact probably far more than are known about (it's a fact that no-one ever tells the truth when a doctor asks them how much they drink). However, I think what's happened is that you set yourself too big a target - down from 35 units to none - and you didnt' manage it. Why not have one or even two dry days a week, and enjoy drinking on the other five?

BTW boxes of wine are disastrous because you can't keep tabs on the amount you drink!

elizabethm said...

Once again you really make me wince with recognition. I have had almost exactly this pattern creep up on me slowly over the last ten years or so. I have managed a reasonably moderate consumption by never having my glass of wine until about 9.30 but it is easy then to have two or three in quick succession and become dependent on it for sleep. I thought I would have a couple of nights a week without and found it astonishingly difficult. Like you, it is not a physical thing but more that I have woven it into the pattern of my day. I don't want to give up wine entirely. It is a wonderful part of a civilised life, but I am in my first week of saying I will halve my consumption by having four nights a week without. Mine's going ok so far, two consecutive wine free nights with no real difficulty. Good luck with yours!

Josh Hoyt said...

This is a great post and a great way to understand some of the different ways that we can tell if we have a problem. I think you hit it on the head when you said that it is a problem because I think its a problem. THis is very insightful. Thanks for sharing your life and struggles with me.