As a busy mother of three who is married to a non-drinker — and cares very much about the habits she exposes her family to — I seldom find the time or the need to sip on a glass, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when my drinking habits wavered between coping and alcohol dependency. I came to accept drinking as a tool for coping and survival thanks to a combination of two things. The first was watching my mother’s drinking habits. The second was observing the relationship my partner (now ex) had with alcohol.
For him, drinking was something you did when you were hurting. And while I obviously made my own choices when it came to my life, the painful relationship I had with my ex had me struggling to keep my head above water each and every day. Having grown up seeing alcohol as a remedy to life’s problems made it too easy for me to adopt my ex’s drinking habits for myself.
Before I met my ex, I wasn’t a big drinker. A year or two prior to us meeting, I had actually noticed that I turned to drinking with the idea that it would relax me and make life easier (I had unconsciously picked up on this observing my mother’s relationship with alcohol). I didn’t want to have the same dependencies as my mother, so I had deliberately changed my drinking habits and found other ways to promote peace and relaxation. I still enjoyed drinking now and then, but I kept it an occasional thing.
I managed to keep my drinking to a minimum, but the last year or two of our relationship changed me. My ex was a drinker who turned to the bottle to cope with (or in reality, to blow-up) his insecurities. He was an angry, bitter drunk, and I never once saw him have a good time drinking. His drinking made our relationship more intense, only to create a tension between us that made him want to drink even more. After three years or so, I began to follow his example.
Part of me hoped that I would be able to offer him a glimpse of himself. The other part of me just wanted to be numb and get some sort of relief. Alcohol offered me this. And so the nights that he secretly drank in the garage or at work, I would turn to my own secret stash in the home so that I could get through the screaming and shaming by icing my mind and freezing my heart.
Since leaving my ex, I’ve given up my “therapeutic drinking.” I’ll enjoy a beer after a hot day outside or indulge in a glass of wine while dining with friends, but it’s not something I do weekly — not even monthly. I enjoy using alcohol to add to the fun of an occasion, but it’s not something I do as a general rule. I make sure to attend celebrations and dinners without partaking in a glass at all, to ensure that I’m not developing a habit. Above all though, I listen to my body and only drink when I feel the time is right and all is well within.
With what I’ve seen and where I’ve been, I don’t want to drink for the sake of drinking and so I’m not going to develop rules that say any given day or situation warrants slinging back a glass. This approach isn’t something that will work for everyone, but it’s one that has worked for me. At least this far. The day may come that I give up drinking entirely, but for now I have a balance that I can appreciate. As of today, I think that’s what matters most.