Booze and love seemed to be forever linked for Janice. With the help of This Naked Mind she’s changing that perception.
Annie says the earlier our experience with alcohol, the longer period of time we have to build up addiction and dependence. I started in high school. Drinking age in my state was 18. In college I worked in bars/nightclubs to earn my way through. On my first day of work I remember being bedazzled by all the products. Scotch! Bourbon! Tequila! The myriad of cocktails – White Russian! It was all so glamorous and meant huge money for me, as a very broke college student.
My customers included the occasional celebrity. Dating one of the bartenders, the subconscious message for me was that the alcohol-centric environment meant glamour, riches and sex. After college I continued working in bars and drinking even more. I remember sneaking 2-3 shots of tequila in the bathroom at the beginning of my shift. Convincing myself that I wasn’t any fun and couldn’t get good tips, unless I was high and happy. I did a lot of risky things in the haze of alcohol.
Even before my college days, my subconscious was getting messages about alcohol. My dad was never around (enlisted man) and we were never close. Yet on the rare moments that he hugged or held me, I smelled Scotch combined with his aftershave. So the message to my subconscious was that alcohol meant parental warmth and security. Booze and love were intimately linked for me. My mother also drank.
One of my most fearful moments as a young child was when she got violently sick after drinking too much. She kept yelling that she was dying. That was pretty traumatizing – (how was I to know that it was just the alcohol talking?). Later, as an adult, I was embarrassed when she’d have a couple glasses of wine at lunch. Wine loosened her inhibitions and gave her permission to say whatever she wanted. Often that was petty and unkind. My older brother has signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. In those days, there wasn’t much testing. Instead, he was just labeled “slow” or “retarded.”
On her deathbed my mother asked for the rest of her children to please take care of him. I think she knew deep down she had played a role in the life that unfurled for him, which was very hard. In a drunken argument, my father shattered my brother’s kneecap when he was barely 20 – not good news for a golfer. Years later, my sister and I agreed that my mother should have left my father over his drinking. He was jailed a couple times for DUIs or “drunk and disorderly” but other than that, he worked hard and was a good provider for his family. That said, he died 20 years earlier than he should have from cancer. His death certificate listed “failure to thrive” as the cause of death. Not surprisingly, from the stats Annie stated in the book, 3 of their 4 children ended up struggling with alcohol.
After my post-college work in bars, I landed a job in the computer business. Alcohol played a huge role – not only at home-office happy hour but during travel as well. I had the luxury of flying business class or first class, with its perk of unlimited booze. Once I remember waking up in my hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, without remembering how I got there from the airport. In Australia I was so hung over from a night out with the local sales people, I could barely teach a daylong class to engineers who’d come from all over the world. But I did fine because I was – as Annie described herself and many of us to be – a high-functioning and successful person in the workplace. Our company’s home-office team partied every night. There was a bar on the top floor of our office building. We all headed there every night like lemmings, saying that we were blowing off steam from a rough day at work.
One of my best friends, a 25-year-old colleague who had a wife and a toddler, was killed in a car accident after one of those evenings. His passenger ended up with a broken back (she recovered after months of therapy). Oddly, I never even connected alcohol’s likely role in the accident, till now, many years later.
Booze and Love
About this time I met my husband at work. We clicked over lots of things, not least of which was our shared passion for Crown Royal on the rocks. Booze and love, they just seemed to go together for me. Like me, he came from a difficult home life. Leaving home at 16 and getting involved in drugs and alcohol. His uncle – the town drunk. Everyone in his parents’ circle confessed to needing to drink, because they said they would otherwise be “no fun at all.” So my husband and I had a lot in common. Both children of alcoholics and both successful in our careers. We traveled the world together working with multinational customers and with no expense-account limits to curb our appetites for whisky or wine.
Fast forward a couple of years after my marriage, and I was pregnant. I completely stopped drinking. Breastfeeding my daughter for nearly 3 years, I stayed away from booze, not wanting to pass alcohol to her through the breast milk. Once again booze and love were linked together but at least this time it was in a positive way. Then, after stopping the breastfeeding I felt free to start drinking again. Even after the almost four-year break, I went almost immediately from zero alcohol to heavy drinking.
My husband was right there with me. We started buying the large containers of vodka for our nightly screwdrivers. Neither of us has ever done day-drinking – our witching hours were always 5-11 p.m. One night he giggled when I stumbled in the kitchen and broke my highball glass. My daughter (at age 4) asked why what happened was funny. It was a sobering moment for me – the proverbial “wake-up call.”
Stopping Booze For Love
It took me a couple weeks with a counselor but I decided to stop drinking. I remember the counselor saying that I needed to be ready to feel like I’d lost my best friend, booze. Initially, I avoided situations where drinking was happening. Eventually, I got to where I could tolerate them without feeling deprived. I remember feeling a bit superior and also thinking that some events were indeed dull if I wasn’t drinking. My husband was working a lot and rarely home. When he was home, he drank heavily, which meant we couldn’t really relate to one another.
I began to feel that I didn’t have a partner, because the “real him” wasn’t ever there – just the drunk version of him. So I talked more with my counselor and I told my husband that I would not do what my mother did – I would not spend my life with a partner who wasn’t really there. I told him we both needed to be sober and “present” to parent our only daughter. Failing that, I would leave him and do the parenting solo. My husband quit drinking that very day. For 15 years we were both non-drinkers. Booze and love don’t go well together but love won out.
Free To Drink Again
When my daughter turned 18 and went away to college, my husband and I took up drinking again, after almost 15 years of sobriety. To be completely honest I don’t remember when the decision to start drinking actually happened. Maybe we said something like, “Let’s do a celebratory toast to our daughter’s going off to college – thank God!” Other stuff was happening in our lives, career- and financial-wise. We had some amazing good luck. We’d both worked hard and were financially comfortable. This meant there were no limits on how much we could afford to drink. We could afford to be “stuck up” spending tons for a bottle or two of wine. Now, we could go to nonprofit auctions and buy expensive bottles of cognac. We could go on resort vacations and stay on the “club” level where the best booze flowed, non-stop.
For us, alcohol subconsciously meant sophistication, success, and payback at that point in our lives.
This went on for several years. In this whole time we still managed to stay high-functioning in our work lives. We never drove and drank. Thank goodness for Uber and public transportation in our urban environment!
Recently though, I began asking myself the same questions that Annie did in the opening to her book. I questioned why, after deciding to have ONE glass of wine with TV, it would then ALWAYS turn into four or five glasses. Why couldn’t I stop after one glass and why were the last ones a blur? Why was I drinking so much? What was causing me to drink until I blacked out? Granted, I never puked after my 30’s but that’s because my tolerance was way high. At one point I also gained a ton of weight. Realizing the wine calories were adding up, I switched to vodka and soda. Finding it less problematic on the hangover front but unable to portion-control. Dropping wine also means dropping sugar; that was eye-opening.
Once back on the hard booze, I couldn’t believe how quickly the first two cocktails disappeared. A combination of dehydration and tolerance, I learned from Annie’s book. Even more startling was how many I could put away. Digestive issues plaguing me daily. No doubt directly tied to my alcohol consumption. On my travels I had to start stocking stomach meds, for the first time in my life. Persistent aches and pains began popping up likely because my liver was so busy dealing with toxins/poison all the time, so it never got a break. I had a traumatic knee event after an alcohol-aided fall. Yes, the doctor said the dislocation was a fluke that could happen to anyone. In my heart I suspected the pina coladas didn’t help.
Looking at all these miserable physical symptoms I realized that, of course, I was paying the price of too much alcohol consumption over a long period of time.
Love and Booze … Again
Around this time my daughter married. I looked back at a cute picture of my dad with her, when she was 3. Neither he nor my mother survived to see their first granddaughter marry the love of her life. I felt like I was going down the same path and that I’d have myself to blame if I fell ill and wasn’t alive for the birth of my first grand-child. Or, because my daughter is an only child, I wouldn’t be alive to accompany her through her adulthood years. Love and booze were rearing up again.
My husband, having similar thoughts, suggested we drink only on the weekend and not during the week. That lasted about a week. Somehow we jointly broke the pact, with no recriminations made to the other. Both relieved to be back drinking.
That’s where I was when I ordered Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind on Kindle, having read an article about it in the local paper. After the preface pages, I haven’t had a drink. It’s been six days and my head is reeling with the knowledge that I am in the top 10% of drinkers and that I, and my husband, are not alone. I have had a life-long, steep slide into the pitch plant – that analogy is very relatable. I live in an urban setting and I see the “dead bodies” of the other bees every single day. The drunks who are homeless and dying, and whose lives have been ruined by alcohol addiction.
Is it time for you to break the link between booze and love? You can start reading This Naked Mind for free today and learn how!
In these first few AF days, I have already rediscovered one of the best things I like about myself – a giddy sense of humor. Somehow, during the alcohol haze, I simply lost my natural, joyous high. I am starting to sleep better. Worrying a teeny bit less about my health because at least I am now doing something proactive to help my liver detox. My digestion is better. I hop out of bed with energy in the morning. My back feels better. I can’t wait to see how I feel on day 10.
I want to re-read the book (I also got the audible version) and get back to a healthier life that I can feel proud of. Most of all, I want to be happy and self-confident so as to better enjoy the future with my husband, my daughter and her new husband. No longer will I run around worrying about how soon the 5 p.m. drinking can start, or feeling endlessly guilty about how much I drink, and how much I am shortening my life.
Looking for support as you break the booze and love connection? Try joining us in The Alcohol Experiment to connect with others just like you.
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