Have you ever thought it’s too late to change? Lili is 70 and was a daily drinker until she decided it was time to get naked.
My family was a long line of drinkers. My father was abusive when drinking and I lived in fear of him. Mother was a roller coaster drinker and a closet drinker. She managed it to the point that we didn’t worry about her. One April afternoon, as usual, she poured herself a tumbler of brandy to enjoy with a cigarette. Unsurprisingly, she became sleepy, and so she crossed the living room to her bedroom to nap. The cigarette, still lit, fell between the arm of her easy chair and the cushion. Mother died that day from monoxide poisoning. When my brother arrived at her house after his dinner, since Mother hadn’t answered her phone, the house burst into flames when he opened the door and air flowed in.
Small wonder – my brothers and I became addicted, just like our parents, theirs – another pair of tragic tales. My oldest brother died on my widowed mother’s living room floor in 1993, having consumed one too many 40-ouncers of vodka, straight from the bottle.
It was a daily routine. For four days,he laid on her carpet autolysing. Mother thought he was sleeping, and having touched him and finding him cold, covered his body with a quilt. He was found thus by my middle brother, who at age 21 (29 years before), had sworn off liquor. He believed that one day it would cause him to kill someone in a blind rage, his norm when he was drunk, which occurred daily for several years. He quit permanently.
My youngest brother is a fine man. In his professional life he was an ultrasound technician. A talented carpenter, he built his own three-bedroom cottage on Lake Winnipeg. Now, several decades later, it still stands, a summer residence for him and his family.
Divorced From Alcohol
Unfortunately, alcohol turned him into a crass and cruel man. Twenty-five years ago, on the day of his daughter’s wedding, he quit for good. He realized how awful he was when drunk. He said, “No more. I’m giving my liver a rest.” The end. He remains a non-drinker.
I don’t know exactly when I started drinking. I do recall having a delicious drink one Christmas Eve at a neighbor’s, a concoction of rye whisky, cranberry juice and ginger ale. I wanted another. I was 14. Until I left Winnipeg in August, 1966, I drank mostly on weekends, sometimes with friends – usually binge-drinking.
Pouring It On
When I arrived in Toronto in late August, 1966, I initially did not drink. Two months later, I began to date a man fourteen years my senior, Todd. Dating Todd included going out for drinks. Todd drank moderately, but I did not. I loved the taste of Zombies and other fancy cocktails. After a night out, I often puked and suffered next-day hangovers. Always, I tried to drink less the next time. For the most part, other than those weekends of my over-drinking during our courtship, alcohol didn’t factor into our lives in any major way.
I returned to Winnipeg in 1967 to attend teachers’ college. My life centered around my part-time job, attending classes and practice teaching. I seldom drank. Because we were very much occupied with what we were doing, we didn’t drink very often or very much.
In general, because of work and learning responsibilities, for many years alcohol was unimportant in our daily lives. We drank on special occasions and holidays with family and friends. When we were on vacation from my teaching duties and his studies, we’d camp en route to visiting our families in western Canada. We drank more then, and more often, but upon returning to our lives in Toronto, we returned to periodic consumption of alcohol.
I retired from teaching in 2001 at age 52. Yes, I drank, but I identified myself as a moderate, social drinker. Drinking was not a daily practice, and I didn’t feel I was drinking too much or too often. I wasn’t suffering then. I felt no guilt, and I definitely enjoyed drinking, both the taste and the effect.
In 2002 I bought a better bike and joined a cross-Canada bike tour. We averaged 137 km daily. I loved cycling the long distances, the camaraderie and the daily beers in camp. The culture of the group of 27, with only a few exceptions, embodied being a daily drinker – generally beers. Between 2002 and 2013, my life revolved around more foot races, dualthons, and bike races. What captivated me most, though, were long distance bike tours. For certain during these bike tours, at the end of the day’s ride, I was a daily drinker – rarely binge-drinking. It was clearly an entrenched and enjoyable habit.
After that final tour, we experienced a dramatic, life-altering event. It was late February, 2013. Todd and I were at the house in Florida. He hadn’t been feeling well for about a year, frequently striking his chest with a fist and raising his arms high to help him breathe. On February 27, he came indoors after working in the yard and asked to be taken to emergency room. By the time we got to the hospital, he was barely alive.
After four hours of chemical interventions, he was stabilized. He was transferred to another hospital, where he underwent a heart catheterization the next afternoon. The procedure revealed serious arterial blockages. Todd needed immediate quintuple bypass surgery, which was performed the next morning, March 1.
Post-op, the prognosis was good. We were told that he’d be discharged on March 8. Two days prior though, he suffered a cerebellar stroke with Wallenberg Syndrome. Sight, speech and balance were seriously compromised. Despite being told it was a mild stroke, with the symptoms likely to disappear in 3-4 weeks, the symptoms worsened. Back in Toronto, even with aggressive professional rehabilitation programs for the next 24 weeks, he began the slow, inexorable decline toward total dependence.
Todd’s existence and mine have been circumscribed by the stroke. For five years and six months I have been the full time caregiver for Todd. The physical and mental deterioration (vascular dementia) that have occurred are profound. As each year has passed and as his physical and mental capacities have diminished, I have found myself a daily drinker.
All Day All Night
Typically, I’d have my first beers by 10 a.m. By noon I’d switch to wine, tired of the beery taste. At day’s end, I’d have a few vodka and water. I would drink all day, but I was seldom visibly drunk, just more relaxed, less edgy, less worried and better able to deal with the misery and stress of providing full-time care for a difficult individual.
More and More
Since last March, when Todd encountered a serious health setback, my consumption increased. No rehabilitation center in Toronto would accept him because of his behavior. I brought him home on May 17. Would it surprise you to learn that my drinking increased yet more?
Ready To Stop
For the past two years I have tried to quit. I would go for days, weeks, even months without alcohol, feeling wonderfully healthy, proud, at peace and full of good feelings and hope. And then I’d relapse.
This Naked Mind
Now, I am trying again. The catalyst for this new attempt at permanent sobriety was a conversation with my cousin. She has struggled with alcohol also. She mentioned This Naked Mind, and outlined the main premises. So desperate am I to rid myself of this nemesis that alcohol is, that I immediately bought the book via Kindle. I started reading it as soon as it downloaded. This past Thursday, after drinking two jumbo beers and 750 ml of white wine, I didn’t even have a mild buzz. I read half the book while semi-drunk. I finished it the next day, sober.
Are you done being a daily drinker? Start reading This Naked Mind today to find out how to stop.
70 and Sober
I am now on Day 5 of sobriety. I keep hearing Annie’s words as I struggle to stay on track. I was tested on Sunday at a Celebration of Life for a former colleague at which there was unlimited wine and beer. I had two club sodas. Again, yesterday, while having lunch with a close friend, I so very much wanted a beer, and I was happy that the restaurant does not have a license. It’s raining, and I have three hours of free time with a personal support worker tending to Todd. Before reading This Naked Mind, I’d be at the local pub by now, and I’d stay there until it would be time to walk back home. Instead, I’ll be walking in the park nearby.
There are no guarantees that this new world view will work for me. It won’t be easy to escape the love affair after 56 years, but it’s a destructive one – one that has given me an ugly jelly belly and feelings of self-loathing and disrespect. Alcohol has robbed me of important memories of special times. I have been poisoning my body, especially my brain and liver, for over half a century. Are they recoverable? I believe so.
Yes, a few. I definitely feel better. I don’t feel bloated. My sleeps are deeper and I wake up feeling rested, not as if I need more sleep. My fuse is much longer, i.e. I have more patience when dealing with Todd. Annie’s father said it best. Finally – maybe, just maybe, I understand that it is doing nothing good for me.
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Have you also used This Naked Mind to stop being a daily drinker? Please share your story and help others!