I’ve been thinking a bit about the “one glass of wine won’t hurt” syndrome. For me, that was the final rationalization that I had to kick out the door to stay sober. Over the years that I’ve participated in an online community of people trying to stop drinking and stay alcohol-free, I have seen so many brilliant posts from people who have months or years of satisfied sobriety behind them, and then fall in the one glass won’t hurt hole. Their honest brave posts, sharing back to the community that they slipped or slid and are having trouble gaining traction again, will always help to keep me from complacency.
If there was a test for “alcoholism”, like a blood test or a brain scan that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of us cannot drink without sliding down the rabbit hole to hell — then things would be much easier. We could walk into a bar with a friend, blow into a tube, and the bartender could say……
“ Nope sorry, none for you. Your friend here can go ahead and drink himself blotto but you have the Disease, Enjoy your tonic and lime! ”
But the problem is that there is still an active debate over whether alcoholism a thing. Is alcohol addiction a disease or a genetic tendency or just a saturation point that overachievers will eventually reach if they drink. For those of us who do not adopt the label alcoholic and all that goes with it, we have to find our own way. We have to own our own truth.
It can take a long time for us to get over the “one glass won’t hurt” syndrome because everywhere we look we see people drinking. If we have a tragic or stressful experience well-meaning friends and family offer us a drink to calm our nerves. If we’ve been sober for a while our friends are often the first to suggest that we’re all better now and should be able to join them for a beer or two. It really is hard as hell to stick to sobriety.
After slipping into that one glass won’t hurt trap 5 or 6 times in my first month of attempted “sobriety forever”, I found that the only way I could avoid the trap was to remember. To keep a record. How do you avoid what I now know is called Fading Affect Bias ? Always keep an honest account at your fingertips.
So here it is … my last 3 just one glass experiences. Recording for myself the affect of wine on me, that I have not allowed to fade since March 6 2015. Sobriety truly does offer everything that alcohol promised- accept the hangover !
Unexpected Resentment – Trigger #1
About 5 days into my “I’ll never drink again!” commitment in February I was floating around on a pink cloud covered in sparkle dust . I was singing Joni Mitchell at the top of my lungs and felt like I was 15 again. Nothing could stop me. My hands were firmly on the reins of my graceful mighty unicorn. Then my husband who had promised to stop drinking with me, came home from a stressful day at work, having had a “glass of whiskey” and I went crashing down into the slime bog so fast I didn’t even think twice. I had no idea that I was actually looking for an excuse to have a drink but I was. In the first few weeks alcohol-free, we don’t realize that at the flip of a switch anything can become a trigger. I have learned since then that my lizard brain/ wine witch/ bad wolf is a tricky bugger.
Not Understanding HALT or Misguided Self Care – Trigger #2
About ten days later I had just returned home on an overnight flight from visiting my mom. I hadn’t had a drink in about a week. Maybe exactly 7 days. I had bought every book insight on alcohol addiction and worked my way through a few. I was feeling very calm and proud of myself and found myself hungry, tired and home alone with a suitcase full of treats for my hubby and kids. Such a good mom, wife, daughter ……right? No one will know if I have a “glass of wine” while I arrange the presents on the table because it’s eleven in the morning and I need some sleep anyway ……right?
At nine pm my daughter was finally able to wake me up. I was in bed where they had all expected me to be when they got home but it wasn’t because of the overnight flight it was the bottle and a half of wine that followed the first “ innocent” glass.
Fear and the Poor Me Syndrome – Trigger #3
And finally, on March 3rd or 4th I had a small surgery scheduled to remove a little cancer type thing from the inside corner of my left eye. Nothing dangerous or scary but I hated the idea of cutting my face like that. So I was really nervous which is unusual for me. That sneaky little voice told me that under these unusual circumstances it really would be fine for me to have just one glass of wine .
The last glass ever ……really…..
…………that night when I was literally floating up the stairs to bed I did some sort of balletic twist around the banister and landed on my tail bone and ribs. I’ll never know how I did that because I was blacked out. I only knew in the morning because I could feel the pain . That is really a story that I hate. It is the reason that I finally “got it” and know that for me there will never be a glass of wine.
But the real Trigger to Drinking Too Much for me? Pouring that first glass and lifting it to my lips.
Finally understanding, internalizing, accepting that I cannot drink safely, was a long process for me. It was a truth that took years to own because I’d always enjoyed drinking and often drank too much while thinking I was getting away with it. But sometime around my 50th year, I found that after one glass my brain not only shuts down, it hungrily, greedily, almost aggressively demands more. Never slipping back into that mindset of trivializing what one drink would mean to me is the reason that I will happily participate in some small way in the community that helped me stop drinking for the rest of my life. I’m in control of whether or not I pour the first glass and therefore I will not …ever again…because once I drink that first glass I’m gone.
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