Drinking Culture and Alcoholism
I’ve been thinking about booze lately.
I love wine. I’m not a wine expert and I don’t have expensive taste. But I love the way a full-bodied Cabernet dries the roof of my mouth and warms my throat going down. I love supporting my local wineries. I love wine paired with dark chocolate. I love how relaxed I feel after a glass. I love how happy I feel after two.
A few weeks ago, I was walking with a couple friends after an improv workshop to grab a drink. We were passing the wine and liquor section of the grocery store, and one of them said “Hey Carly, it’s your favorite spot!”
I laughed and then cringed a little. I didn’t even know the group I was with all that well at the time–but my reputation must have preceded me. It’s true: I talk about wine a lot. I Instagram it even more.
My mom is a sober alcoholic. I’ve known this my whole life. She never hid this part of her life from her children or her friends. She has described the moment she realized she needed help so many times, but still I can’t hear it without tears coming. She was 28. Hungover on a weekday, she called her mom, who had been praying for years. Her mom–my grandmother–picked her up for her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that afternoon.
Ever since I was a little, I’ve pictured the courage my mother had to go to that first AA meeting. At 28. She didn’t stop drinking then, but that was the beginning of her journey to sobriety. The age always stuck out to me. It sounded like too young and beautiful an age to be controlled by a bottle.
I’m 28. And I think it’s a good time for me to be unflinchingly honest with myself. No excuses, no justification, no rationalizing behavior. Do I think I have a problem with alcohol? No. But I don’t ever want that to be a knee-jerk response. I want it to be a response I can come to honestly and in good conscience. I want to be extra careful than the average person.
I’ve lately seen a few incidents of unhealthy drinking. I think it is pretty easy to be a functioning alcoholic in our culture because drinking–even binge drinking–is so normalized. It’s totally accepted for coworkers to get drunk together on Friday nights because they “deserve” it after a stressful week. Wine, especially, is marketed to mothers so much that one of my local wineries makes a “Mommy Juice” label and it sells incredibly well. Celebrations of all kinds include alcohol, and sloppy drunken mistakes are “funny stories.”
Who among the coworkers and the wino-moms and the birthday revelers are problem drinkers? It’s hard to tell.
Poet Dylan Thomas said “an alcoholic is someone you don’t like, who drinks as much as you do.”
I’ve recently seen someone make some pretty sloppy mistakes while drunk that may cost her in the future. It’s easy for me to point at her and call her an idiot for her choices, but I’m more interested doing the harder thing now, which is looking inside myself.
I’m ready to be more careful with alcohol. I’m ready to be vulnerable and ask the people I trust to keep me honest. I’m ready to not give into a culture that says getting sloppy is normal and fun.
I will probably always love the way a Cabernet slides down my throat. But I will also always be evaluating my relationship to the drink. I force myself to stand on the precipice of letting it go.