I’ve often worried that I might someday have to stop Drinking.
When I was twenty nine I won a job with an orchestra in Portugal and unexpectedly found myself packing my bags and leaving the United States. The morning after my going away party when I woke up with a dreadful hangover a friend told me that I could not leave because there was wine everywhere in Portugal and no Alcoholics Anonymous.
Troubled by vague memories of my drunken shenanigans the night before and in a rather foul mood I remember saying something brilliant and defensive like.......
“ Oh Yeah …You Too! “
I was pretty sure that I would never need Alcoholics Anonymous and beer was my drink of choice anyway.
I never planned to stay in Europe but I met my husband here and have spent the last twenty two years in this beautiful sun drenched country working and raising our family. I did develop a taste for the wonderful wines of Portugal but for the most part drank pretty much like my friends. I would occasionally over do it but I hoped I wasn’t anywhere close to needing Alcoholics Anonymous. I was able to have two sober pregnancies quite easily and keep all of the balls in the air in my busy constantly evolving life.
It has been very difficult at times to be so far from my country but a window back to American culture was always there on my television. When I started to worry that I was drinking too much in the evening I got the impression from the American media that my nightly wine drinking was pretty normal for my generation.
I loved the show Parenthood and it seemed like every episode included a big family dinner with wine and beer flowing or a “girls night out” followed by hangovers the next morning. Modern Family, Cougar Town and Desperate Housewives all normalized the image of middle aged mother’s relaxing with a couple of glasses of wine in the evening or in some cases a bottle. When I saw Ellen demonstrate the XL wine glass as one of her gift picks for Christmas 2012 and her audience laughed knowingly and enthusiastically at it indeed holding an entire bottle I felt like I wasn’t really drinking as addictively as I thought.
I finally found that I did have to stop drinking but it wasn’t AA that gave me the community that I needed. In the era of the internet anonymous support is at the touch of a finger and I found sobriety by blogging on an Australian site called Hello Sunday Morning. There are many sobriety blogs and communities on the internet that offer a different approach to the traditional twelve step programs but the wide open international aspect of Hello Sunday Morning worked for me.
A lot has changed in the United States during the twenty two years I’ve lived in Europe. My friend was right that wine is everywhere in Portugal but it is simply a traditional part of daily life here to drink wine with meals. There are rows of wine in the grocery store but it is not marketed as an antidote to stress for tired moms. Europe may eventually pick up on the American trend of marketing wine as a panacea but for now wine is simply marketed as wine.
After HelloSundayMorning was featured in an article in the New Yorker magazine last year quite a few Americans and Canadians joined the site. I was about three months sober at the time and very active in supporting new members. It seemed that every day there were women joining from the States who told the same unsettling story. They were drinking a bottle or more of wine most nights as a way to wind down from work and parenting responsibilities. They knew that they needed to stop and they wanted to stop but after years of seeing wine as the natural and normal antidote to stress it was doubly hard to break the addiction. Everywhere they turned wine was offered and drinking wine was not only encouraged but expected. They often gave up trying to stop drinking and that made me very sad. While a bottle of wine a night is not the kind of heavy drinking that we often associate with acute alcoholism it is definitely enough to darken your life.
It is difficult to tell sometimes if the media is reflecting our behavior or if our behavior is influenced by the media. But over here in Europe on the other side of the window seeing wine marketed as Mommy’s Time Out to be drunk from Mommy’s Sippy Cup while toasting Kathie Lee and Hoda as they lift their glasses at 10:00 in the morning on the Today show is a disturbing trend.
I’m 509 days sober now but I’ve never felt I needed to count days and I’ve never become comfortable calling myself an alcoholic.
What I have learned is that drinking is something that is best done moderately or not at all by all of us, and the best gift you can give yourself, if you have any question about your consumption, is to take a break from the booze.
If you wonder if you’re drinking a bit too much too often give yourself a break. Check out Hello Sunday Morning , Soberistas, Hip Sobriety, or the 100 day challenge on Tired of Thinking About Drinking.
In the age of the internet there is anonymous community support at the click of a mouse.