I don’t remember what I was dreaming as I woke this morning, but I do recall saying the words “And then we’ll reward ourselves with a large glass of wine”. I can still picture the glass of wine Dream-Me was imagining as I said the words. Now, of course, when I woke I had no desire for said imagined glass of wine and even had a bit of relief that that was just Dream-Me, and hell no, no part of me wants any part of that alcohol-as-reward mindset that got me into so much trouble in my past.
I noticed a couple of other things this week – and in the waking world to boot.
On Friday after the ending of a particularly long and stressful and extra-work-filled working week, we popped in to get groceries. We got way more groceries that usual, extra stuff we didn’t “need-need”, magazines for the boys, all that sort of stuff. Because I was feeling reward-hungry and switching off the adult who says “No, you don’t need that” feels good. I become less likely to say “no” to my children on a shopping trip like this as well – in fact I’m more likely to say no to myself than them!
We went up and down aisles and I spent a few minutes in each imaginating cooking elaborate dinners (if only I had time) or the neat house in which various other items might fit. The last aisle is the alcohol aisle, and recently I haven’t even thought twice when walking through there, but something about Friday drew my eyes to some new brand of Pale Ale (my beer of choice) that was prominently displayed on the shelves. I felt a brief moment of longing, then passed along and forgot about it.
On the Tuesday of the aforementioned long and exhausting week, we had a Parent-Teacher Meeting for the 6th years. That’s always a particularly intense meeting as it’s the culmination of the girls’ secondary schooling and there’s usually a lot of concern around maths for most of them. Close to the end of the meeting there was a bit of a break as we all waited for the last few parents to straggle in. I wandered over to where a few other maths teachers were gathered, chatting. Everyone was exhausted and one made a comment of “Do you know what I really need now?” to which I responded “Vodka and Redbull”.
My comment got a laugh, because it was ridiculous, but also because it was a little bit true. And I don’t even believe anymore in using alcohol as a reward, or using it to alleviate stress. And yet the social message that that’s what it’s for is so strongly ingrained in me that it’s my goto for cheap laughs and easy connection with a group of others.
Following on from this, the original person mentioned in hushed and conspiratorial tones how over the weekend she’d had a glass of wine at 11am in the morning. A bottle had remained unfinished from the previous day, she had nowhere to necessarily be, was on a Monday off, etc. …
For me there was a sense that she was telling us in order to be told “oh that’s fine”, we all might do that on holidays. It’s just a little naughty. But maybe a little fun. And of course that’s exactly the response she got from us. Yes, me included. Because my sobriety is more of a shameful secret than any of my past drinking habits.
But I judged. Or worried. I’m not sure. And I judged the hell out of myself too. I am feeling like I can’t be externally honest about my alcohol behaviours or opinions because of how others might immediately feel judged by my lack of alcohol consumption due to the light it might cast on their own. I can’t even talk about my decision to not drink personally because I imagine I will immediately be drawn into reassuring someone else about their drinking.
And I don’t want to do that. Because if you’re concerned about your drinking, maybe you should be. See? That sounds judgemental. Honestly, it’s not. It’s just that alcohol is a drug. So too is sugar for example.
Try this: If you’re concerned about your sugar consumption, maybe you should be. It’s not “fine” to do anything to excess, and we probably should be concerned, or watchful of ourselves with anything that triggers the reward centres of the brain. Coz it’s likely we’re over-doing it and putting stress on our physical houses.
Does that make some sense? Does that sound less judgemental? I hope so.
I’ll still probably never say it out loud.