The question of moderation came up in a recent discussion. I am an alcoholic so needless to say the ability to moderate drinking is to me the holy grail. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I envy those of you who can enjoy that beer with friends down by the river on a summer’s eve, perhaps have another two or three, get a little giggly and silly and then wander home after enjoying a lovely evening like that. I mean, wander home and that’s THAT. Because I could of course join you, I could even (but not without effort, I hasten to add – you guys drink infuriatingly slowly) drink at the same pace and have the same number of drinks and laugh with you as we sit there watching the river flow by on its journey back to low tide, leaving the walk path wet in that little dip between the pub and that fancy big house someone just renovated where it always flows over its banks when the tide is high. Risky spot, their home insurance must be astronomical. And when you wander home and the evening is over, leaving our empty glasses behind, I make a stop at the off licence and buy at least one, but probably two, bottles of wine and take myself from pleasantly tipsy to roaring drunk and eventually unconscious once I’m back home. I don’t have that off switch, see.
For me, moderation doesn’t work. Actually, for me it doesn’t bloody exist. And I would go as far as to suggest moderation, whether you’re an addict or otherwise, is a myth. It doesn’t exist for those of you who aren’t alcoholics or addicts any more than it does for those of us who are. And how can I say this? What leap of utter lunacy has landed me at such an outrageous conclusion?
How about I said this to you: “I eat carrots in moderation.”
Are those the words of someone who has no problem with carrots?!
Exactly. Isn’t that just so dumb??!
If someone said to me that they moderate how many biscuits they eat everyday, I would assume they are either trying to lose weight or ended up having too many if they didn’t keep themselves in check. If there is no problem, why would you need to moderate? That just doesn’t make sense. Someone whose drinking doesn’t spill over into the darkness of addiction and alcoholism NEVER has to consciously think about moderation. Why would you? I can’t imagine non-alkies pour their first drink and repeat in their minds like a mantra I’m-going-to-stop-at-four-drinks. Sure, normal drinkers may – and probably DO! – hear about recommended limits and consciously say no to drinks on a particular day because they went to a party two days before and think about how much and how often they drink, but that’s not the same thing as far as I’m concerned. Also, if I look at e.g. my husband, something happens to him when he’s had a bit too much to drink AND THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ME – his body tells him to stop. He feels perhaps a little queasy, maybe lightheaded, even a little bit ill and if he were to force more drink down his neck he might actually throw up. His body goes YUK! Hold up, cowboy! My body (never mind my brain!) doesn’t do that. In my mind and body there is a raging desire, a thirst that can’t be quenched.
Can I also be clear on another thing here? Even when hubby goes on a bender (like on his stag do, during which he got VERY drunk!) the state he ends up in isn’t even near where I get to. I don’t think hubby knows what black-out is or has even been near it. After excessive nights out he might say his memory is a bit hazy but I can almost assure you he won’t have any nights where a solid block of hours are a blank, or a point in the evening after which he has no memory whatsoever. So I actually doubt a non-alkie could get to those stages us alkies get to, I don’t think your bodies would allow you even if you tried. You’d just end up puking in the gutter.
Anyhoo! I can’t speak for any alcoholic other than myself and I certainly can’t speak for non-alcoholics, but I can look at the difference between me and hubby. An alkie and a non-alkie.
Funnily enough, we probably have the first drink for the same reason. Let’s take today, because it’s a stunningly beautiful September Friday and the sun is shining. Come the evening, we’d both have that first drink because we’re happy and it’s the weekend and the wine will sprinkle a bit of additional glitter on our excellent mood. We’re relaxed and happy. Yes, that’s right, even after half a life spent getting wasted, I’ve never – NOT ONCE – poured the first glass of wine hoping I’d end up in black-out, fall over and knock my chin against the dining table and write a bunch of embarrassing nonsense on Facebook. Oblivion is never and has never been the intention when I take the first sip. Or gulp. Fiiiiiine *sigh* let’s be pedantic – the first few greedy, hungry gulps, plural.
The booze does what booze does and it numbs us into that state we take for fun – gets us a little loose and dopey, removes inhibitions and makes us giggly and goofy. I’ll concede that this bit is great fun – how could it not be? And right about here it IS like someone poured a bit of glitter on our already good Friday mood and chills us out even further now that the working week is out of the way.
Difference? For hubby this is now enough, this is the good place to be, and where he might either slow right down or even order a soft drink. He’s good and glittery. And so am I in that brief little moment but that’s not where I stay. For me….. I was searching my mind just then to work out how I can accurately describe it to you, and the image that comes to me is of a massive, furious, black tornado tearing across the plains in my direction – I’m directly in its path and it rips me away, throws and spins me mercilessly into a centrifuge of hell. That glittery feeling? That’s sort of like the train whistle when you hear it in the distance like an ominous warning echoing in the distance before the train comes roaring in. That’s all it is and it’s almost as brief. Or the spot where winds and temperatures form a terrifying force of nature. It does for hubby exactly what you see in booze commercials and he can appreciate the carefully selected wine that enhances his meal, whereas for me the damn steak I only eat because I have to and the wine could be fucking urine for all I care so long as I can keep drinking and go faster and faster until I know no more.
Moderation – I will have to ask hubby now, but I don’t think he would during an evening like the one I describe make a conscious choice to stop at a specific number of drinks. I think it just happens, that he just feels it’s enough and has no need to drink more, let alone faster and faster. When I have alcohol free beer I sometimes wonder if this is how non-alcoholics feel. I do, even now, take a few greedy gulps of the first one – I honestly do! And then quite quickly a few more. I am a bit thirsty, see, and the beer tastes so good! (Heineken 0.0 and Becks Blue are my favourites along with my absolute number one Birra Moretti Zero – yum!). The second, now that my thirst is quenched, is a lot slower and although it tastes just as nice, I’m now good. I may, but probably won’t, have a third. There is no need and the choice is all mine and I can do that thing I have never, ever been able to do with alcohol: I can take it or leave it! It isn’t important to me and if I ran out of beer it wouldn’t make me panic because I can have a glass of water if I’m thirsty.
I’ve started working out and I’m getting back in to running as well. Hubby has consistently always kept up with his fitness, but claims he’s put on a few pounds over the summer so wants to up his game a little. The other day he said he’s cutting back on things that typically make you gain weight and beer is of course one. But so are biscuits, chocolate and carb heavy meals, so he’s also cutting back on all of those things. This is of course conscious moderation but I maintain that this is very different from trying to moderate one specific thing. There is a difference between making adjustments to achieve a goal (cut calories to slim down, cut caffeine to sleep better, spend less to save up for something, etc etc…) and moderating something because we can’t control it or it causes terrible consequences. Hubby is just moderating things to lose a bit of weight and is possibly also a little spurred on by wifey who is suddenly working quite hard to get in shape. Like the other day when someone wore a pair of trousers that looked really good, I asked what brand they were. Sometimes those around us inspire us to follow suit. Hubby has, as I mentioned, always been into fitness so of course he’ll possibly feel a bit energised when his wife gets going. We are always affected and influenced to a greater or lesser degree by those around us, and when I drank, hubby ended up drinking more than he normally would too. Almost inevitable, I think.
But we were talking about moderation. Which I think is a pile of bullshit, but keen to hear your views. In particular I’d love to know if there has EVER been an alcoholic who learned to moderate and went on to drink like a non-alcoholic, with an off switch.
Does any of that make sense? Do you know what I mean when I outline my little theory on how moderation is a myth? Or perhaps I should say that for me, Anna the alcoholic, moderation is a myth because 1) those who would need it can’t do it, and 2) those who don’t need it….. …uhm… ..don’t fucking need it anyway!
Today I’m not going to drink.