11:03 Just some quick notes for the record. [EDIT: make that a long ramble for the record… this always seems to happen when I start out wanting to jot down some “quick notes.” Also, warning: possible wine triggers. This was about being exposed to wine and serving wine to another person, while practising abstention from alcohol. And wine used to be my drug of choice.]
Friday night my husband came home, I had been cleaning all day and feeling great. I do love to get things done, once I get going. I’d had a lovely lunch at home with the boys.
In the evening, I knew my husband would like to talk and relax and drink some beer as usual. He likes me to join him because of course we haven’t seen each other for a few days. I like to see him as well.
He came out and asked me: “So, are you completely alcohol-free right now?”
He had not asked that yet. And I had not yet officially told him.
I said: “Yes.”
Then I added, out of curiosity, “Why?”
And he said, “Oh, I was just wondering.”
And he then began looking through the cupboards. “Where is….” he trailed off. He was looking through the cupboard where we keep any old bottles of hard liquor, usually given to us as gifts by dinner guests, or kept on stock for neighbours who like those particular drinks.
“I think I might have put the vodka and the pastis in the freezer. Oh, no, there they are… behind those water bottles,” I said.
But he didn’t find what he was looking for and so went down to the cellar.
He came back up with a bottle of red. I felt a small glitch inside me, some twinge of habit-longing. Red wine, alongside sparkling wine, were my favourite alcoholic drinks, before.
He pulled the cork with a satisfying pop! and poured himself a nice nearly-full glass. The wine was dark and red and it was as though I could feel its tangy warmth on my tongue as I looked at it standing there on the counter. I pulled the cap off my raspberry near-beer. Chugged a swig directly from the bottle.
“Ahhh,” said my husband, talking the glass of ruby red in hand and walking to the sofa with it, sitting on the far left side, as usual.
I took my usual spot, not far away, and thought
of all those times I’d longed for the experience of partaking
and I had partaken
and I had later regretted
and I took another swig
of the raspberry-flavoured alcohol-free beer,
and I relished its new, fresh taste, and knew
I would not taste regret
in the morning.
And we had a lovely time.
Notes: I found it fascinating how he could drink an entire bottle and not lose motor nor speech control, as I would. He doesn’t normally drink during the week so it’s not got to do with tolerance. I guess it’s got to do with body size.
The only things I noticed were his tendency to get side-tracked in conversations. And his unconcern for the passage of time. It was me, unusually (meandering-minded as I am, even sober) who would keep having to shift the conversation back to the original tracks. And in my case, I got a lot done, for I managed to cover a variety of topics which needed talking about, such as business issues and accounts and upcoming visits with family, and scheduling. And we came to some agreements on those things, which rarely happens so seamlessly. And I, for one, remember all that was said, and even managed to complete some of the tasks right then and there, using the phone and my computer, without even really interrupting the social atmosphere.
For him it’s not a big deal, drinking the whole bottle plus one tall can of beer! he enjoys it with no regrets, but it did make me think that when I was drinking, it all seemed so rosy in the moment but ultimately, I was not using my time as I truly wished I would be.
So it became a problem for me.
Yesterday, Saturday, we had a relative for dinner, the same one whose birthday it had been when I took that first drink after my last 50-day alcohol-free stint. I am not close with her (though lord knows, in my failing way, I’ve tried often enough to be) and I have learned to shield myself a little from her instead of gush everything out like a tap as I was once wont to do. I had not wanted to come right out and tell her that I was now alcohol-free, because I had told her once before, and then not long after she had offered me a glass on her birthday anyway, apparently having forgotten. But it was mostly because I feared her judgements, and her assumptions, and what she might say to others, or even think to herself, behind my back. But in recent days I’d felt a steeling in my mind, a kind of hardening edge which said,
“I am willing to be judged and assumed about, by folks who are still in the zone of judging and assuming on this kind of matter. That is the sacrifice I make to remain true to my own cause. Let them think what they will.”
So when the time came to offer her a drink, as one must do, I offered all the things we had on hand, including beer and near-beer and pop and tea and including a bottle of chilled rosé, given as a gift by neighbour friends which I’d had over for dinner some months ago, and which had been very easy for me to keep all this time in the fridge without drinking, since rosé was not generally my favourite kind of wine, and because anyway, I had made up my mind. It was sort of like having only strawberry ice cream left in the box of Neapolitan, once one had decided to give up ice cream; it was nice enough in its own beautiful (though potentially toxic) rosy existence, but not tempting enough for me personally, and it could just sit there, waiting for its moment to be consumed by someone else, if someone really wanted it, and I wouldn’t think on it otherwise.
“What are you having?” she asked.
“I’m having a raspberry Tourtel Twist.” (That is the near-beer I was mentioning before.)
“Well go on then, I suppose I’ll have a glass of the rosé, if you don’t mind opening it; I quite like rosé,” she said.
And this was the first time I would open a bottle of wine with my own hands in 38 days. I felt a bit of the old twinge, doing it, the peach-coloured wine looked splendid going into the stem glass, and I really got that imaginary taste, that yearning for that tangy liquid on my tongue.
But once again I remembered how far I’d come, and why.
I gave her the glass, and she enjoyed it, and said it was one of the best rosé wines she’d tasted, and I said she must take the bottle home with her, and she said,
“Oh I couldn’t possibly, I’d never manage it all,” which is what I knew she would say. And then she added, “I’m sure you’ll find a moment to drink it, later, at some point,” winking at my husband.
And I felt that bit of steel rise up inside me and the steel seemed suddenly to have a voice; it was plain, simple and firm, and the voice said,
“No, I won’t be drinking it. But perhaps [DH] will, or another guest might drop by, if you’d rather not take it… or not, and then it will go to the garden; it doesn’t matter.”
And I made up my mind that that bottle of wine would not be drunk by me. It may be drunk by someone else, if they really wanted to; that was their decision to make; not mine, so long as I did not push it. Or it would be poured down the sink, to enter the septic tank without having first passed through my body, and to finally filter through into the garden; or it would be left to turn to vinegar in the fridge first, and perhaps I would one day use it to scrub the toilet; but it would not be drunk by me.