We all, at least occasionally, envy the 'moderate drinker.'
My husband is one. I watch him sneak his bottle of Saint Emilion out from behind a row of books in our playroom (he's taken to hiding bottles just like an alkie housewife!), and pour one glass to drink while we watch TV.
One glass! Much as I love him, sometimes I feel this urge to stick my fingers in his eyes (and you wonder why he's hiding the bottles!).
When I was a thirty a day smoker (see the pattern here?) I used to envy the moderate smoker with a vengeance.
Then I read Alan Carr. He pointed out that the housewife who limits herself to 5 cigarettes a day is just as addicted as the pack a day smoker. She is utterly reliant on those five and can't quit any easier than I could.
In fact, her life is more miserable, as - because she is defying her inner addict - she has to constantly deal with cravings, whereas I would just satisfy mine.
This, for me, was an epiphany. And, funnily enough, whilst I quit smoking thirteen years ago, my five-a-day friends are still chuffing away and are desperate to stop, especially now their children are older and they find themselves smoking more and more each day.
I now realise that the same is true of drinking. I'm sure that there are people out there who are totally 'take it or leave it' about alcohol, and not in the slightest addicted (although I suspect that they also don't really enjoy it that much - in which case, what's the point?), but there are also vast numbers of people who are just as addicted to their 'moderate amounts' as we were to our bottles a day. And many of them are miserable about it.
I received an e-mail yesterday from Fiona (not her real name), who kindly agreed that I could share her story. Here's what she said:
My problem is I don't drink that much - comparatively that is, but still it disrupts my life. I used to drink just one glass of wine 1-2 times a week when we ate out. Now it is hard for me to stop at 1 glass, usually I have another and sometimes even a third when we get home, still only 1-2 times a week but I feel cranky, tired and foggy the next day and I think why, why, why, at 50 would I want to waste about 20% of the last of my relatively youthful years feeling like this???
I try to picture myself in 20 years at 70 - eegads - and I know if at 70 someone said to me, here you can live this extra year as yourself at age 50 I would loooove that, just as I would love to have a whole year of me at 30 right now, so why do I throw these days away like they aren't precious?? And looking like this too - as you mention, my face now shows it with this sickening puffiness.
So Fiona's tried to quit and, you know what? Not easy! Which is why she mailed me.
The truth is that stories like Fiona's are never going to make those articles in the Daily Mail about 'problem middle aged drinking'. Fiona would be seen as drinking 'sensibly', 'moderately', 'healthily', but it's still messing up her life and making her feel terrible.
The more blogs, books and e-mails I read, the more I realise that generalisations are useless and dangerous, and that none of us knows what goes on in other people's lives. Certainly no-one knew what was going on in mine!
So next time you envy the moderate drinker, just stop. It's terribly likely that (s)he is envying you....
Thank you, Fiona, from us all. Best of luck to you, and please keep in touch.
Have a fab Friday everyone!