Sunday 31 May 2015

The Wine Witch

Day 91, and I've been thinking about the Wine Witch.

For me, the single most telling sign that you are no longer in control of alcohol, but it is in control of you is when you instinctively understand the concept of the 'wine witch.'

I only met her about 3 years ago. Until then, if you'd mentioned her name I would have had no idea what you were talking about.

Some people call her the 'inner addict' or the 'devil on the shoulder.' But, for many of us - particularly women - the 'Wine Witch' describes her perfectly.

At some point (for some, as soon as they start drinking in their teens, but for many of us not until our forties) she starts whispering in our ear, and from that moment on she becomes an increasingly intrusive presence.

The WW starts rather innocuously. She begins whispering "are you sure that's going to be enough? Perhaps best to buy another bottle just in case you run out." Then she gets a bit more competitive. Like "didn't he pour himself a much bigger glass than he poured you?"

She moves on to deviousness "Have a glass or two before you go out, then you won't need to drink so much when you're there." And ends up just plain weird "You bought wine from that shop yesterday. The cashier might remember. Go somewhere else."

The only way to shut up the wine witch is to drown her out - to give her as much alcohol as she wants. The reason why it's always a good idea to try moderating before quitting for good isn't just to prove to yourself that you can't do it, it's also because moderating is when the Wine Witch gets really loud and insistent. "ONE GLASS? THAT'S NOT ENOUGH! BARELY TOUCHED THE SIDES! WHAT ARE YOU? A WOMAN OR A MOUSE?" That's when you start to get the measure of your enemy. You know what you're up against.

I've been thinking about the WW since I went to stay at the parent's house (see Muscle Memory), because she started to become increasingly obvious when I was there. Which reminded me of another time when I couldn't ignore her any longer: Long Haul Flights.

Now I loved flying on Business. You were plied with free drinks, from the moment you got on the plane "complimentary champagne, madam?" to the moment you dropped off to sleep. "Digestif? Nightcap?"

But economy flights with the family were an altogether different proposition.

I became convinced that British Airways had changed their alcohol policy, that they'd become more parsimonious with the vino. Because whereas I used to be perfectly happy on long haul flights, they now made me really stressed. Surely they used to give you more than one drink pre dinner and wine with dinner? Now I suspect that the only thing that changed was me.

By the time we'd been through security etc. and boarded the plane I'd be desperate for a drink (despite the fact that I usually managed to have one in the airport). I'd have to wait until we were in the air and the trolley finally came out. I'd be riveted to the slow progress of the trolley down the aisle. For God's sake get a move on!!! Then, after dinner, and after the two smallish drinks I'd been given, I'd wrestle endlessly with the dilemma of whether I could call the stewardess over to ask for another wine.

I knew that if I did they'd give me one. I saw other people doing it (only a few, and mainly young men!). But I couldn't bear the idea of them judging me. Especially a mother travelling with three small children.

At moments like these the Wine Witch would go loopy. "CALL THE DAMN STEWARDESS! WHO CARES WHAT SHE THINKS!"

So when I first came across her name a few months ago on the Soberistas website it was like a light bulb switching on. Not only had someone named my demon, but I was obviously not the only one who'd met her.

I like to think that every day you go not drinking you drain more of the wine witch's power. Mine is now pretty much in a coma. She's still there, but she's weak, and she's not talking any more.

But the reason why you can't have one drink is that the wine witch never completely goes away once she's made herself at home. And one drink is all she needs to leap back into action. One drink and she starts saying "Look, that wasn't so bad, was it? Just one glass, like a normal drinker!"

Then, the next weekend she pops up again "You did so well last time! Have another. Just the one, mind." And that second glass gives her even more strength. Before you know it she's back, big time. Even more powerful than before.

If you're reading this thinking "Wine witch? What's she on about?" then pat yourself on the back. Feel grateful. Carry on drinking in moderation. But watch out, because once she starts whispering in your ear she's there forever.

Love SM x


  1. I'm not sure how long I've known the wine witch but I don't like her.... she says similar things to me like "go to a different shop today in case the cashier starts thinking you've got a problem!!'

    1. Isn't it weird the way we all become obsessed by cashiers!?!

    2. It's all part of the paranoia you know deep down there's a problem but you wouldn't want anyone else to think it .... how insulting! !

  2. Great post SM. I hate the WW. Mine is still there albeit much weaker now, making me think I can 'do' moderation. I know I can't. Been there (many times) and always end up in the same mess. My battle now is trying to make her disappear altogether. That's so hard. Day 94 and enjoying not drinking, just struggling with the foreverness part. x

  3. Another great post that I can totally relate to. From a male point of view, my 'witch' was a 'Demon' and he was most definitely Male. He also instructed me to develop a rota system of the shops that I used so I could try and portray myself to the cashier that I wasn't actually drinking every day. I laugh thinking back as the cashiers probably couldn't care less, but in my mind they were absolutely judgemental and had a definite interest in my drinking habits. How distorted a take on reality is that? My demon is still there but he is not saying very much lately. Have a great sunday SM. x

    1. Isn't it funny how women have wine witches and men have demons!? Anyone else out there have any other personifications?

  4. Yes. Me too.
    I don't think she/he/it ever goes away completely. Some of what she does is self protection. When you hear her you know whatever it is she wants is a bad idea.

  5. Mine used to say to me 'Don't be ridiculous! You haven't got a problem!". And yes, those judgmental cashiers, and recycling depot employees, and!

  6. It's funny, I don't remember when I met the wine witch but I think it was a long time ago and I just didn't want to acknowledge her. Better late than never I suppose! Congrats on day 91! A x

  7. I used to talk about the demon drink but that was usually after waking up with the 'horrors' trying to remember the night before and why I felt so bad - usually a drunken rant or argument. Had never heard of the wine witch before but think you really sum it up, especially the bit about her coming back big time after she's lain dormant for a bit. Ta xxx

  8. The content is dignifying the point of wine witch specifically to brought by the drunker.

    Keeping Opened Wine Fresh

  9. Hi

    I'm quite behind in your blog but omg the plane scenario, so so so true!!!!!! On the way back from a holiday my hubbie (who is a "normal" drinker) doesn't drink on the plane because he drives home from the airport but I always see it as an opportunity to cram in as much as I can before the holiday is over!!! I hate hate hate the little bottles and plastic cups but I also hated sitting there drinking on my own, makes me feel sad now that that's what I did. Anyway day 12 for me and a sober night out tonight (first in a long long long time!) your an inspiration SM xxxx

  10. You people do not have to suffer with your fear of one drink. There is a biopharma solution. Naltrexone under The Sinclair Method. Please see this link. I tried it and it works!