Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Opulent Hypocrite?

After the last post, I think I need to explain something about myself: I gave up drinking a couple years ago. I invented the “Opulent Opossum” martini well before I quit. Back then I was having fantasies (which I still harbor) about turning our basement/garage into a private nightclub, a rathskeller, with an occasional decadent cabaret band, serving drinks and appetizers out of the old coal bin (there’s a window in it that would be perfect as a serving window). The Opulent Opossum was going to be the house martini. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Last week Dad told me that rathskeller-type basement “party rooms” were common among his parents’ generation, Germans, who had endured Prohibition and probably felt like they had to keep some booze squirreled away. His aunt and uncle in Kansas City carved a little place for a table and stuff behind their furnace. Even our own basement, here at Grandma’s house, had had a small table and chair for enjoying a sandwich and a beer on a hot summer day before air-conditioning. But I digress . . .

I’m not going to go into all the details, but let’s just say that on the spectrum between “perfectly healthy social drinker” and “major alcoholic,” I was somewhere in between. There really is a gradient, and I had reached a point where I recognized I was drinking unhealthily often and for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t full-blown addiction, but it was an ingrained habit, and I was leaning on alcohol pretty heavily. So I decided to give it a rest. Maybe forever.

It hasn’t been all that difficult. I had feared it would be much harder than it was. The hardest part was weathering the increased intensity of emotions that I’d been dampening for so long with alcohol. Also, it was difficult to quit just before Oktoberfest, which was just before the holidays, of course. And those are all prime times to enjoy good microbrews, excellent wines, and lovely, complex whiskeys. Ahhh . . .

Okay, it was challenging, but I went easy on myself, I had good support from my sweetie, from an experienced and clever therapist, and from everyone else . . . and it’s all going okay.

I’m very glad that I decided to stop drinking before it got to be a bigger problem than it was. And I encourage anyone reading this to think about it—if you are wondering if you drink too much or for the wrong reasons, then don’t be afraid to examine the idea with a therapist. There is indeed life after alcohol.

But I’m not going around telling everyone else to quit, and I’m not going to stop serving alcohol at my dinners and parties. For that matter, I think that because I stopped drinking before I had developed a major problem, I get to enjoy the “gray zone” that many recovering alcoholics find extremely uncomfortable—so I’ll let myself have rum raisin ice cream and brandy sauce on my bread pudding. Mirin on my soba. Nyquil when I’m suffering from a cold.

I don’t think my position is too hypocritical, and so far it’s working very well for me.

For that matter, when I really want to feel like a hypocrite, I’ll go down to the deli and order me a veggie sandwich . . . with bacon.

. . . Now that’s a hypocrite.

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