Today was Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m grateful for a lot. Really. But today was more difficult than I expected.
My dog and I went to my Mom and step-dad’s place about a 75-minute drive away (which turned into 2 hours with traffic). I know Mom always pours herself a huge glass of red wine whenever I arrive — and I always join her — but even armed with three different kinds of NA beverages, including NA beer, I didn’t expect the powerful wave of desire and craving to hit me as hard as it did.
So I started talking about how it’s bugging me that I’m gaining weight since quitting drinking, ha ha, I said, which was not in my plans. Without missing a beat, my step-dad pours himself a full glass of bourbon on the rocks, and doesn’t engage in my conversation.
Sure, that’s probably about him — maybe he’s even a wee threatened by my quitting drinking. who knows. — but what I needed in that moment was support. I know my Mom is supportive of my not drinking, but it was odd: she changed the subject and started talking about her new puppy.
I drank the NA beer even though it tasted bad and didn’t help much to distract me. I was bored and trapped and I clearly hadn’t prepared properly for this. (Next time I’ll bring healthy snacks.) I glanced at Mom’s wine glass. She was already a quarter of the way to the bottom. The bottle still sat there on the counter, where it always is, staring at me invitingly.
I grabbed a Kombucha and started shoving handfulls of peanuts into my mouth. I scanned the room, searching for anything I could snack on. Nothing!
Mom, please stop telling me stories about people I don’t know or care about.
The puppy is barking barking barking at Bub, he won’t stop barking.
I text my sister, who also doesn’t drink and will be arriving with my uncle: Where are you? What is your ETA? Mom and (step-dad) are drinking and I’m painfully bored and really REALLY want a glass of wine.
“Fun is on the way,” she answers. “We’re about 30 minutes away. (Uncle) says we still need to stop for the cocaine.”
Perfect. I joke back. Just get here.
I finish the Kombucha and grab a Diet Coke out of the fridge. More peanuts.
I decide I need to call on a mindfulness meditation I learned last week. There were two: the first one had us imagining a mild trigger and the wave of craving that would move through our bodies, then holding that feeling. Holding it… Holding it… Then asking ourselves, “What do I need right now?”
The second started with imagining a mountain. A big, solid, beautiful mountain. The seasons move in and out around the mountain. All kinds of weather batters the mountain, swirls around the mountain, bears down on the mountain, passes in front of and behind the mountain, and all the while, the mountain is steady. I am to imagine I am part of the mountain. I am the mountain. I am the mountain.
I move to the big chair in the living room while my Mom carries on in the kitchen, making the mashed potatoes, checking the (humanely raised) turkey, drinking her wine. I sit with my eyes closed, my hands on my legs. I breathe and imagine myself as the mountain. Solid, unchanging, unreactive to the wave of craving that is crashing through me like a front of thick fog.
Breathe. I am the mountain.
Then I get another text from my sister. My uncle now has a flat tire just a few miles away. My step-dad is going to leave to find them and help.
My mind begins to race: If my Mom goes with him, I can pour myself a glass of wine and pound it back. No one would be the wiser. I can have a glass of wine. I want it. I want it.
My rational voice tries to fight back: No, you don’t want it. You DON’T want to start at Day 1 again. You DON’T want to feel like shit tomorrow. It won’t even taste or feel that good. It won’t be worth it. You don’t need this. It’s poison.
Why do you think you need it?
I am a mountain.
Why did I quit? I’m trying to remember. I don’t remember.
Because you were out of control and it was only getting worse. You look and feel like shit.
I am a mountain.
Breeeeeaaathe. You are a mountain. Don’t give into it. Stay strong…
Mom comes into the living room and sits down. She’s not leaving with (step-dad). I breathe and imagine the wave of desire pass right through me. It will pass, I tell myself. It will be OK. Breathe…
It passed. Mostly.
I’m home now. I thought about going across the street to the corner store and getting a bottle. I’m getting fat fast and this is not OK. My fingers are puffy and my pants are tight. I can NOT get fat in exchange for not drinking. That will ruin my healthy, upward trajectory faster than anything. I will fail.
Millie joked that she basically had a feeding bag strapped to her face for the first few months after she stopped drinking, figuring it was better to eat than drink (and she lost the weight again). Others have told me that too.
I have a history of an eating disorder and so using food the way I have been and gaining weight is extra complicated for me. If I lose control of my food/eating in exchange for the wine, this will NOT be an acceptable trade-off. And it will sabotage my progress, I guarantee it.
I arrived home still uncomfortably full from Thanksgiving dinner AND dessert, but reached for more ice cream (“instead of wine”).
Then I heard myself think LOUDLY:
Maybe I can just drink one glass of wine a night and not eat dinner. I’d lose weight. I could get thin again that way. That would be better than getting fat.
Sigh. That’s why. That’s where my brain goes.
I didn’t go. For now, I am choosing not to drink. As Augusten Burroughs said about people who have successfully quit, I am just not doing it.
I decided to write about it instead. I’m going to try to be gentle with myself and allow that the last two weeks have been another lesson about how to cope, and I quickly need to adjust course. Tomorrow I will put my eating train back on the rails and find healthier ways to distract myself from drinking. Like walking my dog. Like rowing. Like going to the gym. Like reading. Like writing. Like sleeping. Hell, like just about anything but eating or drinking.
I closed my eyes and cracked Cheryl Strayed’s book Brave Enough to a random page. This is what it said:
We are all at risk of something. Of ending up exactly where we began, of failing to imagine and find and know and actualize who we could be. We all need to jump from here to there. The only difference among us is the distance of the leap.
– Cheryl Strayed
Until tomorrow, then.
Day 12. Rachel.
p.s., Sorry this is so long, y’all. I had to get it out. 🙂 Very skimmable, indeed.