Am I an alcoholic?
Hold your horses. Don’t call the Child Protective Services on me just yet. This question could be relevant to all of us.
A few weeks ago I started an experimental diet. I left out grains, sugar, coffee, dairy and alcohol. I’ll follow the diet for 31 days and reason for it is to find out if any of these ingredients affect my joints. The experiment is going great so far, and I’m sure it’s a big help, but it’s also teaching me a valuable lesson on addiction. Instead of coffee, candy or ice cream, I miss wine the most.
I’ve always thought my alcohol consumption was moderate: I like to have a glass of sparkling or white wine, and if my 87-year-old mother-in-law offers me a Gin Tonic to enjoy with her, I’ll drink it. During the summer I had a glass of wine every now and then during lunch, a glass or two in the evening, sometimes three when the night was especially beautiful. I didn’t drink wine every day, but there weren’t any weeks when I didn’t have any either. I don’t drink beer, long drinks, ciders or mixed drinks. Come winter, my alcohol consumption dies down altogether.
My story is the most common one, you go out for a drink, maybe two. And take a cab home, we don’t have Uber here, not even Lyft. You’re not drunk, you’re only having wine for purely social reasons. Whatever that means, you can actually be social without alcohol too. I guess that when you have something to sip down, the conversations are easier to swallow. Cheers!
Soon after cutting off wine it started to feel like something was missing. The moment that woke me was when I was watching a movie and commented out loud that the movie doesn’t feel as good without wine. Have I conditioned myself to accompany wine with all feel good moments? Why wouldn’t the movie be just as good with tea? Does wine make the summer sunset shine brighter? These are clear signs of addiction, even if the only thing you drink is wine. Addiction doesn’t need vodka and a lush that wet themselves. Addiction starts when the wine becomes a reward, or something to look forward to. Something that makes you happy in advance.
They say that women get addicted to alcohol easier than men. That’s not hard to believe. The recommended alcohol consumption seems a bit vague for both men and women. Disagree? Do a test, how many of you know that the US Government’s advice on sensible drinking for women is one serving of alcohol per day. One, just one, not two, and clearly not three. And for a woman, the high-risk drinking is the consumption of 8 or more drinks per week. In Finland the limit for women high-risk drinking is 16 serving units per week, which is twice the amount of US, but it’s still way less than one looking at an average Finnish summer night crowd at a bar patio or lakefront cabin might assume. It’s okay to have a drink, and another, and one more, and it’s no use saving up the almost empty bottle, it tastes nasty if we leave it sitting opened for days, let’s finish that.
Finnish life seems to revolve quite a bit around celebrational drinks. You succeed in your job, you drink, you go on a cruise, you drink, in a rock concert you drink, in a dog show you drink, you probably drink the Child Fair too, but I’m not 100% sure on this. We Finns acquire expensive adventures and experiences, so we can drink like we’re at home in those too. You drink in a sauna, you drink in your living room and you even drink at the delivery room after birth, just so our somber lives can feel a little more special. So we feel like we belong, rolling together in the great big wine barrel of life.
My late mother was a teetotaler (hashtag wordoftheday). Us children lived in the assumption that she never had a drink in her life. But she said she had, when she was young, and the alcohol just didn’t agree with her. That was the start of her lifelong abstinence from alcohol, which became a burden for her in many occasions: people often questioned her choice not to drink, but no one ever questioned the ones drinking too much.
In any case, my ban on alcohol has so far been only a positive change. I’ve lost inches here and there, because as we all know, wine tends to bloat even us “moderate consumers”. I’m more stable, kinder, and I don’t lose my temper as fast as I used to. There could be other reasons for this too of course, but the lack of wine is what I assume it to be. I’m seriously considering going through office Christmas parties, Christmas itself, New Year’s, and other holidays completely sober, or maybe with one glass of wine.
Photo by Elle Hughes.
The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.
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