“It wouldn’t be a bad idea if I drank” vs. “It wouldn’t be a good idea if I drank”

9 Nov

5:34 pm

Ahh, the mind. Chattering monkeys. (Wait: I actually have more respect for primates’ intelligence than that!) Chittering INSECTS.

These days, as I just commented on Belle’s blog, I no longer look at people drinking red wine in the sun and automatically think, Oh, sigh, I wish that were me. I wish I could drink. I wish I could be happy, like them. I wish I didn’t need the wine to do it. Are they really happy before the wine? Could I be? Will I ever be?

Lately, I don’t automatically want to drink OR want their happiness. I know now that “happiness” is big, wide, not easily gotten or defined. That it takes work. That I can be versions of “happy.” That I don’t have to be “happy” to be, well, happy.

Substituting wine for happiness holds no weight for me at this point; and, that makes me sad sometimes. Sure, I miss the buzz, and I miss what it represents (fun, youth, old times, etc.), but…I know now that when the wine wears off, all you’re left with is a fake time had by all, a hangover, and your untended sadness. You just can’t live in unhappiness for long, though. I mean, I think that’s what AA means by “dry drunk,” in that, if you come to accept the fact that alcohol does not equal happiness, then you also are compelled to find happiness where it really exists. Hard work, no avoiding. Growing up. Growing OUT. EXPANDING.

For me, it’s been about “re-training” my brain, as Lisa writes about on her blog, to dissociate “reward” from wine. And, it’s also been about coming to terms with the fact that my yearning is a good thing. I think I yearn for wine–what it used to do, give, be for me–but in my heart, I feel (know) that this yearning is actually for what makes me happy. Which I’m still figuring out. This yearning propels me to continue to seek out what will bring me actual happiness. There is no illusion anymore that it’s wine’s job. It’s mine.

So, no, it would not be a good idea if I drank.

That being said, lately I’ve been noticing my mind circling around one thought: moderation. It usually manifests in the form of a sentence sneakily similar to the one above: It would not be a BAD idea if I drank.

Would it?

Like, would it be that bad? Could I handle it? I suppose the “it” here is moderation. That horrible two-drink thing. ICK. EWW. GRR.

It’s a strange shift in perspective. It would not be a GOOD idea if I drank…when I am desperate, sad, mad, depressed, or existentially challenged. It would not be a GOOD idea if I drank in “fuck it” mode. But… What?

I don’t really have many “fuck it” moments anymore. I don’t seem to have those pits of despair, those desperate, sad, mad, depressed, or existentially-challenging moments anymore. Sure, I sort of have them, it’s just that when they come, I know how to deal with them. I don’t consider wine, it is not an option. I know what ELSE to do, what ELSE to think, and I’m pretty much able to let most of the unnecessary negativity go. I no longer need to warn myself, No, it really would not be a GOOD idea if you drank right now.

But…would it be a BAD idea if I drank? In moments of calm, of joy, of nothing special? I mean, how bad could it be? I could probably manage a night, maybe more–a week, a month?–drinking in “moderation.” However, I know from experience that once you let your guard down, once you open yourself up to the possibility of using that old, tired, haggard solution to your problems, it’s hard to consider the other, better solutions.

I think this is called “well-worn neural pathways;” or, in other words, “alcoholism.” Geez.

See, I’ve been wondering lately if–and when–I will be able to drink in moderation again. (I still have hope, I’ll admit it.) And, I keep telling myself, the only way I will allow myself to try is if I truly believe that I can take it or leave it. If I could stand over a bottle of red wine and say, “I could drink you…or not, it doesn’t really matter“–only then would I be “recovered.”

And, honestly, I can’t even imagine doing that yet–going on 17 months getting sober.

I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments about moderation lately. I know what you want, because I want it, too: We want to drink without the compulsion to have MORE.

Sure, we all CAN drink in moderation, if we activate our superpowers. The question is, do we WANT to? I mean, I am able to stop after two drinks, but it sucks. IT SUCKS. My version of hell, in fact, would be having to participate in one of those harm reduction programs where you and your counselor go out to a bar, you drink your two drinks, and then you both sit there together, coming down from your two drinks. GAWD. Talk about painful. Apparently, it helps you “moderate” your consumption by helping you tolerate your compulsion. To LEARN ways to come down and then, walk away. Um, WHAT? How is that NOT Dante’s Inferno?

Every time I’ve had two drinks (in the past, let’s say, 5 years), I’ve felt nothing but one of two things: an irritating-to-extreme desire to have more, and when I know I can’t, an irritating-to-extreme agitation. Moderation just seems HARD, so, I guess I’d prefer to skip those two measly drinks than have to deal with the hard work of stopping when I don’t want to.

“You play, you pay,” is what one of my wiser roommates used to tell me as he watched me deal with the night before. Simple, but good advice. For now, I’m putting the idea of moderation back into its box and under the bed. It’ll be there when I get back, I’m sure. 😉

13 Responses to ““It wouldn’t be a bad idea if I drank” vs. “It wouldn’t be a good idea if I drank””

  1. furtheron November 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    I have a friend that calls the voices in the head the “itty bitty shitty committee” haha love that

    I have up a long time ago with the drink normally again when I figured out I never ever drank normally so game over really not bothered.

  2. bizi November 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm #


    • C'est moi November 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      I fucking hate moderation. Everything about it irritates me. What, in god’s name is the point?

  3. thirstystill November 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    I’ve been writing about moderation lately too, as I have been trying it out. The subject sure does generate some impassioned comments, though people have been kind to me directly. I think you have it exactly right, though. If you really want the whole bottle, then having one or two will suck, and stopping at two will be torture. I am trying to pay attention to what I want, to see if sometimes I can actually have a little and enjoy it. So far it’s working; I’ll see how it goes. But we are all different. I’m not terribly inclined to listen to what people say will work for me or to say what will work for other people. As always, you sound like you have a good bead on what’s working for you. Here’s to that!

    • Jenny November 10, 2013 at 1:27 am #

      Day 5 here….and that’s a helpful read! Thank you. Two glasses is never enough….my club soda tasted good tonight and I will feel great in the morning! Jenny G.

  4. nomorewine4me November 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I know I can’t because I want the bottle not the glass. I’m removing the word moderation from my dictionary, then I won’t have to think about it.

  5. Lilly November 10, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    “I don’t really have many “fuck it” moments anymore. I don’t seem to have those pits of despair, those desperate, sad, mad, depressed, or existentially-challenging moments anymore.”

    Darling friend, has it occurred to you that you feel this way precisely because of all your sober time?

    I’ve been meaning to reply to your awesome comment on my last post (thank you!) but was going to repeat your advice back to you – about if you’re not sure, just don’t drink. But I was relieved to get to the end of that post and see you’re there yourself really despite the wrestling thoughts – and god knows I can relate to those.

    I can relate to your thoughts around moderation also, except that I really don’t see it as being possible for myself and, like you, the very idea seems so unappealing, which in itself tells me a lot. I hadn’t heard of that harm reduction drinking-with-your-counselor thing but jesus fuck yes that sounds like hell. And all I could think reading that is how I’d be off at the bottle shop buying another bottle to drink at home alone as soon as I could ditch the counselor!

    Because, I don’t know about you, but for me once that desire for more really set in it just felt like a compulsive auto-pilot I had zero control over. Trying to control it seems to me like trying to stand in the face of a typhoon and not be blown over. Sure, you might manage it but it will be difficult and probably injuring and why the fuck would you even want to, really?

    Keep going, keep going, keep going.

    Lilly xoxo

  6. soberjournalist November 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I find the idea of moderation appalling… Not fun at all. I’m not sure I could physically resist the pull of the rest of the bottle after just one or two. That to me is a sign that moderation just does not work, ever. Really liked what you said earlier in the post about yearning to be happy when you see others drinking. I wonder if I’ve been doing this but not really realising. I think I still hanker for those good ‘ol days, when wine wasn’t a problem but just made everything a teeny bit rosier. Those were happy days, which might explain why I still instinctively associate alcohol with being happy, even tho I know that’s not really the case.

  7. Amanda November 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm #


    I just want to thank you for this post, and let you know I’m really glad I’ve found your blog! I’m 3 years sober without A.A., just stopped drinking (and smoking) because it was getting ugly and the “M word” wasn’t working.

    Really looking forward to reading more here. Thanks for sharing; it helps.

  8. craycray48 November 11, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    This is a brilliant post. I’ve been feeling like this recently too. It really helps to read this and get my perspective back on track. Thanks so much!

  9. jenisthesoberist November 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Wow, lots of insight! Reading this post made me physically feel the discomfort of trying to moderate…ick. In my experience the ‘fuck it’ moments happened a lot more when I was drinking. Not always after two drinks, but sometimes. And those were the times that scared me shitless and made me realize that my life depended on quitting. Thanks for the post. xx

  10. Wine-oh no! November 17, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    One of the quotes I ran across in my first hell week of sobriety was, “One drink is too many, and a thousand isn’t enough.” It hit home, like a freight train. I have 69 days and pretend that moderation is in my future…..I am truly frightened to try and fail, when everyday I don’t drink I am succeeding and it feels good!

  11. Nearing 200 days! November 20, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Someone told me recently … “People who don’t have a problem with alcohol don’t think about it. They don’t stress out about how much they can drink and come up with a “plan” for the evening so they stay sober yet drink socially. I know I was thinking about it way too much, failing miserably and ultimately had to learn that moderation is not in my vocabulary when it comes to drinking. Maybe a few times out I’d be ok, but eventually I would fail miserably. The cycle had to stop in order to have peace in my life.

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