This morning at the grocery store I walked slowly down the wine aisle. And the beer aisle. Then the wine aisle again.
I figured it was safe, because 5:24 a.m. is about the least likely time of day for me to have any urge to drink. At that hour I’m firmly in the grip of my other self-medicating liquid: my dark, intense, half-caff, heavy-cream-infused coffee.
I’m traveling for work. The city I’m in is unpleasant for me weather-wise, and one trigger for my drinking has been being outside of my comfort zone. So I thought I’d push myself a little. Coffee in hand.
First I walked down the beer aisle. My initial reaction to seeing all of those cold bottles with their pretty, or boring, or provocative, always colorful labels is always desire. I imagine the first bottle and the second. That most loveliest of phases of drinking. Today was no different, and I wished I could have them in my life. Today in 2015 and through the decades. But what I was practicing was doing the switch. We all know that I don’t drink just one or two beers. That’s not satisfying — I always made sure I had access to at least three. (Though best to have no more than four. There was a limit to how lousy I was going to make myself feel the next morning. Must be “high functioning.”)
The desensitization was to practice the mental switch. Rather than imagine the warmth of the first two beers, I pictured four. Felt how I would feel right after the fourth, how I would feel waking up in the middle of the night dehydrated, buzzy, and pissed at myself, and how I would feel all day the next day. Skip to the end, man. Play the tape through, as Susan over at tuenight.com would say.
Okay, count that as one small nudge toward seeing six packs of beer as not a sweet little rush just waiting for me. A nudge toward seeing them as a remorseful headache and 30 wasted hours.
I moved on to the wine aisle. I didn’t drink wine as much, but definitely had my drunken times with it, too. I love the color, I like the shape of the bottles, and I especially love the labels. (My favorite one was from a line of wines whose labels were paintings — all self portraits — by one of Sports Illustrated’s first swimsuit models, from the 60s. I know, but what the hell else are you gonna do fifty years after that?)
I stared hard at them, looking for ones I’d had a relationship with. Gotta love America; you can be 1500 miles from home and see the same fucking bottles of wine on the grocery store shelves. My eyes wandered up and down the bottles, and I worked on the switch there, too. This was somewhat easier, because it’s quite clear in my memory how awful a bottle of wine would make me feel. I practiced going from admiring the shape and label and colors to remembering feeling unbelievably shitty. The dryness, rawness, diffused brain, ugh.
And then I saw some new words. Sitting there among the likes of Middle Sister, 14 Hands, and Menage a Trois were Pensador, Handcrafted, Storyteller, and Acronym. Somebody’s heartless creative marketing was a gift to this struggling woman. Coffee in hand, I stared at these words that describe me — not the me who escaped and drank, but the me who doesn’t. The me who thinks, crafts, and abbreviates.
Not going to make a habit of using the wine aisle for key words or inspiration. But having my practice session intruded upon by a little irony? Sure, world, have at me.