going dry

I think I need to quit drinking. Which is a phrase, of course, that brings to mind alcoholics and makes me sound, when I protest to you the way I am about to, as if I, too, am an alcoholic with an alcoholic drinking problem and that I am just fooling myself when I say no no, that’s not what I mean, I have it all under control and it’s not a problem. I don’t need alcohol! I don’t have to drink! I like it, but who doesn’t like it? Communists, that’s who! Except as we all know, communists have got us totally beat in the alcohol department, god love them, and pass the potato vodka. Did that make me sound like an alcoholic?

Alcoholism runs in my family–my grandmother and grandfather had drinking problems; my father lined up his cans of Bud along the bottom of the sofa every night, and there was enough to form an army. I remember the fights. I remember my mother telling me it runs in the family. Don’t get caught up in it. It was pretty funny to us, though, that food was more addicting than alcohol. We were foodaholics, and that was hilarious. Food is so much better at solving problems than alcohol ever was. Food was easier, less messy, socially speaking. Fewer side effects, right? Different side affects, anyway. You could function at work and binge, though if you keep making passes by the reception desk for another handful of m&ms, maybe that’s not entirely the case.


I remember only twice in my life deliberately choosing to get
obliteratedly drunk in order to deal with emotional issues. I woke up
in a bathtub of running water the first time and was sick for three
days, and the second time I was just sick for three days but that was
not an improvement. I wasn’t good at drowning my sorrows. My body
wasn’t good at processing my drowning of the sorrows. My body has
gotten worse at processing alcohol, full stop, in fact. It might be
entirely a side effect of weight loss surgery, or the fact that I am
aging at a precipitous rate could be a major factor, or it is an unholy
combination of the two. Two drinks make me pretty tipsy (definitely the
surgery), and happy. But then, far too often, they send me over to
surly and emotional (possibly a personality disorder?), and then I
start to get angry and hate everyone (oh, that’s just standard for me),
and then I want to sleep.

The problem, though–the problem is not so much how I act with alcohol
in me, since it doesn’t happen always. The problem is waking up the
next morning, feeling as I have just spent the night spooning a
Dementor. I wake up feeling as if I should have never woken up, because
what is the point? I wake up feeling as depressed as I have ever felt
in my life, almost non-functioning, absolutely debilitated and filled
with misery. It’s as if drinking is a shortcut straight to my own
personal hell. It used to be sometimes, but now it is always, and I
think I need to quit drinking. I cause enough of my own problems as it
is.

  11 comments for “going dry

  1. M.
    August 13, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I realize this is a highly serious post, and I respect that, but “…feeling as I have just spent the night spooning a Dementor…” is hilarious.

    Actually, the communists know things about drinking that we Americans have foresworn. Alcohol, pickled things, and greasy fish are really excellent. The pickleds (cause they’re not just pickles), and fish go a long way towards tempering the impact of the alcohol. That being said, I’m not trying to enable anything. Just I love alcohol and champion its moderated consumption, and it pains me when others can’t enjoy it the same way.

    Given my own experience, it has to do with the quality of the alcohol in questions and how the alcohol is consumed. The lower the quality, the nastier one tends to feel. And if it’s consumed rapidly without food, that’s the end of it. Try a glass of wine/a beer after a workout when you eat your post-workout meal. I would swear that having one or two drinks with that meal makes the soreness the next day better. Maybe one day I’ll figure out the science behind it.

    But maybe it’s like chocolate? You know, get some really high-quality stuff and because it’s expensive and really good, it’ll be a special treat. You won’t binge it because it’s expensive and it tastes good, and you’ll feel less awful the next day bc/ it’s higher quality, and well, you didn’t drink a boatload of it. :)

    I could tell you why you feel like crap, but the biochemistry is pretty boring for anyone who doesn’t like the subject… the quick and dirty explanation is you make acetaldehyde from ethanol, which is a relative of formaldehyde (which is why methanol is poisonous; they give you an intravenous drip of ethanol if you’ve been poisoned with methanol to compete for enzyme binding sites. This way your body produces formaldehyde from the methanol more slowly and your liver can effectively clear it…).

    Anyway, acetaldehyde isn’t exactly health food. It’s what causes flushing, nausea, heart palpitations, feeling like you’ve been cuddling a Dementor, and general hangoveredness. If your body doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme needed to clear the acetaldehyde from your system, then you feel crappy. If you want to know more, consult Wikipedia, and search for “alcohol dehydrogenase” and “acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.”

  2. Jen
    August 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I imagine the weight loss surgery complicates things, but drinking more than a couple doesn’t seem worth it to me anymore either. Who needs to give up the next whole day (days) to have “fun” where you feel like you should be having fun but are just making a good show of it? It’s not worth the money or the calories either.

  3. FormerlyObeseNowOverweight
    August 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    See?
    This is why marijuana is good, if you don’t succumb to the munchies. You’re never sick or hung over and it feels right.

    Well, to me, anyway.

    ;)

  4. Liz
    August 13, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I decided to nearly quit altogether recently, since I moved in with my boyfriend, who drinks little to never. He became upset with my having a couple drinks and becoming “an entirely different person,” someone he doesn’t recognize and doesn’t like at all. His getting upset made me upset — at myself, at my actions, etc. — and it even got to the point where he said our relationship couldn’t continue if I continued as I was.

    My family is also plagued with an involved history of drinking problems, and I remember my father telling me several times while growing up (and even now) to stay away from alcohol. He, my paternal uncle and grandfather, as well as my maternal grandmother have all been plagued — at one time or currently — with an addiction or abuse cycle of some sort, and in college, I could have probably included myself on that list. Graduation and beginning a full-time job certainly helped quell that so-called “abuse” for me.

    However, there are still times now and then when I will have a couple drinks after work with coworkers. My company is such that on Fridays, we gather after-hours in our full kitchen — well stocked with beer and “chick drinks” (i.e. malt beverages) — to have a couple to start the weekend off “right.” I partake in this office ritual nearly every Friday, and always feel guilty driving home (I wait a while before leaving and drink plenty of water — I would not drink and drive and do not advocate it at all), because I’m afraid my boyfriend will notice my slight tipsiness and get upset again. Still, I enjoy partaking in this occasional social activity, and at no time do I feel tempted to drink to excess. I would just like to be able to feel comfortable enough that I won’t spark anger or sadness in my boyfriend — and, consequently, myself — by having one or two drinks on a Saturday evening.

    I may be painting my boyfriend in this post as a controlling, possessive jerk, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s very accepting and uncontrolling in every other respect, and I can understand why he wouldn’t want to have to deal with who he perceives as an undesirable, “different” person. I guess by “going dry,” I’m avoiding my relatives’ own mistakes and my boyfriend’s leaving me. Giving up him for alcohol is hardly worth it and would be the biggest mistake of my life.

  5. Liz
    August 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Sorry for the double post, but I would also suggest, if you’re really serious about going dry, to visit MTV’s Web site (I know, it’s not the best TV out there, but stay with me on this one), go to the “True Life” section, and watch the full-length, streaming episode of “I Have a Drinking Problem,” where two young women battle their alcohol abuse to maintain their social and work relationships. It’s really jarring, scary and inspirational.

  6. lap
    August 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    The spooning a dementor comment IS funny, and can be frighteningly accurate as well. I think we all can embrace our dry periods and know that they will nuture us. Thanks, as always, for your ability to share something personal and make it feel universal.

  7. goddess
    August 13, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Hello! I feel you on this one. I’ve made alcohol too important in my life lately, and I also suffer from depression. I’m sure it’s a form of self-medication, just like eating and (apparently) shopping online. For new clothes to fit me as I grow larger because I drink too much and then eat too much.

    I may be an alcoholic, except that the times I’ve decided to stop drinking so much, or stop drinking altogether (when I was pregnant), I was able to without a problem. Although I’m afraid using any such rationalization makes me an alcoholic in the first place. I don’t know.

    So now I’m on a new quest to cut back down to one glass of wine a night. I’m not going to cut that out, I like it too much and I don’t feel bad the next morning. But like someone said, you have a couple of drinks and then what? Do you really feel better? Not me. I just get caught up in the moment of “Oh, I can have MORE and more is BETTER!”

    So anyway, sorry for the long and rambling reply. I guess I just wanted to say I’m there with you. :)

  8. August 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    You could be feeling depressed due to slight dehydration. I spent a week and a half feeling like nothing mattered, and today I had some water, and a few glasses later I felt a lot better. Beyond that, I have no real science to back me up.

    If you do drink again, try alternating between a drink and a glass of water. It’ll also give your body more time to deal with the alcohol.

  9. August 14, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I quit drinking about a month ago, after a particularly horrible night, months of saying I needed to, and my best friend, supportive as he is of my ups and downs, coming up to me and when I asked him what I was going to do, saying, the drinking needs to stop. My name is lauren and I’m an alcoholic.

  10. vanessa
    August 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Personally, I prefer to consume my calories in “liquid form”. Given that I come from a long line of undistinguished addicts, it should come as no surprise.

    I’d like to cut back on my drinking, but its so difficult. I could give up chocolate easier. (gasp!)

  11. Amy
    August 14, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I have lost around 65 pounds over the past two years. As the pounds have come off, I have had many unfortunate situations with drinking because frankly it has taken my mind a lot longer to realize that my body couldn’t handle all of the booze any more. I have also gone through a broken engagement, helping my brother deal with his broken marriage and a career change all during this time.

    I’m worried that am/might turn into an alcoholic, but strangely I am even more frightened that I will get fat again!

    I appreciate your post, not the same situation, but it made me think for sure.

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