"Hello. My name is Seraphic, and I am helpless over other people's alcoholism."
This is what I did not get to say one rainy night in the year 2000 because the lady on the Al-Anon hotline sent me to the wrong church basement. When I got home, I called a friend to complain.
"Maybe she was drunk," she said.
Ha ha ha.
Having dated a so-called "high-functioning" alcoholic, I never want to be in a romantic relationship with an alcoholic ever again. In fact, I don't think I could be in one without turning once more into the stereotypical weeping mess who goes from bar to bar looking for her man. Ugh. Never, never again.
That is my tragic alcohol story and the only way alcohol has any power over me. I seem to be okay around non-drinking alcoholics, and I am friendly with at least two women who are drinking alcoholics. Their drinking does not affect me in the slightest, although that may be because I don't see them very often. I do not like how heavy drinking is so firmly ensconsed in British culture, but as long as my husband doesn't get drunk and the police give drunk drivers merry hell, I can cope.
When it comes to drinking, I myself am a lightweight. At last Sunday's gin-and-tonic party, someone employed a liberal hand, and I found myself instantly drunk on a single g-and-t. And although my dad keeps a friendly bottle of gin for me back in Toronto, I am perfectly happy just to settle back into the general family habit of not drinking much.
However, I would like to state for the record that I have never taken this freedom from alcohol for granted. I never drink alone, and I never drank alone when I was Single. I never drank when I was lonely and depressed--except in one or two ceremonial post-break-up rituals with friends. The one dark period of my life when I self-medicated, I self-medicated on Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I cared about myself way too much to look for solace in a bottle. And, after that disastrous episode in 2000, I learned to recognize alcoholic men, and I crossed them off my Potentials list.*
How much alcoholism is rooted in genes, how much in environment and how much in bad habits is anyone's guess. But I am relatively sure there are widows and widowers who developed their alcoholism only after their spouses died. I am sure there are lots of lonely elderly men and women who have gradually become addicted to their nip, and I never, ever wanted to become one of them.
So, my little Singles, since the Christmas holidays can be some of the toughest days of the year for Single people, I thought I would trot out a little sermon about drinking alone. Don't do it. If you're drinking more than you usually would, then stop. If you can't, call a crisis hotline. You can find them online and in the telephone book.
Meanwhile, you are powerless over other people's drinking, so if you find yourself turning into a crazy, weeping, crumpled tissue over someone else's habit, call Al-Anon. Hopefully you will be directed to the right church basement.
Incidentally, one of the most helpful books I ever read in my life was Melody Beattie's Co-Dependent No More. And, meanwhile, I am not a doctor and I was never trained for ministry specifically to alcoholics. If you suspect that you are an alcoholic, the best I can do for you is to refer you to Alcoholics Anonymous.
*His own admission (usually when drinking) that he drinks too much is a dead giveaway. The hard part is actually hearing him and accepting his words as fact. I dated an alcoholic not only after he told me he drank too much, but after his bartender told me he drank too much. I was not rooted in reality. I even had some sort of notion that nobody of my generation could possibly be an alcoholic. We knew better than that, he must be exaggerating, blah, blah, blah.