I started dating my husband during my senior year in college. It was an amazing time for me. I was full of confidence and the world was mine. I had already received a job offer from a Big Six Accounting firm, slated to start the following fall, so my last semester was merely a formality. I had time to breathe and enjoy life, which was a nice break from studying and working several part-time jobs.
He was fun, and there hadn’t been much fun in my life for a bit of time, since I was focused on school and my goals. He was the antithesis of that – carefree and fun-loving. A breath of fresh air.
We went dancing at bars and gambled at casinos and took trips to the Hill Country to hunt. He was funny and people were drawn to him, so we were always surrounded by people. It was a new, social world and I enjoyed letting loose, drinking, and having a good time. It seemed to be fate that we met at a time that I could appreciate this different world. I thought that he was the yin to my yang. The perfect balance. I taught him how to set goals and he taught me how to let go.
By the time I left for my new job in the city, he was ready to set career goals and follow my path. We left his life behind in pursuit of my goal-oriented life. And it was great.
For a while.
My job demanded an incredible number of hours. He became restless. He started spending weekends in our hometown, partying with his old friends. It didn’t bother me because he was still working hard on his career goals during the week, and I was busy anyway. In fact, it wasn’t until we had kids that I felt the disconnect between our values.
After our first son was born, we relocated back to our hometown near family. We weren’t back in town long before I realized that we had made a mistake. He was back into his old life and old patterns. What had been temporary fun to me was a lifestyle for him.
Over the years, I found that if I had one drank, he would have six. I stopped drinking, as if I could somehow control his behavior by controlling mine. I became ultra-conservative and responsible to make up for his lack of responsibility. I lost my ability to have a good time. He reminded me constantly that I wasn’t “fun” and boy, did I know it. I was not having fun at all. I was always the designated driver. I was always the one begging to go home before closing time because I was always the one responsible for getting up with the 3-year-old at 6am on weekends. I always had to keep my wits about me. It was never my turn to let my hair down and blow off steam.
I joked that my husband would “bring a cooler to a funeral.” Seriously, the cooler went EVERYWHERE. To the lake. To the golf course. To the deer lease. To trick-or-treat. I lectured him that you do not have to consume alcohol to have a good time. I was living proof. (ha)
I still believe that you do not need alcohol to have a good time, BUT I think that my views about alcohol have skewed a bit far in the other direction. Like to the point that I am now completely paranoid about drinking. I find excuses not to drink or to avoid places where others are drinking. Not because their behavior bothers me or because I think that they are doing anything wrong. Quite the opposite. I envy them and their ability to relax and have fun.
I just can’t relax.
Over the past few years (or many), I have grown accustomed to being on high alert. I’m always ready to handle whatever crisis might arise. I’m always waiting for a phone call from the kids to pick them up. If I have a glass of wine and feel relaxed, I am not on high alert. I am not in total control of anything and everything. That scares me, and because of that, I’m becoming more and more anti-social.
Recently, however, when the boys took their father out for dinner, I went to dinner with a friend and I actually allowed myself to order a glass of wine. (You cannot imagine the internal pep talk that took.) Although I usually prefer the sweetness of a frozen drink or fruity martini, my friend found a sweet wine for me to try and I liked it. I liked the taste and the relaxed aura it provided. I reminded myself (in my head) over and over again that I was in control and that I had not done anything wrong. It was one drink and I could still handle any crisis. I battled the fear and forced myself to appreciate the opportunity to relax.
Later, we found the wine at a local store and I bought a bottle. I told myself that one night, when the boys were busy with friends, I would once again relax. I bought the first season of “The Good Wife” on DVD and planned to lounge on the couch with a nice glass of wine and a great show. It sounded like the perfect plan, and I was excited this past weekend when the opportunity for it arose.
Until the time came. Then I thought of all of the scenarios that could happen that would be disastrous if that glass of wine “went to my head” and I wasn’t in total control. What if my oldest son decided not to spend the night out and needed me to come and get him? What if the boy spending the night with my youngest son got sick in the middle of the night and needed me to take him home? I could not put a child in the car with me after drinking a glass of wine. That would be irresponsible.
Ironically, I work in the entertainment industry. I know the state laws regarding alcohol consumption. I know what to look for and what to look for as signs of intoxication. I know that studies have shown that your body can process approximately one drink per hour. And therefore, I know that my fear of drinking ONE glass of wine is a bit irrational.
On the other hand, I’ve seen the effects of alcohol abuse on a person and it scares me. It scares me to the point that I won’t allow myself to even enjoy alcohol responsibly, let alone abuse it. After years of living with a risk-taker, I won’t allow myself to take the slightest risk.
And I no longer seem to know how to let my hair down.