I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Ever since the pandemic started, I drink like a fish. I mean, I’ve always been a drinker, but these days I drink almost a bottle of wine a night. Not good, I know. But I have no desire to stop. It’s one of the only things I look forward to every day. I know you’re going to tell me to find healthier ways to unwind…exercise, meditation, etc. and I do all that, but I still want to drink wine every day. I guess I know it’s bad for me, but I don’t want to stop. I’m not even sure what my question is. Just thought maybe you could clue me on what to do because I know this isn’t sustainable over the long haul. Or, maybe it is?
-Living the Pandemic Lush Life
I’m sensing some defensiveness from your message, almost a warning that you really don’t want to hear someone tell you that you should drink less or stop altogether, that you don’t want to be told what to do by anyone. It sounds like maybe you even wish someone would say: This is tooooootally fine and normal – keep doing what you’re doing. Shit is crazy right now. You gotta find whatever you can to enjoy yourself. I do it too! Yayyyy wine club! But even though you might not be interested in being told what’s best or what’s good or bad, you still wrote in to me, so you’re probably in conflict.
What is apparent is that you are judging yourself for your drinking (“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” “Not good, I know.”). Maybe you imagine others are judging you too, and that I will judge you. There is some dissonance here between a part of you that would like to stop or reduce your drinking and a part of you that wants to continue without guilt or judgment. But we can’t figure out why the conflict until we know what exactly you are getting out of drinking and what you’re not loving about it so much. What is it doing for you? Why have you been feeling bad about it? Where is the desire to continue this coming from, and where is the desire to stop or cut down coming from? Why do you feel like it’s not sustainable? Your wallet? Your liver? How much do those things mean to you?
I’m definitely not going to be the one to tell you to exercise or meditate or find healthier ways to unwind. Advice to replace your bottle of wine with a green juice is just empty meaningless advice. I don’t know what’s best for you. Also, exercise and meditation may be physically healthier than excessive alcohol consumption, but many people still tend to use those things in the same way they’d use alcohol—to anesthetize themselves.
So that, then, brings me to my main question: Is that what you’re doing? Anesthetizing yourself? If so, from what? Is drinking a bottle of wine a night serving some function, like filling a void or loneliness, or replacing normal social interaction? You said drinking is the only thing you look forward to. That indicates a much bigger issue of dissatisfaction and that maybe you are not populating your life with enough things/people you truly love and enjoy. What’s that about? Are you feeling so deprived in general that you need to binge drink to feel less deprived? What would you be doing instead if it wasn’t the pandemic? Is drinking serving the function of making you feel less discomfort, fewer difficult feelings, or more of whatever euphoria you’re missing? Once you really honestly figure out the answers to these questions, you might start to find what it is you actually need that the wine is acting as a stand-in for.
I’m never going to judge anyone for the use of a substance—alcohol, weed, drugs, food, TV, sex—but I can’t get behind substance use as a way to avoid feelings, and I find deeply problematic the absent-minded decision to use a substance (or exercise, or meditate) without any kind of insight into why that decision is being made. Sure, it’ll happen sometimes, and we should be understanding of ourselves. Drinking a bottle of wine every night may not always be an indication something is wrong, but in this case, based on the conflict you’ve presented, it seems like you have some sense that something’s not right, and that maybe things have been harder on you than you’re willing to let on. Wine isn’t actually going to help you deal with whatever you’re struggling with, but it will definitely help you feel like you don’t have to.
Everything is a choice and no choice is beyond you: sometimes you’ll choose something because it just feels good and you need it in that moment; sometimes you’ll choose something because you’re kind of trying to destroy yourself; sometimes you’ll choose something when really you want something else. You will only choose what’s best for you when you are honest with yourself and get clear on what you actually need.
Always here for tough love, but never for judgment,