I’ve said before that I’m no expert on alcoholism, I’m only an expert on alcoholism and me. In that spirit, that’s how this thing works, right? I share what I find to be helpful and then you can try it or pass it along or alternately think it’s a crock of shit and just discard it altogether.
Some folks wonder how it works with booze infused foods, or of alcohol served in other settings, such as Communion in churches or even “non-alcoholic” beverages. I know some alcoholics that will not under any circumstances ingest any type of alcohol, in any form. Whether it be creme brûlée or a Grand Marnier soufflé. Some argue that there is still a slight amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic drinks so by that determination they take a pass. When you’ve had the bejesus scared out of you due to alcoholism, the wise thing is just to stay away on all levels, if that’s where you’re at. I wholeheartedly agree. However, I’m not quite as stringent. I personally feel that a creme brûlée will not send me screaming back to the sauce after ingesting one for dessert at a fancy dinner.
Then again, I do know someone that spiraled into the throes of a terrible relapse after years of sobriety due to Creme de Menthe over ice cream. True story, that’s how it started and while that might sound ludicrous, it happened. It’s just the inkling. The scantly perceptible twinge that we feel in our essence when we think we’re going to get that elusive feeling of forthcoming euphoria or delicious escape. It’s an absolutely blissful feeling and I used to feel that way after an occasional puff of a cigarette long after I had quit. SOMETHING AWAKENS you guys and that is the beast within every one of us that struggles with addiction.
So, yes, I have eaten a bourbon-infused brownie without knowing it was infused with Satan’s magic elixir and you know what? It was fine. Did I rush back to the kitchen and shove the entire serving tray into my mouth? No. Did I want to? Not remotely. And if you think I’m turning down creme brûlée, as in, EVER, then you don’t know me at all.
I am not that skittish about triggers or my sobriety, I thought. Until recently.
Not so long ago I was in a drug store waiting to pick up a prescription when I was reminded that I was out of mouthwash. I scooted down the aisle and found approximately 27 different types of mouthwash. Seriously, there was gum disease mouth wash and plaque prevention mouthwash and don’t even get me started on all of the flavors. Vanilla mint? WTF? As I perused the somewhat overwhelming selection I noticed some of the labels touted that they were “alcohol free”. This got my attention. I had never internalized the knowledge that mouthwash includes alcohol amongst its ingredients.
Suddenly it was 2013 and I was 500 miles north in my Grandmother’s bedroom helping her make her bed after having washed her sheets. I noticed that she had put on a rubber fitted sheet on under her real sheet. This was sad and troublesome because even though she was 104 years old, I hadn’t known she’d been wetting her bed.
Me: “Oh, Grandma. I’m so sorry.”
Grandma: “Why, honey?”
Me: “The rubber sheet. I didn’t know that you were having accidents.”
Grandma: “Oh, I’m not,” she quipped, “but you know what they say, there’s a first time for everything!”
That entire exchange played out in my brain like a movie as I stood there in the middle of CVS. “There’s a first time for everything.” Suddenly I saw a montage flash before my eyes. . . it started out with me innocently brushing my teeth while absently reaching for the mouthwash and it ended with me passed out in public under feces-stained newspapers at a bus stop with my gums caved in and no teeth while clutching a one-eyed matted cat and a half-empty bottle of mouthwash.
The mantra is “to thine own self be true” and there are a few reasons for that. I immediately lunged for the alcohol FREE mouthwash and ran back to the pharmacy to complete my errand. I do know myself and I also know my sickness. Does it sound completely illogical that a grown-ass woman would someday think it reasonable to down three bottles of mouthwash to get a buzz? It should. But to me, it doesn’t. It sounds like it could happen if I let that insanity get into my head and start listening to the lies it tells me. For me to jump from mouthwash to full blown relapse SOUNDS implausible to every single person I know, save for the alcoholics who are reading this right now and shaking their heads in unison so vigorously that even I can hear it as I type.
Someone once said that while we’re in recovery, our sickness is outside doing push-ups and I believe that whole-heartedly. No one has ever lied to me like I’VE lied to me. I have a hilarious and precious friend who is also retired from alcohol and she succinctly sums it up;
“Today I wouldn’t take a drink if you paid me a million dollars but tomorrow I may just take one for free.”
And that, my friends, is the insanity of alcoholism.