by Kimball C. Pier

 What my “Wine Self” said……

 Wine is good for me. It prevents something…maybe heart disease or high blood pressure?

I only drink this much or that much…never more…well hardly ever. Okay maybe sometimes.

I never touch hard alcohol. My sister loves gin martinis. So did I, and I loved drinking martinis with her until she began to babble. Then I would tell her to drink some water and stop babbling and we’d switch to wine. After having a dizzying experience with an especially and potentially lethal martini that my husband Jon made, I switched to wine, which makes me superior to her, because I know she still drinks gin and I am righteous and superior because I only drink wine.

Wait…if I drink a shot of gin (Blue Sapphire, or Tanqueray only), I wouldn’t be consuming 400 or more calories in wine every night. An ounce and a half of gin doesn’t have that many calories. Even two shots of gin is less than the amount of wine I told myself I drank.

Gin and tonics with very little tonic would probably ruin my liver. I’m an endurance athlete, once very competitive on national level. Runners don’t drink martinis; they mostly prefer beer. Too bad I don’t like beer. Beer makes you fat anyway.

I’ll take one night off a week. Monday nights would be good. Yes, Monday will be “wine-free night.” It went well for a while until I realized I just drank more wine and with more vigor on Tuesday.

Boy that was a tough day. Maybe I should have a little extra. I’ll just drink less on Wednesday. Too bad I forgot about that on Wednesday.

NOVEMBER 9, 2016. Trump is President, an excellent reason to abolish “wine-free night.” I seem to be going to Safeway more often to make sure I never run out of wine. But you save a ton of money buying six bottles at a time, so fuck you nagging voice in my head that reminds me I’ve just spent over a hundred dollars on wine.

Some of my clients have great difficulty with alcohol. I listened to their stories with great compassion for how alcohol had destroyed them in some way or other. While I was sitting with them and listening, my evil mind was telling me how not alcoholic I was because at least I hadn’t gone to jail, at least I hadn’t thrown up on myself or anyone else, at least I haven’t lost a job, and at least I haven’t gotten a DUI, although I should have on several occasions. It must be awful to be an alcoholic I would say to myself. I probably am an alcoholic too though. I argued with my Wine Self about that whether I was an alcoholic:

Wine Self: “No I’m not.”

Honest Self: “Yes, I am. Probably.”

Wine Self: Nooooo…

Honest Self: Oh my God, look at all the time you spend thinking about wine.

Wine Self: No…that just means I’m being really careful about drinking. I can’t wait to get home and feel badly for “those” clients while I have my first glass of wine, which by the way, disappeared in ten seconds.

I had a special wine glass. I took it with me everywhere. It had two dogs facing each other howling at the moon cut into the glass. I knew that it measured exactly five ounces at the height of the dog’s butts. I would take a couple of pulls from the bottle before pouring the five ounces and told myself that the pulls from the bottle didn’t count.

I am not sure it looks good for me to buy wine with screw caps instead of corks. I thought only drunks on the street drank wine with screw caps…you know like, “Ripple.” Oh wait….is that Sonoma Cutrer chardonnay with a screw top? Well if this wine has a screw top, it must be okay. Sonoma Cutrer was usually twenty-three dollars or more, unless you bought it six bottles at a time from Safeway. Then it was eighteen ninety-nine per bottle.

I cannot go to this trauma training for a week and be stuck in a convent with no wine and no private refrigerator. I wonder if they’d notice if I brought in my own mini-fridge? Would the nuns be suspicious?

I can’t throw the bottles away in the trash in a convent. I’d have to take the bottles out myself in my duffel bag and drive to a public trash bin. This seems like alcoholic behavior to me, but oh well.

I will not eat dinner in a cafeteria with all my other cohort members who don’t care about wine and seem to be fine without it. I am not fine without it. I drive to Whole Foods, go to the salad bar and then to the wine section to pick out a bottle of wine with a screw off top. Sonoma Cutrer comes in half-bottles. I’ll buy four.

I wonder if the wine will stay cool just sitting by the window of my tiny little room that overlooks Jesus hanging on the cross. I worry about that all morning while in training. At lunch, I decided to run out to the local 7-11 to buy some bagged ice. I’ll keep the wine on ice in the little sink in my room.

I cannot visit my daughter without wine. She and her husband don’t drink. Maybe I’ll just act nonchalant about it and they won’t notice my fixation on the wine ritual, which always had to take place before dinner. They were ready to eat and I was only through my first glass. Maybe if I started early, I could get a glass or two down before making the salad.

My daughter is going to have her first baby (my first grandchild) in December of 2018. I consider whether I want to be the grandmother that parents do not feel safe leaving their child with; the grandmother they talk in whispers about and demurely call the other grandmother who does not drink to take care of their child.

My liver enzymes are elevated according to blood work I have done to determine why I’m having terrible digestion problems and am now so thin that I scare myself, an experience I’ve never had. I do not see an accurate reflection of myself in the mirror. I never have. It’s always a reflection that says mean, judgmental things to me about my body. I notice a layer of fat on my belly. It ripples and seems not to respond to frantic efforts to get rid of it through exhaustive core work.

A CT scan reveals, “Diffuse Hepatic Steatosis,” which is liver disease caused by alcohol or hepatitis C. I have never had hepatitis. I stopped drinking on August 20, 2018. The last time I stopped drinking and went to an intensive outpatient treatment program and joined AA was on September 12, 2003. On December 31, 2005, I picked up a wine glass while with my current horrible boyfriend at a New Year’s Eve gathering. He liked his vodka, and when we went to parties, he would always whisper to the hostess, “Do you have anything non-alcoholic for Kimball? She’s…well…she’s (he begins to whisper even more quietly)…an alcoholic.” I decided I would probably be okay. Just this once, I told myself.

 Goodbye Wine

 If there was a brand of chardonnay named for me, it would be called “BG” or “Bottled Guilt.” My husband had quit drinking seven years before he met me. He called himself an alcoholic. He started drinking again because I was. I could not, would not give up the evening wine ritual. I tend to be a problem in my own life. I don’t like being alone when feeding my addictions, and he is all too willing to give up his own peace to join me. That is why I felt guilty every single minute of every day for twelve and a half years. That’s 4,562.5 days, 109,500 hours, 6,570,000 minutes of suffering.

Oh, and that’s just the wine part of my guilt and shame. There are a few other areas of my life where other addictions such as starving myself because I did not feel I deserved to be visible or to feed myself, participating in endurance sports not just because I love being outside, but also because I did not feel I deserved wine (or food) unless I was running or cycling myself into a coma, and being angry at myself all the time which then was projected onto anything and anyone in my path. I yelled at rocks for being in my way on trail runs, I would yell at the vacuum for getting stuck on its own cord, I would yell at my husband for not putting the pillow shams on correctly and so on. The starvation is an expression of despair, perhaps a longing to disappear, and my discomfort with being in the world, especially since November 9, 2016. I love food. It’s just hard for me to eat it. It’s been that way since my mother told me she hoped I wouldn’t end up looking like my grandmother on my father’s side. “She has hips like a cow,” she would scoff. “And legs like tree stumps.” I have checked my ass every day in the mirror since I was twelve.

I’m not missing recycling day when most of my recycling bag was filled with wine bottles. I tried not to count them;

or worrying about what the garbage man would think as he lugged my wine-bottle rattling bag to the truck.

I do not miss the disappointment in myself. Each morning I’d wake up and feel like today was the day to stop, hoping that feeling would stick. Then I would go on an eighty mile bike ride with ten thousand feet of climbing, come home, and couldn’t wait to pop the cork. If I rode hard for many hours, I would earn my wine. Maybe the really good stuff tonight. And maybe I could eat more and not feel the searing pain in my stomach whenever even the smallest amount of food landed in it.

Those wine bottle carriers are heavy when fully loaded. I think I might have actually injured my shoulder carrying all that wine up the stairs. Possibly my knees too.

It cost at least $300 per month to maintain the wine ritual, and I’m probably minimizing that as much as I minimized the amount of wine I drank. I wouldn’t drink the inexpensive stuff. I wanted to be a dignified, proper drinker, finicky about her wine, chardonnay, Sonoma County, occasionally a Monterey County wine. The really good stuff is over twenty-five dollars, so I settled for the mid-range, practically at eye level in the wine aisle. Let’s see, six bottles at $15.99 per bottle not including tax is $95.94. One of those sixers a week is $191.88 which adds up to $767.44 per month and $9,210.24 per year. I could buy almost the best Specialized bicycle for that much. And I probably didn’t just buy one sixer a week. And sometimes, there was a stray bottle or two that cost $21.99, so I’m minimizing that figure too. Oh and then there was the beer my husband liked which I would always buy for him which I thought was very considerate of me.

I measured my wine to make sure I wasn’t drinking more than would fit a dignified, proper drinker, certainly not an alcoholic if I only drank this much or that much. But then I lost track, and in the morning, I was afraid to look at the level of wine remaining in the bottle.

After dinner, I could barely move what with the combination of ridiculous amounts of exercise and wine on an empty stomach, which created a faster and more intense high. I longed to enjoy the thick quilt of wine. But the dishes needed to be washed, and dogs had to be let out, and I would totter my way down the stairs, swaying on the lawn, hoping the neighbors weren’t noticing the stagger in my step. “It’s just the pine cones,” I would tell myself. “You’re not drunk at all. Maybe a bit tiddly, but certainly not drunk. You’re a dignified and proper drinker with lots of rules. Only at home, only in the evening, no more than this much or that much…I do not miss the dizziness when standing up.

I do not miss the intense stomach aches and searing pain across the top of my belly.

I thought it would be impossible to say “goodbye” to wine. My Wine-Self will never be dead. I just know how to comfort its constant anxiety and discomfort and it’s memories of trauma that live on in the deepest reaches of my body and soul. I know those orphans so well. I can love them and embrace them without wine to dull the intensity of the emotions that arise out of the moist earth of my soul. I can welcome all of myself, not just the parts that may be more acceptable. I can welcome the disapproval that others may want me to feel and I can meet their orphans just as I met my own, with loving-kindness and compassion.