AddThis script

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Grief and alcohol

bereaved mother
Salty grief snacks
I’ve had beer; I’ve had chocolate covered cookies. And I’m contemplating making popcorn. The trifecta of vices: alcohol, sugar, and salt covered carbs. Apparently that's what happens when the kids are in bed and my husband it out. But I’m not feeling that much better. Only slightly numbed out because of the beer. A little warm. A little forgetful.

Years ago, when Lawyer Friend and I would go out dancing, we shared a single cocktail because neither of us drank much and one of us had to drive, but now I can drink two vodka martinis and I sleep all night and wake without a hint of a hangover. Tonight, a single beer only softens the edges a bit and only for a short amount of time. Living in California, people drink wine. Often daily and it’s normal. But that was never me. I really only drank when I went out. Before Riley died, it was a Moscow Mule. Before those were invented, I'd get a Mai Tai. That is, right up until I had two one evening on an empty stomach and I spent most of the night in the alley behind the restaurant heaving the pineapple-sweetened contents of my stomach onto an unsuspecting azalea bush.

(I've given up on popcorn because of the effort. Instead, like a pile of coins, I have a pile of tamari-flavored rice crackers on the couch beside me...see photo).

Numbing out, feeding Grief sugar and booze and salty crackers; it does help, in some twisted way. It's cliche isn't it? People having been using alcohol to forget for thousands of years. I'm not so special. Giving in to something that makes me feel better, whether it’s only for the moments it’s melting on my tongue, for the seconds I'm crunching it between my molars, or for the 35 minutes it gives everything a slightly warm glow, I like it. I don’t like that I like it, but I do.

It worries me a bit because I come from a long line of alcoholics. I always said it was okay because I didn’t have an addictive personality. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn't have one, so as I was growing up, I noticed that my parents needed coffee to start their days. I decided that would never be me. I still don’t drink the stuff unless I’m driving a long distance. I’ve always joked I’m a social drinker when it comes to coffee. And even then, it’s mainly decaf. 

As for booze, I've only been a social drinker as well. But this is at least the third time in the last few months I've drank alone. 

All that's left... 
And in the last two years, probably more in the last six months, I have found solace in three glasses of wine, three beers, or two vodka martinis. I look forward to them. I crave them. I like the way they remove the grief cuff that is securely locked around my neck and I smile a little more openly. I flirt with my husband a little more vivaciously. I don’t look over my shoulder to see if I’m being seen out and about (because everyone knows that a grieving mother should never do anything light-hearted or entertaining or mildly amusing, especially if it involves being in public, especially if it involves being in public after dark on a Saturday night).

But with the alcohol's permission, or rather encouragement, I have heard the sound of my own laughter. I have worn a sexy dress and stood among strangers dancing in dimly lit bars. I have sang karaoke badly and blotted out all of the months since my son died as Taylor Swift lyrics erupted from inebriated vocal chords.

Each and every time I feel guilt when the alcohol is no longer giving permission to sing or dance or flirt. It pummels me. It's like lying at the bottom of rock wall as an earthquake shakes boulders loose. They crush, bruise, and cut--as they should. I feel anger that I allowed myself the opportunity to be in that place in the first place. I feel angry that my husband was my accomplice in the outing, that he, too, enjoyed this respite from grief with me. After the first time, I didn't talk to him for a few hours. Yet, I’ve done it more than once, more than twice. I order the drinks. I pull it into my lips, letting it saturate my taste buds, waiting for the warmth that follows almost immediately.

Then I stay in bed the next day thinking of my son, feeling bruised, making up for the lost hours when his beautiful life and the horrors of his last days weren't the forefront of my everything. That's not tonight, though; it's just one beer. (And cookies. And salt.) I'm sure it's nothing. Now I'll get back to Netflix, the other place I go to forget.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:15 PM

    I am a bereaved mom, too, but my loss was a stillbirth and I would never compare the grief to what you've been through. But I just wanted to say that the pain remained pretty critical for several years and now, six years out, it is much less acute. I feel grounded in my life. My nervous system feels like it is no longer inflamed. The lightness has come back in. For a couple of years, I struggled with acute anxiety about our one living child...the fear of losing him, too, became overwhelming at times. Klonopin has provided much relief. Is that something that you'd ever consider? Same effect as the alcohol, but more controlled and supervised. What you describe does not sound like alcoholism, but I hear your concern about it (I've always been a teetotaler, too, and have the family history of alcoholism). I also so understand the need to numb out. I still do that a lot (mostly through stupid game apps). Sending love.