Tough (Self)Talk with Tiff

I’ve found I’m spending a lot of time with my Dad lately. My Dad who’s been gone from this earth for oh, about 7 years or so now?

I wish I could remember the times like this…but so grateful to have this photo

As I myself get older…and get to that age where I think he was struggling more than ever…I find I’m understanding him more. He’s becoming more human to me. I think I put him up on a pedestal, as most little girls do with their Dads, and he fell off – hard. Like not just topple over lightly…but a big crash. And then I went through a long period of time being angry with him. Mostly because he was angry.

But now I get it a bit more. He wasn’t angry….he was more than likely depressed and hurting. But the amount of alcohol he was drinking made him angry. It turned him in to something he wasn’t. My Dad was a kind-hearted, sweet soul who wanted everyone to just “do what you need to do to be happy”. Unfortunately for him, he thought that his happiness was contained in a bottle of vodka. Or a can (or case more like) of beer.

I haven’t written in here for a very long time – but when I was writing here before, it helped me sort through some thoughts. And right now there are so many thoughts going through my head that I need to get them out there. I was going to create a separate blog for these thoughts, but then I realized that the only people following me here that know me IRL are people that would be utterly supporting and loving…and some actually able to relate. Perhaps.

It’s 7am on a Saturday morning and I finished my last glass of wine exactly 6 days, 8 hours and 55 minutes ago. Which doesn’t seem like such an accomplishment, but considering it’s summertime and I live in the land of ‘vino y tapas’ on terraces, it is.

I came out to the living room to enjoy the quiet before the sun came up (it’s up now) and opened the balcony windows so my adorable cat companion could go outside and smell the jasmine and mint. There is some tourist in the building across the plaza though, FaceTiming (without headphones), speaking loudly in English about how the person on the other end of the call would “love it here”, while he’s clicking his lighter on/off, on/off, over and over again and drinking a big glass of red wine. It’s irritating and I’m trying to send him telepathic messages to go inside so I can enjoy the quiet sounds of the birds and the city waking up!

I didn’t mean this to be a long post…but it’s turning in to one. Oops! I guess I just want a place where I can be accountable. To myself. So that it’s not so easy to do the “oh, 1 glass is fine….I can have 1”. Because it rarely is just that 1 – it’s more like 3 or 4 and then perhaps an aperitif to finish the evening.

Labels suck – they really do. If you choose to stop drinking, it’s ‘do you think you’re an alcoholic?’ Personally, I don’t relate to that label. It’s how I view my Dad, and his brothers. I’ve seen the ‘bad side’ of alcoholism far more than I wish…and I am not there. Thankfully. But where I am, is a place where my relationship with alcohol is not something I like anymore. To be honest with myself, I haven’t liked it for a very long time. I rarely (anymore) get completely drunk to the point of having a fuzzy morning…but I more often than I wish have a glass or two….(or four!) more days in the week than not.

I’ve always maintained that because of my Dad and his brothers, I didn’t want alcohol to ever be a thing in my life. It’s why as an adult I’ve always had a full bar stocked. When you come to my house and get asked “what would you like?” You can feel free to name anything you’d ask for at a bar. Except I am probably (usually) out of any kind of mixer because I don’t drink pop/soda/fizzy stuff except San Pellegrino. Because it’s bad for you. Which is now making me laugh out loud, because it’s not nearly as bad as the alcohol I have sitting in the (very full) liquor cabinet. And to be fair, alcohol sits in there for so long…untouched…that sometimes I wonder if it’s gone ‘off’. I don’t touch it. Except when I do.

When I’ve got a friend over and we’ve finished a couple bottles of wine and I suggest “how about a little nightcap?” I always regret those nightcaps the next morning as they’re typically a double shot – or triple.

When it’s winter and I’ve got a cold and I suddenly get it in my head that a hot toddy is exactly what I need to make me feel better. Every night for a week.

Or when it’s simply cold out and cozy in….and I decide that a Whisky (is that even spelled right?!) Mac is a great idea! They’re delicious! Whisky and Ginger Wine….yum!

But for the most part, I don’t touch 90% of what I have in there. They get pulled out for elaborate dinner parties so that people can mix a cocktail of their choice. I even have wine in there that I bought 6 years ago in Italy and have been saving for a special occasion. No matter how much I want a glass of wine sometimes….those bottles never get opened. I’ll just not have any wine if there’s nothing else there as I wouldn’t open those for just any old occasion.

All that said, for as much as I’ve always maintained that I don’t want alcohol to be a ‘thing’ in my life….that obsession with it not being a ‘thing’ has somehow made it be a ‘thing’. I don’t want to ‘never drink again’ because then it would be a ‘thing’. At the same time, I don’t want to drink too much, because then it would be a ‘thing’. And the amount of time I spend thinking about whether or not I drink too much, or how I’m going to go to whatever social occasion is happening that weekend or deal with whatever stress it happening at work without winding down with wine….is something I’m not overly proud of. Which means it’s now a ‘thing’. Sigh.

I have an incredibly stressful work life and the bottom line is…I have finally admitted to myself that I use wine to de-stress. And that, my friends, is how my lovely, kind-spirited, loving father became an alcoholic who was so miserable that it was hard to be around him. Although I clearly remember him telling me several times that if he had to live without alcohol, then life wasn’t worth living and he had nothing to live for….I am sure that if his 20yr old self were to hear those words, or even his 30yr old self, he’d be horrified. But after that, it was too late. He was on that slippery slope of turning to alcohol to help him cope…and he couldn’t get himself out of it. Didn’t want to. And that’s a scary thought and a place I never want to find myself.

I’m not saying I’m never drinking again. I mean, I’ve got that lovely Italian wine I’ve been saving! But I want a re-set. I want a do-over. I want to go back to who I was in my early 20’s when people would tease me because I never had more than 1 ‘cooler’ (sugary alcopop) and then stop. I got caught up in trying to keep up with colleagues who were older, who drank more, who partied harder. It was the tech boom and we were partying hard. I stopped listening to that voice that told me to stop…that I’d had enough. Alcohol became normalized and I went from being the one observing the people who drank 2 glasses of wine to my 1, to being the one wondering why everyone else was drinking so slowly.

So I want to re-set my relationship with alcohol. 90 days of sobriety. And then we’ll see. I don’t’ know. The Italian wine is calling my name as wanting to be savored on my 50th birthday. Which is just over 90 days away. We’ll see when I get there.

In the meantime though, I have a girls vacation coming up at a house near the water. I’ve found some really lovely non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ that I actually like more than their alcoholic counterparts and I’ve ordered some de-alcoholized wine. Because I was having a bit of a pout, thinking about drinking water all weekend while everyone else enjoys a treat (aka wine). And that was a bit telling, let me tell you.

So here’s to de-alcolised wine and fancy mocktails….and here’s to me making it through to mid-November with all the stress of work and everything else going on in this world…without my vino tinto. Or rosado. Or blanco. Or any of the vinos I happen to fancy whilst sitting on a terrace. Or trying to relax after a stressful meeting.

And here’s the the drunk guy across the plaza who has finally stumbled inside and now there’s quiet! Hurrah!

To anyone who actually reads this…IF anyone reads this…thank you for listening. And thank you for letting this be an anonymous place where my public persona….my professional personal…is kept private.

~ Tiff (what my Dad used to call me)

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