Last night I got home from work to find a freshly poured goblet of white wine sitting on the kitchen counter, the glass sweating in the cool humidity of the room. I sighed and walked around the island where the glass sat, putting my lunch containers in the sink.

Right, I thought. They’re back.

“They” being my dad and step mom. On the 16th of September they left for a trip down to their new retirement property in Central America, where they hope to move in a few years’ time. They got back into town late on Wednesday, and I didn’t have a chance to catch up with them until last night.

Before they left town, my step mom was trying out a drinking hiatus for herself. I talked with her and my dad about my quit, talked about how I felt a lot better physically and how I was sleeping through the night. I handed them my copy of This Naked Mind and said they were free to read through it if they liked.

Step mom read it all the way through and afterwards, without much of a declaration, I stopped seeing her reach for the giant box wine in the fridge. Instead, it was tea and sparkling water and keeping herself busy with random chores. After a couple of days, though, she began complaining about not losing any weight, and still having trouble sleeping even though she wasn’t drinking.

I wanted to just sit her down and tell her that it takes time. It takes time, and continued effort. The weight isn’t going to fall off like magic. Restful sleep usually takes a few weeks to achieve, perhaps even longer, depending on how much and how long you’ve been drinking. But I also knew that she was going to have to learn about it in her own way, and that I could only help by modeling my alcohol-free way of life without being an overzealous asshole about it.

So, for a few days, she made iced tea and drank it in evenings. She started drinking LaCroix. She talked about having a bigger sweet tooth. I nodded and said, yup, all normal. I felt happy for her, though. In the 6 years that I’ve known her, her drinking habits have only become more and more of a concern – for her health, mostly, but also for her relationship with my dad, who is not a big drinker at all. I can see how it strains him sometimes to try to interact with her when she’s drunk. She gets chatty – really chatty – and talks over others, repeats herself, goes on tangents. It’s quite frustrating when you’re not drinking, actually. And as he ages, I can tell his patience is starting to wear a little thin.

Step mom frequently buys the box wines because “they’re economical.” I did the same thing when I lived alone, and at my heaviest drinking phase, it took me 2-3 days to finish it on my own. That’s the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine, gone in 2 or 3 evenings. Often after a beer or two, as well. I’ve seen my step mom do the same – either refilling her glass several times a night, or drinking an actual bottle by herself (or 1.5 – 2 bottles in a night with a friend) on the regular. It’s tough to watch. I don’t know how she feels when she’s the only one drinking, either.

Anyway, last night, after my dad got home a bit later, we were all chatting about the elections and work and my school, and we got on the topic of one of my classes this semester: substance abuse counseling. As we were talking about the serious implications of alcohol and drug abuse, my step mom made the comment that the contents of This Naked Mind were incredibly depressing – that is, all of the statistics on drug abuse, the physical illnesses associated with drinking, and the variety of other problems that come along with alcoholism. And she made this comment after going for her third refill of wine.

I know this post probably comes across as judgmental, and I don’t mean it to be so. I guess I’m just trying to come to terms with the disappointment I feel when I think about my step mom’s drinking behaviors – how she started down the path of at least trying to stop drinking, but didn’t even let herself get to the good part of sobriety, to see how it can feel. I imagine she felt overwhelmed by the initial discomfort, and probably didn’t see the point in stopping when her sleep didn’t improve immediately and she didn’t lose weight.

I can see my past self in her, and even though I’m in a good place now, I completely empathize with the look of relief I saw spread across her face when she was drinking last night. It’s her thing. Her comfort blanket, if you will. She’s been drinking since she was in her late teens. A life without it – well, that would take a whole lot of restructuring and effort on her part, and I have no idea how willing she is to do that right now. I don’t know that it’s ever been something that she’s seriously considered stopping, or at least moderating.

And there’s a disappointment in realizing that I have no right to try to influence her or make her do that; it’s entirely her choice and she gets to decide what type of relationship she has with her bottle(s). I can only decide how to go forward in my own sobriety, living how I feel is best for me, and I can hopefully be a support if and when she decides to give it a try again.

This must be, to some lesser degree, how it feels to have a fellow sober friend fall back into drinking/using. In a way, you’re pretty helpless. You cannot force someone to do something they don’t want to do. Even if they’re destroying their life, the power to change ultimately rests in their hands. You just gotta be there for them if and when they decide they’re ready to try again.

In other unrelated news, I just got approval from my boss to start a 4-day work week, where I’ll start my days around 8am and leave around 6pm. This lets me have free Fridays for leisure or dedicated study time, and I’ll miss the majority of the traffic going in and out of the city. I see this being a positive change in my life 🙂

Additionally, I’m still undecided about the guinea pigs. I’d love some little furry critters to cuddle. But I do still wonder if now is the right time, or if I should just wait it out a bit longer before I make that kind of commitment.

Day 84

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