Photo: Li Kim Goh/iStock
I remember the exact moment I developed my drinking problem. I was writing a scene for the NBC soap opera Sunset Beach. The show's sweet young thing had just been abducted by a Mayan-themed cult, and my boss told me to "up the drama and make it real." I thought, "I can't—not without a glass of wine." So I got one.
That was seven years ago. Nothing terrible has happened since. Except an occasional glass of wine became a glass of wine every night became two glasses of wine became sometimes three and, if no one was looking, most of a bottle—which once emptied, I would hide. I also became intensely interested in time. To make sure I wasn't becoming an alcoholic, I never allowed myself to drink before 6:00 P.M. But very quickly I knew that our bedroom clock was the fastest in our home, and therefore the authoritative household timepiece every evening.
I never drove drunk. I never endangered my daughter. I never let loose with a single hateful tirade. I never wound up strung out and naked in some skanky guy's pickup.
But I knew that hiding bottles from my husband wasn't a great idea. The problem was I didn't know what to do next. I couldn't imagine showing up at Alcoholics Anonymous...what was I going to say? "One morning I woke up [dramatic pause] bloated." Plus, I didn't ache for an alcohol-free life. I pined for the relationship I had with the stuff for the first 18 years of my drinking life—supercasual, occasional one-night stands, a sweet feel-it-and-forget thing.
I'm not shy about asking for help in figuring out ways over the molehills that appear in my path. At first I got two useless pieces of advice from friends—"Check into Betty Ford!" (and pay for it how?) and "Relax, the entire population of France drinks more than you do!" Finally, my friend Lisa, whose husband is a substance-abuse counselor, suggested I call New York City's Center for Motivation and Change. "They're flexible," she promised.
"I want to be a normal drinker again," I told Nicole Kosanke, PhD, the psychologist I met at my two-hour "psychosocial/motivational evaluation."
"What's normal?" she asked.
"Not drinking at home."
"How much when you're out?"
"Two glasses to start," I said. "But when I get better, I won't be so rigid."
"That's a good beginning," Dr. Kosanke said.
My snake-oil radar clanged. Sure, I was absolutely desperate to keep Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve in my life, but every recovering alcoholic I'd ever met swore up, down, and sideways, "Half measures avail us nothing!" And seared in my memory was the day Audrey Kishline, the founder of the "responsible drinking" group Moderation Management, killed a 38-year-old man and his 12-year-old daughter while driving drunk.
Still, I answered Dr. Kosanke's questions. I'd started nonsocial drinking because I was anxious (that Mayan-themed scene I had to write), convinced I was a hack and would never be able to finish a script. Then, after I had a baby, drinking took the edge off my most dirty little secret—boredom.