"Hi, my name is Amanda...and I might be an alcoholic"
Dr. Kosanke thinks this is a bad habit I can basically cognitive-behavior myself out of. I worry that I don't have whatever synapses you need to anticipate fun. Although I often enjoy parties, I don't look forward to them. Ditto travel, romantic dinners, even shopping. I think the best I can cognitive-behavior myself into is imagining fun as a dear, devoted friend—one always out there, waiting for me to arrive.
By now, my fourth month in treatment, I'm doing what Dr. Kosanke calls reducing the risk—when I drink, which is a few times a week, I pour myself two glasses of wine and dump the rest of the bottle out.
She gives me another worksheet—one that assesses which people, places, times, and feelings are "triggers" for my alcohol consumption. I tell her we already know that I drink because I'm anxious and bored, and that I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who is surrounded by teetotalers.
"How about not keeping any wine at home?" she suggests.
"I'll give in and buy it at the wine store," I say.
"On the way home from my daughter's school."
"Arrange to be doing something during your 'witching hour.' Take a ballet class. Go to a movie with a friend. You don't have to tell them they're babysitting."
"Do something pleasant every single afternoon," she orders.
The next month is much less stressful than previous months: My work anxiety is being argued with by the new voice Dr. Kosanke had me practice (When I think, "I suck," the new voice says, "You sure get published a lot for someone who sucks." Or, "I hear Van Gogh sometimes thought he was a lousy painter." Or just, "That's not a very helpful thing to think.") My home life is much improved because my husband and mother-in-law are doing much more childcare, and now (big surprise) when I'm with my daughter, I enjoy her more than resent her. And since my family is around more, we have dinners together, which are relaxed and fun because I've recently discovered the joys of heat-and-eat meals.
When weary of being positive and engaged, I indulge myself with a vengeance. I get a massage, a manicure, a stupidly expensive headband, a puppy, Botox. I think I watch every Law & Order episode ever made (even though TV isn't on Dr. Kosanke's list of approved hobbies) and take more bubble baths than I have during the previous 40 years of my life. I stop drinking for a whole ten days...the last three of which I spend counting the hours to an Academy Awards party, where I—a newly normal drinker—am going to enjoy two glasses of wine! (Wow, my joyful anticipation synapses roar to sudden life!) I wind up guzzling four filled-to-the-brim glasses and cease and desist only because my hostess stops pouring and I'm too embarrassed to ask her to open a new bottle just for me.
The next day, because I'll be staying in, I plan not to drink at all. But the second my bedroom clock hits 6:00 P.M., I call the liquor store and ask them to deliver me a bottle pronto, which I suck straight down.
"I can't be a normal drinker," I tell Dr. Kosanke.
"So what do you want to do now?" she asks.