Monday, September 8, 2014

Drinking for Fun or Drinking to Numb?

I swear I've written a blog about this subject, but for the life of me I can't find it.  So, if you've been reading this blog for years I apologize if this is a repeat.  But then again, maybe it bears repeating.

I received an email from someone who was generally beating herself up because of a falling out with family members during the last week.  Her husband has only been gone a month.

Now, as almost all of you know...nothing brings out the best and the worst in people like the death of a loved one.  We all say things in the heat of the moment that we hope will be forgiven someday (or we hope we find the patience to forgive others for things they might have said).  I know I've been there - as those of you who read my book know, my mom and I had a falling out over the cardboard boxes in my garage just weeks after my husband's death. 

It happens.

But this woman's problem is compounded by the fact that she was "under the influence" when she had these discussions.  And she's having a really hard time forgiving herself.

Again, I feel like I've addressed this before, but I know from hanging out on the widow block for a while that extreme grief and can sometimes lead to addiction.  I know I joke about having a glass of wine or two every once in a while and maybe I shouldn't - it is a very real problem in our community.

The difference between widow drinking and other forms of consumption is that we're not doing it to have a good time.  We're not doing it because we're out partying it up with our friends.  We're not necessarily hoping it will make us feel better and we find it hard to believe that we could feel worse.

So, why do we do it?

Because we don't want to feel anything at all.  At least for a little while.

I will admit that I've stared down this abyss myself.  Widowed, stuck at home with three small children who would go to bed at 8 PM and leave me with a silent house and a feeling of loneliness I don't even think is possible to put into was sometimes pretty hard to fight the urge to seek that numbness.  And when you're already in a state of feeling abandoned by the person you thought would always be there and wondering would anyone care if I just had one more...?

Yes.  Someone cares.  There is a whole community of us who care.

The issue (one of the many) with self-medication is that it compounds the problems we already have:  We're depressed, tired, and emotionally drained.  It can make us feel anxious (which most of us already are) and depletes us of our already vanishing physical reserves. 

We're already dehydrated from crying so much and then we tack on a bender?  That can't be good.

As with most things, I've figured out there is no one solution for everyone.  Some people have found solace and help through churches and support groups.  You know me - I'm all about finding a good counselor to fix what ails you.  And some people just have a wake-up call of their own and suddenly think, "I just can't do this anymore."

But the number one thing that I hope that anyone reading this understands is, as with most things when it comes to widowhood, you are not alone.  There are others out there who are struggling just as you are.  There are those who have climbed out of that abyss and are willing to share their knowledge and understanding to get you through.  Remember that there are online communities (like mine and many others) where you can post anonymously without worrying your mother-in-law is going to read it.

Find those people

You are not alone.


  1. Yes, I have been there big time. Still do on occasion. I didn't want to feel but I also need to sleep and for a short while it let me sleep. I have no one at home, just me alone, so I think no one does care if I have just one more. But I always hate myself in the morning and I am trying and for the most part I am slowing down. At least 4 days out of the week I have no drink at all. My motivation now is that I have gained weight and I am pretty sure it is the wine...sigh.

    1. Not knowing when your loved one passed, know this... you are NEVER alone...and I CARE... My husband passed 2 years, 3 months and 4 days ago. I know that alone feel oh so well....

  2. Widowed at 39 with my 40th block party celebration right around the corner, my hubs of 12 years died suddenly, 2 weeks before, leaving me with 3 boys under 8. The coroner report read "complications due to alcohol abuse", which I find quite hysterical. Yes, we were both big social drinkers, but 'hepatic encephalopathy'? Last time I checked, my husband, nor I was an alcoholic. His liver clearly disagreed. I was angry with him. Angry with alcohol, and I felt like he stole my enjoyment of my cocktail as well. Dumb, I know, but I needed to blame someone, or something. I gave up the hootch for 9 months. I learned a few things: ONE~I am literally 15lbs of alcohol when I regularly consume. TWO~I make too many inappropriate decisions when I drink. THREE~Clearly, I am making up for some ridiculous sense of lost time (never partied in college). NOW, am I learning anything? God, I hope so. Don't get me wrong. I don't drink everyday. I certainly know how to share a great bottle of wine with friends, but instead of NOT drinking because I was angry, now I drink because I'm STILL angry. I keep it in the fairway. Save it for the 19th hole...if you get my golf references, but I just think, for me, it's just part of my process.

  3. I was a social drinker when my husband died when I was 34. Then I became a full fledged, it's 5 o'clock somewhere, drinker. I am 5'8",and I weighed 115 pounds because I wasn't eating. But I loved alcohol, and truth be told, a couple of other white collar substances. After 3 years, I realized I wasn't getting better in my grief, and I was lying about my alcohol consumption, and endangering myself and others. So I quit. I quit going to bars where I didn't have to feel alone, I quit reaching for the whiskey in the cabinet, and I quit reaching for the closest person who could give me comfort for one night. I'm still lonely, sometimes, and I still want to numb my pain sometimes, but I feel like I have more opportunities to experience all the tiny joys life has to offer, that I never got to see from the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

  4. I have found my self broken as my husband was the glue that held me together for so many years, As it got closer to his death I found the calls stopped, the visits stopped , and they were from "his" loved ones.The promises of never being alone ..yeah right. I found myself trying to numb the pain or trying to anyways. I lashed out at people,, screamed, cried, I didnt drink daily, but when I did it seemed the bottle the next morning seemed to always be empty or close to it.granted it numbed me , but when I opened my eyes the next morning or 4, 5 hours later it all "feelings" came crashing back. The feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, shower, function, angry at everyone about everything seemed to just blurt out.I do realize that drinking to so call take away the pain isnt and wont work, lashing out at people that are grieving in their own way even though I might not understand theres. is a acceptance I must reach accepting people for their ways of dealing. I cant control other peoples feelings but I can control mine, I can not change what happened, But I can change my behavior because of what happen, and that is the wish my husband stated, BE HAPPY, seems impossible, but if I start small finding little things that make me smile , maybe, just maybe, all the little smiles will add up to starting to laugh again.Social drink is one thing but the numbing approach is not the answer.

  5. After my husband was killed Bud Light was my best friend. I have kids, so I did everything I had to do for them and then after it was all done I drank. I drank earlier on the weekends. My mother lives close so I figured in an emergency I would be ok. I did this for three years. Whenever I felt bothered by it I reminded myself I was better off alcoholic than dead because I seriously wanted to die. The only thing that kept me alive is I couldn't figure out a way my kids would be ok without me. Now I don't want to die anymore, and I don't want to be alcoholic either, plus that much beer made me fat, so I am not drinking like that anymore. It really will not get me the life I want to have, but I had to want to have a life before I could see that.

  6. Before my wife died, I enjoyed Scotch. After my wife died, I needed Scotch. That was 4 years ago. I drank a lot. I don't drink nearly that much now, but I have to be very mindful of my alcohol consumption. I actually track it in a diary. That, and exercise. Thanks for discussing this.

    1. I think you should write what you are feeling in that diary, my journal is insane...with the thoughts I consumed...I read it and thought How in the HECK did I get through those days!!!

  7. Before my husband died, I enjoyed a glass of wine shared with him, my glasses hold 1/2 a bottle.... which he and I would lovingly share 1 glass together...when he was called by the Big Guy to come home...I realized, yes two glasses was ok too...which meant 1 bottle of wine...about 3x a week...I think that is what life insurance is we dont have to think about the stuff that money buys in order for us to get through that first year... my wine, turned to vodka, then whiskey.... 2 years later... I realized I walked through that 1st year not entirely sober. I think it is ironic that people will tell me..."you wont remember the 1st year" unhunh you got that right... I was in constant state of xanax intensified by my beverage of choice... If it werent for photographs I wouldnt remember didly... including the guy who help drain my insurance and drink me to sleep, that I nearly married...Thank goodness for divine intervention....
    Point of the story sometimes us Widows need liquid courage to face the world without our beloveds, but I truly believe all of us can come out on the other side of that cloud, healthy and ready to embrace the life WE HAVE. I still partake in a beverage every now and again... less than once a month which was my norm pre-widowhood...
    Ever notice how we do before we were widowed, and life after.....

    1. I am the Bud Light loving Anonymous above. I recently read about a 9/11 widow who went on a spending spree after her husband was killed. It was on Oprah. The psychologist said people in grief often turn to food, alcohol, shopping or an affair, but those things don't work because "life won't let us get away with a cheap band-aid on a sacred wound". I read that and thought I did all four, I guess when I do something I go all the way. I felt so bad about the guy part, and then someone confided to me that they were worried about their widowed step daughter because she was with a loser that is ten years younger than her. I laughed and said I did it too. These are the things nobody talks about that we probably should. Your comment made me feel better about that guy.