Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and it was one of the nicest celebrations I have ever had with my husband, or anyone for that matter. We don’t normally make a fuss but yesterday was an exception. When I got home from work, Philip made me fabulous dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables (a la Thomas Keller—Ad Hoc at Home) and if that wasn’t enough, earlier that day, he sent flowers to my office. WOW! I was flabbergasted and totally wooed.
During this holiday that is centered on romance and champagne, I found myself thinking of having wine or cocktails after work. The desire for alcohol comes and goes lately more like a puffy cloud that drifts in and out of my mind. The thought does not seem to hold the same weight that it did last month. There is less of a struggle right now. For that, I am very grateful.
Yesterday there were other gifts in my life above and beyond those presented to me by my husband. Twice in the course of the evening I was given the opportunity to gain a little more insight into the reoccurring question of dependency, addiction and habit. Having received the results of the Myers-Briggs test that I took at career counseling, I started to read the summary of my Type—Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging (INTJ). Right in the middle of the page was a little gem of verification that summarized something that I had suspected all along:
When under a great deal of stress, the INTJ may be become obsessed with mindless repetitive, sensate activities, such as over-drinking. They may also become absorbed with minutia and details that they would not normally consider important to their overall goal.
In the last month, it has become clearer to me that my drinking had become a habit and reaction to stress. It has been quiet easy for me to give up alcohol for social events. The real difficult moments have come when I am stressed at the end of the day.
The latter part of the description also defines a tendency that I possess when I am particularly wound up—I get obsessed with the small stuff. Philip quickly pointed out to me, “That is like when you get crazed about doing the dishes.” Reading this passage touched on a point of truth in me and helped to validate my belief that drinking became a habit for me born out of stress, not an addiction.
The second bit of insight that I gained over the course of the evening came in the form of a movie. Philip and I rented the newest Denzel Washington movie, Flight. We had no idea what this was about but we heard it was good. It didn’t take long to figure out that the main character, Whip Whitaker (played by Washington) has a serious alcohol problem. The portrayal of the disease of alcoholism was very real and terrifying. Watching this movie was painful. We just wanted this character to stop and wake up. I kept thinking he would have his “ah ha” moment. Most of us know, people can lose everything to drinking when they are crippled with this condition. Whip does finally have his awakening moment where he decides to admit that he is an alcoholic and the catastrophic consequences of this action are life changing for him and others.
I have seen other movies where people are drinking themselves to death and I have known people within the depths of this disease. I had forgotten how devastating alcoholism really is to people and those who get caught up in the wake of other’s actions. The movie helped me to remember what the extreme condition looks like and to be grateful for my “bad habit.” It is through my own minor struggles that I now have a deeper empathic sense for what it must be like to really battle this debilitating disease.