The Days of Wine and Roses

00:00 January 31, 2012
By: Debbie Lindsey (al`ke hol’), n. 1. A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid produced by fermentation of certain carbohydrates or obtained synthetically; used chiefly as a solvent, in beverages, medicines, lotions, and as a rocket fuel.

I’ll all fun and games until someone gets hurt. 

Good lord it’s just a glass of wine. Jesus, quite the vintner himself, could work wonders using mere water. He knew right from wrong. And a good stiff drink was due him, what with the rather extreme trials and tribulations he was facing. Plus the poor guy wasn’t living long enough to worry with liver failure; and DWIs didn’t apply to camel cruising.

An ice-cold brew or a snappy Chardonnay seems so civilized, until empty bottles start to pile up. Recycling helps to keep many folks on the straight and narrow path of sensible consumption. Publicly exposed bins of beer cans, or visits to Target’s glass recycling repository can be an embarrassment—that is, until you peek inside your neighbor’s canister or see the line of housewives behind you with their recycled Target bags of spent wine bottles. We live in a city of drinkers. And I am one of them.

As a bartender, I’m no stranger to asking customers if they “care for another drink?” But nothing disturbs me quite like hearing a tourist reply “Bring it on; that’s what ya do here!” Is getting hammered our only attraction? No. ADVICE: Avoid losing an entire night to Bourbon Street and the inevitable sick-as-hell next day. Refrain from drinks named after natural disasters or weapons of mass destruction. And that seemingly sophisticated glass of wine can nail ya—been there, done that.

There’s more to our City than booze; and yet, those early Quarter mornings give me pause—as troops of fellow waiters fortify themselves with “breakfast in a bag” as they walk to their respective jobs. Of course I’ve been told that “beer is food” and 12 to 24 ounces of carbs for a buck, tucked discreetly inside a brown wrapper, is the on-the-go meal of choice for many. It also works quite well for lunch and of course a shot of Jameson is the perfect afternoon pick-me-upper.

Those of you who follow this column (all five or six of you) might wonder: aren’t you the gal who said you’ve shared a near religious experience with Pabst Blue Ribbon and would never live farther than walking distance from your favorite bar? So what’s with the guilt trip? Plenty.

Two amazing women, one a dear friend, the other a family member, both landed in emergency rooms recently within days of each other. One, yellowed with jaundice and the other frail and broken. Drinking simply does not pair nicely with antidepressants. And we here in post Katrina/BP land know this—really we do, but it seems that we all think the doctor knows nothing and that we can prescribe our own remedies. Fact: alcohol is a depressant and it counteracts the medication. Listen to or read those drug disclaimers—kinda scary. Another fact: with or without chemical enhancement, drinking can do you a world of hurt.

Watching, waiting and worrying over someone who is circling the drain along with the stashed vodka bottles (thought she only sipped wine?) is not the kind of bonding you want to go through with a loved one. But it happens to the best of the best. 

Alcoholism is a disease. No blame, no shame. However there must be some sort of accountability. When and where does drinking pass through the gates of no return? It begins with a single beer or glass of wine and is benign at that point; even remains quite sane, for some never becoming a threat. But for many as time goes by, there is a shift, a crack in the foundation when that evening aperitif becomes a chaser after breakfast, a substitute for iced tea at lunch. And the slippery slope changes into a full-scale avalanche.

I have teetered at the edge of that slope. Only in recent years have I observed the caution signs and stepped back from the guard-rail. Middle age has its benefits; one is I don’t have the stamina to drink as much. Now if I drink in the daytime (seemed perfectly normal years ago) I just feel tired and stupid. Drink too much at night and I just feel tired and stupid. Getting older doesn’t mean wiser it just means too tired to get into trouble. Oh, and that recycling thing really does work, like a dieter keeping a food journal.

Public shame and age help to keep one in check when sheer common sense and discipline aren’t strong enough. But I personally recommend Lent. This Christian tradition of abstinence can be utilized by heathens like myself. Lent was introduced to me (on a dare of sorts) by a former boyfriend (a dear and a stone cold alcoholic). So when he suggested we both give up drinking for Lent I took it to heart. He lasted about one week. But I made it. And along the way learned a lot about myself. 

During the past twenty years of Lents I have found that I didn’t need or profit from a drink when times got tough. Take the year my Mom had the nerve to die during Lent--from then on I figured if I let the minor stuff drive me to drink then what did that say about the loss of my Mom. I still have a long way to go in moderating consumption and being honest about my relationship with drinking. However, I am further and further away from the edge. But it is there and I have to respect the danger.


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