Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Dec 2015
Dear Dr. Toni:
I just turned forty-eight and I live somewhere in South Florida. I have been married for ten years and have two children. I eat a healthy diet and I run three miles, three times a week. I have a loving husband who has a great career in the financial consulting arena. I am a stay at home mom, although I have a college degree and worked for a number of years before having my kids.
On the outside, my life is perfect. My friends envy me. I started in therapy a year ago but I don’t think it is helping me. My problem is that I love wine. I love the smell of it, the taste of it, and I love discovering new varietals. I socialize with a group of moms who also like to drink at our kids’ play dates. I am starting to look forward to the 4 pm when I give myself permission to drink after I pick up my kids and am home. I function very well as a mom.
Lately, I started wondering if I have a problem. My therapist thinks I need a hobby. I saw Counselor in the waiting room of her office started reading your column, and thought I would ask for a second opinion by writing you.
Do you think I have a drinking problem and if so, what should I do about it? Oh, and if you have any insights as to why I would feel driven to drink when I have such a perfect life, I would love to know.
Well, there’s a lot here. In the biz this is what we call “rich clinical material.” First of all, I don’t want to give you counter advice to what your therapist has suggested. A hobby may be a good start if it is something you feel really passionate about. There are many people who started out creating something just for fun, only to have it turn into a business.
You mention having a passion for wine. The part of you that loves discovering new varietals I encourage to be curious about. The part of you that can’t wait to get to 4 pm to have a drink has a problem. People who tell you that you have a perfect life are evaluating you on the basis of external factors. In 1959, Betty Friedan began studying women who had been sold the Madison Avenue, concocted dream of what the perfect middle class housewife should have to be fulfilled. The net effect of this was a massive trend amongst the stay at home mothers of this era to drink and use tranquilizers to get through “mommyhood.” It became a book called The Feminine Mystique.
You are an educated woman who worked before having children. You need to engage in something that ignites your passion. I would also suggest attending a Twelve Step meeting so you have a structure for sobriety. There may be something in the wine business that you are meant to engage with that doesn’t involve actually drinking it. Another thought is to ask yourself what it is about wine—besides the numbing effect it has on your discontent—that interests you.
In Jungian psychology, Robert Johnson spoke about the distinction between the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, and the Greek god of wine, Dionysius, in his book Ecstasy: Understanding the Psychology of Joy. He shares how the Dionysian culture in Greece used wine for rituals of celebration where as Bacchus became symbolic of excess and debauchery connected with alcohol.
The key here is to rediscover what brings you joy. Make a list of all the experiences you have had that ignited that. Then, for three weeks keep tabs on all the things you do or experience that bring your energy up without the crutch of alcohol. When you have compiled at least twenty things, enlist the aid of a friend to see how they connect. What is the essence of what enlivens you and what is the next step you can take to bring more of that into your life?
Further, buy a blank book and keep it by your bed. Every evening before bed, write the date in the book and command your unconscious mind assertively to bring you a dream that shows what step you are to take next to create more joy in your life.
For these tools to really work, you have to give up drinking because it interferes with dream recall and will be in the way of you being able to truly feel the energy of true passion, which shows up as a call from the soul. More than one glass of wine a day will anesthetize you from hearing that call.