How I Stay Sober in a House Full of Wine

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Wine cabinet

“Get rid of all the alcohol in the house,” is the advice I often heard when I made the decision to stop drinking once and for all. It’s probably a useful suggestion, but one I am in no position to take. My house is full of the stuff. My dining room is lined with wooden wine racks, filled with dusty Shiraz that my husband and I collected on our honeymoon. There is a cold bottle of white wine in my fridge, an open bottle of gin on the shelf and a collection of glassware in an old cherrywood cabinet.

Drinking was a hobby, for both my husband and me, and like so many other middle-class couples, we considered ourselves wine “connoisseurs.” We honeymooned on a little island known for its wines, tasting Rieslings to go with rock oysters on the beach. There are bottles in those wooden racks that were earmarked for future anniversaries, or which represent our loveliest memories together.

When I gave up drinking, I not only had to find new ways of spending my time, but also had to ask my husband to do the same. But he wasn’t dependent on the stuff like I was, and it just felt unfair to ask him to give up entirely something that brings him so much pleasure. So I didn’t.

My husband is a moderate drinker. He’ll have a glass of wine every night with dinner, a cocktail on the weekends, a liqueur late at night to help him sleep. For my part, I have given myself permission to buy the nicest non-alcoholic drinks I can source. My cupboards are stocked with teas of every flavor, and the fridge is packed with sparkling water and Diet Coke.

Just as I spent 10 years as a vegetarian around meat, I have taught myself to be sober around alcohol.

I cook food using wine, but only if it simmers for long enough that the alcohol burns off. No more tiramisu or mussels tossed in beer for us, but a coq au vin might still grace the table, or a boeuf bourguignon. My husband still buys wine, but we have canceled the wine club memberships. When he pours himself a gin and tonic, he pours the gin out of my sight, and mixes me a tall glass of tonic and lime at the same time.

Just as I spent 10 years as a vegetarian around meat, I have taught myself to be sober around alcohol. Just as my young children aren’t allowed to drink it, neither am I. And that is fine because there are other drinks we can have. I make that choice on behalf of all three of us, and we are better off for it. My husband makes different choices.

Most of the time, it works.

I admit sometimes I’ll splash some red wine into a sauce, look at the bottle knowing that I will watch my husband drink a glass of it later, and feel utter rage. Those are the days when I walk to the store to buy an enormous block of dark chocolate to eat after the children are in bed. Those are the days when I refuse to even put my husband’s glass in the dishwasher after use, because damn it, if he drinks it he should wash it.

It isn’t his fault that I’m an alcoholic. But sometimes I don’t feel like being rational, reasonable and accommodating.

I know it’s not rational. It isn’t his fault that I’m an alcoholic. But sometimes I don’t feel like being rational, reasonable and accommodating. So I take the high road, and run a bath, and go and sulk.

Most of the time, though, it doesn’t matter to me that I don’t live in a totally sober house. What does matter is that I live in a sober body. So my husband can drink what he wants, and I won’t complain.

Unless he drinks my Diet Coke. Then, all bets are off.

Related: 5 Unexpected Benefits of Sobriety

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