Most of us reach middle age fairly sure that no more real surprises will come along. That’s not to say we don’t change, but our change takes place within some well-known parameters. Our basic personality template will remain the same.
So I was intrigued when, a few weeks ago, a psychologist told me people have two big risk periods for developing drinking problems — in their 20s, which everyone would figure, and again in their late 40s-early 50s, which I never figured, although now that I think about it, I should have. I think I said it here before: I never really understood why my dad would come through the door after work and practically lunge for the liquor cabinet until I hit 40. I’d walk into the kitchen, start dinner and, with a real pleasure I’m not entirely comfortable with, open a bottle of wine.
My dad usually stopped at two, although he went through a pitcher-of-martinis period that led to an 8:30 bedtime for a while. I try to stop at two, but three is not unheard of. And no, I don’t think I have a drinking problem. I don’t think my dad had a drinking problem. But I have it in me, and I’m mindful. Especially when I consider the psychologist’s factoid.
Last year, when we were in Toronto, I read a column in the Globe & Mail complaining about how boring January and February are, socially, because everyone’s in a self-imposed post-holiday dryout period. I recall this quote, “My doctor told me that to maintain a healthy liver, you should abstain one day a week, one week a month and one month a year. The day is doable, the week is almost impossible but my only chance at the month is January, so I’m dry.”
Here’s another sign of middle age: In being mindful of my drinking, I always consider whether I’m going to be driving. I usually consider the example I’m setting for Kate, and whether I have work to do later. But I never, ever think of my liver.
Tonight I had water with dinner, and tried not to wish it was cabernet.
Do you think about your drinking?