Alcoholic diva Amy Winehouse sings a beautiful ballad called “Love is a Losing Game.” I adore the song but disagree with it. I don’t think love is a losing game. I know that drinking is a losing game. Combining the two is the lamest game of all.
Yet how easy it is to blend love and liquor. How romanticized and entrenched it is in our culture. For me, as for so many others, the two activities have too often become entangled–with disastrous results.
When I was drinking, I usually did it to deal with trouble in my love life or in other relationships. Alas, alcohol did nothing to solve my issues. It made them a million times worse.
Often I became inebriated when I was trying to convince myself that someone loved me who didn’t or make myself love someone for whom I had no feelings. Drinking allowed me to mute uncomfortable or intense sensations. It also, I failed to recognize, dampened the best feelings, and destroyed essential defenses and boundaries.
The result almost invariably was that I allowed myself to be abused. Forget date rape drugs. I did not need them. Half a bottle of wine would induce me to submit to things that made me shudder with self-hating shame the next day.
The saddest part is that I drank in a twisted quest for genuine affection, real connection. You have heard of the angry drunk. Well, I was the opposite: the yearning burning love sick drunk. Drinking unleashed all the repressed longing to express and receive love, physical and emotional. Moreover, I seemed invariably drawn, while drunk, to seek affection from other alcoholics: usually angry, abusive, or emotionally distant men.
These days, in my recovery, I still feel the vestigial impulse to order a festive vial of champagne or amusing new fad martini when out on a date. I try not to. One recent tumble off the wagon, which led me to the brink of a creepy, denigrating close encounter, frightened me sufficiently to discourage future lapses.
Sometimes I long for that sweetly dizzy, light and lofty, soft and fuzzy feeling that used to overtake me when sharing a bottle of wine or a shaker of cocktails with a new and promising swain. Knowing where it will lead, I try to focus on the beauty of sober intimacy.
Here’s what I keep in mind:
The most passionate, transcendent, intimacy will occur only when my reasonable defenses and boundaries are functioning, when I am fully alert and aware; when my senses, emotions and intellect are magically alive and blissfully present to the extraordinary, exquisite moment.