Wine: A Wolf at the Door

Kenwod Vineyards 30 Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.

(After a long drawn out post about not blogging about “negative” things, the wonderful people in the blogging world set me straight. Writing here is about being honest, and I was not feeling particularly positive at the time this was written. I now realize that this is OK, and have reposted this blog entry.)


It seems so innocent.

It’s just a food substance that has been fermented. Over long, long centuries, my ancestors and yours have been drinking it.

I’m thinking a lot these days about this fermented substance, and what it does to people, and every one around them. And I’m not so sure it’s safe for anyone.

Wine is described in ways that disguise what it really is. It’s poison, loaded with sugar to disguise the taste. It’s a bait and switch, selling you one thing, but giving you another. It’s a predatory loan from a brutal mobster — the slippery devil himself. And Lucifer, described in the Bible as “perfect in beauty,” is the ultimate salesman. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

No one sees it coming. There’s no prettier packaging than a nice chilled bottle of wine at an expensive restaurant, with waiters and other patrons assuring you that all is well, that this fermented substance you are about to drink is a great thing. It’s a symbol of success and leisure and exotic locales and prestige and camaraderie and ease. Welcome to the club! You deserve this.

A toast! Somebody make a toast.

Suddenly, you are a mini-celebrity. People at other tables raise their glasses. “We’re all in this together,” they seem to be saying. And it feels like the truth.

Who doesn’t want this? Which of us, having stumbled through the day — sometimes well, sometimes in aching, lonely defeat — doesn’t want to join the table? To eat, drink, and be merry! To merge with humanity effortlessly. To feel less alone. To celebrate. To forget.

It’s communion. Communion of spirit. It’s everything holy about what we’re supposed to feel at the table of God himself.

Or so it seems.

Sometime later — could be years or just a few hours — in the early morning light of gray defeat, alcohol becomes something else entirely. Now it’s a disheveled thug that appears by your bed. A loan shark, expecting to be paid, with outrageous interest. And there are no boundaries to what he can do to exact payment.

Like the grim reaper himself, he has no scruple about who he takes or when, how unfair the circumstances, how blindsided those left behind.

You have to give the devil his due. It’s a masterful disguise, that pretty bottle.

Decades ago, I watched a New Year’s Eve episode of the Oprah show. It got my attention because it featured a high school girl about my age who had the same first name as me. From what I remember, this Shawna and a bunch of friends got their hands on some alcohol at a party. Some young men at the party convinced Shawna to drive them somewhere because they were too inebriated to drive themselves. They all piled into someone’s convertible, and Shawna, not used to heavy drinking and inebriated as well, ended up driving at a high rate of speed into a brick wall, killing two of the men, critically injuring everyone else.

I was amazed at the poise and calm with which this young woman, who had been a typical high school success story — beautiful, athletic, smart — spoke about the event and her later efforts to make peace with herself and the boys’ families. But underneath the poise, she had a haunted look, as if she had resigned herself to being forever guilty — a sacrifice made to a rapacious wolf, on behalf of the rest of us.

Though the story aired well before the rise of the internet, I’ve searched for it online, and haven’t found it. This girl’s story, however, has never left me. I was a casual drinker then, if that, but me and my group of friends were beginning to experiment with drinking, and then inevitably driving home. I remember thinking, with a slight chill, that could be me.


Drinking: A Scary Warning Blog


Last night I posted a blog called “Wine: A Wolf in Disguise.” It was kind of a scary blog, ending with a tragic DUI story. I took it down an hour later.

But I’m done with that shit.

Writing and thinking along those lines made me ill the rest of the evening. I felt lost and disoriented, for no apparent reason, until my mind connected this discomfort to the words in that blog. Words have power, and it hurt me physically and psychically to put that story out there. I hope nobody read it.

Why did I feel so awful about it?

As I reread it, I thought it made some valid points. It contained a helpful, (I thought) not-so-subtle warning for those who might be drinking and driving to STOP THE INSANITY! My twisted logic: If this story makes one person stop and think about what could happen, if it saves one life … blah, blah, blah.

Total bullshit.

This same logic is used on a grand scale to scare people into doing all kinds of stupid things. It strikes at our basest emotions and fear-mongering tendencies. It inspires negativity and guilt. It creates panic.

What a gift to bestow upon a few lucky readers. I am profoundly sorry.

It got me thinking about how I parent. I often throw out little warnings to my (grown) children, disguised as stories about someone else. “Look at this,” I might say to my son, while innocently perusing the newspaper. “This poor guy got a DUI practically in our driveway.” Message: Don’t drink and drive, even in our neighborhood. Even for short distances. You could pay a very heavy price. Don’t do it, even though I did. Especially because I did.

What I’m really thinking is I am afraid. I’m afraid for you out there in the world. Please don’t become a statistic. Please learn this lesson the easy way. Please avoid these pitfalls. I can’t stand to have you hurt.

But my son just rolls his eyes, as I did years ago with my own mother’s warning stories, and silently drinks his coffee, wondering when I became so afraid.

I resented my mother for worrying about me, even though she had good reason. But beyond a certain age, it never affected my behavior. I wasn’t listening to fear, not then.

Fear never stopped me anyway, at least not from drinking. Neither did well-meaning warnings from people I loved.

Love stopped me. Learning to love and forgive and respect myself stopped me. Regaining my power, and not giving into fear, stopped me.

Fear is paralyzing. Love is empowering.

I want that to be my message, as I see this same message in so many other people’s blogs and books — people I love and admire. My message should be love and hope and companionship and empathy and self-worth.

That’s what worked for me.


(After this long drawn out post about not blogging about “negative” things, the wonderful people in the blogging world set me straight. Writing here is about being honest, and I was not feeling particularly positive at the time this was written. I now realize that this is OK, and have reposted the original blog entry — Wine: A Wolf at the Door.)


The Heroes of Addiction


What if, as I have been reading, life on earth is really just a classroom?

And what if only the hardiest souls choose to come to earth in the first place because of the turmoil and uncertainty they know they will face?

And what if, before you agreed to be born here, you got to choose what challenges you would face to guarantee the most dramatic advancement in your learning?

And what if, of the hardiest souls who come here at all, only the bravest choose to face the challenge of addiction?

And what if, having chosen to face this, all fell into place, as agreed upon, and you became addicted as planned, and not because you are weak and scattered and selfish?

And what if your addiction brought about the greatest possible learning experience for those around you because, like you, they chose to experience this time here, with you, and have learned immeasurably by watching you do battle with addiction?

And what if, just like in the movies, all the good guys in heaven and earth are put here to help the hero (you) overcome this addiction, and that all you have to do is reach out for help?

And what if, like in a good movie, you are guaranteed success? That you have already succeeded by accepting the challenge, because only the bravest of souls do?

And what if, as the hardiest of souls, agreeing to the hardiest of challenges, you are already a hero?


Here’s to you, my friend.

water toast cheers