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.


34 thoughts on “Wine: A Wolf at the Door

    1. About everybody has done it, including people who have no trouble drinking only socially. I didn’t drink much at all in high school either. (Kids start so much younger these days, it’s scary.) They just want to be adults, and adults are drinking wine by the gallon.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’m glad you reposted this, thank you! We went to a big concert in the park last night and everywhere around us were people drinking dewy bottles of rosé. Not uncommon of course and only a month ago I’d have been of their number. I couldn’t help thinking how seductive a scene it was (I think you said “part of the club” right? Absolutely that!), even though I know, viscerally that wine is a destroyer, not maker, of good times for me. Just what I needed to read this morning, clearly! x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I was a big wine-drinking fan for a long time. And it’s freaking everywhere these days! Even lunchtime play groups. Once my friends and I started drinking at lunch, the door was opened for several of us to (gradually) go off the deep end. Just over a year ago, I would be doing that exactly right this minute. Let’s see, it’s 11:54? I would have had one glass in route to the restaurant (I kid you not) and would be well on my second glass by now. Ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I love your writing Shawna! All of it true. We drank to be cool, to be in, to be part-of, when we’re young we drink to feel older. Now I just look older. Hahahahh!
      But it’s all bullshit and a lie. I was talking with some local sober ladies recently, one of them mentioned that when (as a sober person) you watch someone you know well having just a glass or two you can perceive the change in their personality. So basically, we’re talking about a crowd of individuals who are all slightly altered, no one really being themselves. Which seems decidedly creepy!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much! And you’re right … the more I am around people who are drinking, the creepier it is getting. One drink changes someone immediately. And you are no longer having a conversation with that person. You are having a conversation with someone else. So I have spent most of the last decades (with at least one drink in the system) trying to be someone else. And hung around people who were doing the same. Very creepy. No wonder you find out that when sober, you have so little in common.
        Which brings me to this point: What was so wrong with just being ourselves in the first place?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. (We live in a big city with excellent public transport and I often think how incredibly lucky and I suppose sheltered we are in not having to think about drinking and driving. Not so at all where I grew up and my blood runs cold to think of the risks I took so thoughtlessly.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of my driving was done way before Uber, and, like you, there was very little public transport back in the day. There are so many people/kids in the local papers getting in trouble driving. And the needless tragedies are overwhelming to me. Not sure what the answer is, but I do realize what the problem is. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I had been listening to all of these meditations about focusing on the future, not revisiting the past, concentrating on the positive, but just found myself angry about what me and so many other people have lost because of that pretty bottle.
      I’m a little saner today. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I now have a belief that every other driver on the road has been drinking. I definitely drove after a few…and many mornings I expect I should not have driven.
    Small decisions can change a life. It is scary.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Around here, the percentage of drinkers is really high because of the depressed economy and lack of public transportation. And it’s just part of the culture. More and more often, the DUIs are happening at like 2 in the afternoon. I really shouldn’t be so surprised.


  4. I am glad you reposted this.
    I wrote a post about drinking and driving a long time ago. (Although not as cool as yours!)
    I used to drive drunk and it really was only a matter of time before I hurt someone or myself.
    There are many people here who drink and drive. I was hoping Uber and Lyft are helping, but I am not sure if it has a big impact.
    This was a good post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Wendy. Can you send the link to your post? It’s kind of strange, but only once have I heard a woman talk openly about drinking and driving in my life (outside of AA meetings). The usually spin that everyone puts on the driving home after a party is “Oh, I was fine.” “I had coffee.” But here’s my favorite: “I am an excellent driver after a few drinks.” I’ve used them all myself, I hate to say.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Michelle. What’s most shocking, memory-wise, are the times my kids were in the car. Once again, it’s one of those things that people often won’t admit to, even in a 12-step meeting. I am not sure what I hope to accomplish putting it ‘out there’ here, but there’s such shame involved that I hope someone will read it and know that they are not alone.


  5. Wow! This is a great post. I had to fight some tears. You did an awesome job and are so right on in how you describe the wolf. Glad you put it back up! I could have been her as well, but am so very grateful that I never had an accident… not even a DUI… and it’s not because I didn’t drive drunk. Actually, at the very END of my last run I did hit a curb and blow out a tire. All by myself with no one around. Thank God for that. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Janet. I’ve also hit a curb, but in my own driveway. I am also grateful that I didn’t go through some awful experience driving, or put someone else through it. Even though most of the time I was just “typsy,” that’s bad enough! I have such compassion for people who had to pay a heavier price for what I was doing on a regular basis. Of course, we all paid in mental health, physical health, gobs of money, and self-esteem. I’m so glad it’s in the rear view mirror. ; )

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Brilliant post, they way you describe the drug trap is perfect and eloquent! Drinking together was communion, a shared human experience. The way you describe the morning after as a thug is so true. I often felt like I had been beaten up and battered judging by the bruises I woke up with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! Where did those bruises come from? Funny you should mention that. I never have bruises anymore and I used to always have random bruises on my legs. And once, a terrible knot at the back of my head. Jeez … what a graphic memory for so early in the morning. And you’re so right! I had been beaten up in my sleep. This memory is great for counter-acting the romantic drinking memories. ; )

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Well worth your inner battle faced between positivity and light / and the darkness of addiction. You know I read someone somewhere on a blog some months back that somebody stopped writing because they didn’t feel they felt “light” enough and didn’t want to depress everyone. At one point I almost stopped for the exact same reason.

    I did have a rant a while ago re: Facebook and I do regret that, but it was the way I was feeling and you know, still feel. I really think that if we were to “Facebook” our huge community blog, we are lost.

    And by the way – this post is brilliant. Thank you for sharing – it helps me understand a bit more where I am at (if you see my last very messy post) and my huge questions around alcohol as a substance
    Michelle xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that post because it’s exactly where I am now as well. I sometimes feel like some kind of zealot against alcohol, and then the next minute I could care less. Confusion seems to be part of the recovery process and I’m not sure why. By the way, I went on a rant on someone else’s blog! Jeez …
      On Field Notes from Over the Hill, someone made the comment “You could always drink responsibly,” and I went cross-eyed. Here’s what I posted, and this is after editing it a couple of times to make it not sound so angry:

      The comment displays a complete lack of understanding. Koren Zailckas explains that the phrase “Drink Responsibly” actually comes from the alcohol industry, and has been condemned by much of the world as a craven transfer of blame from supplier to victim. Does anyone ever say smoke responsibly? Of course the alcohol industry spends a lot of money to make people repeat the phrase — printing it on their ads, and continuing to market this poison to our children without bearing the costs to individuals or society, much as the nicotine companies did before the government stepped in. You won’t find more educated people (therapists, scientists, doctors, world leaders) or more empathetic people making statements like this.


  8. I’m so glad you decided to post this. It showed on my reading list but when I tried to read it was gone.

    This post deserves to be ‘out there’ for the world to read. It’s so accurate, what seems like sophistication is the complete opposite in fact. We and by ‘we’ I mean all of society could do with a change of attitude towards alcohol. It is a wolf in sheeps clothing, and sometimes it amazes me that everyone thinks it’s ok, funny even.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is so well written. It made me think of our local town meeting last month. An article on the warrant was regarding pot dispensaries. (For the record, I don’t smoke). One of the older townies was speaking against it at the microphone and compared it to alcohol. She said, “People typically drink in celebration, to toast an achievement, to be social…whereas people who smoke pot are strictly intending to get high”…so high and mighty, completely unaware of her hypocrisy. The bait and switch is so good, no one ever notices….


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