Do I Have a Problem? Naaah.

by Caren on July 6, 2009

by Caren Osten Gerszberg

I don’t drink on Mondays. Sometimes I’d like to, but I’ve decided that for at least one day during the week, I need to rest my liver from the dinner-time wine I drink each of the other six days. (Note: when on vacation, non-drinking Mondays do not apply.)

I’m not an alcoholic. At least I don’t think I am. But I’m trying to figure out when fun drinking becomes serious drinking—like it did for my mother.

When I was growing up, my French-born mother sipped wine freely and daily. I can picture her in the kitchen, stirring a bubbly cassoulet in a dark blue enamel pot, preparing a plate of cheeses, churning the pepper mill—with a glass in hand or waiting close by. An habitual part of her cooking process, wine was also served at every evening meal. Long, narrow, green-tinted bottles with strangely spelled words were as much of a staple in our fridge as a container of milk.

Drinking was part of her culture, and a seemingly harmless one. But later in her life, my mother started using wine as a way to escape, numbing herself from demons past and transitions present. My biggest fear is that I may, one day, do the same.

I mean, I do indulge in those regular glasses of vino. And in minutes, they seem to calm me, relax me, dull me from the stresses of my daily life as a freelance writer struggling in an economic crisis, a mother of three—two of whom are hormonal adolescents—and the daughter of a depressed, recently widowed Holocaust survivor.

I try to focus on the good things in my life—my loving husband who has a stable income, so far, and my three healthy, beautiful kids. But still, I like to drink.

Of course, there were times in my life that I didn’t drink for months, and I survived. I can count them for you–one, two, three–cause that’s how many kids I have. I didn’t drink for the first three months of each pregnancy, and then with my obstetrician’s blessing, I had the occasional half glass of wine, and it felt so good. You see, I don’t drink simply because of the wine’s soothing effects as it enters my blood stream, but also for the taste. The touches of citrus and oak in a complex chardonnay, the berry flavors and tannins that roll from my tongue and down my throat from an intense cabernet—those are flavors I savor.

I don’t think I have a drinking problem. But it’s my personality to grapple with the question, praying that I don’t ever abuse it. So in my effort to keep control, maintain my joie de vivre, be true to my European heritage, and not ever slide down that slippery slope, I’ll keep on drinking. Except on Mondays.

Caren Osten Gerszberg is a writer and the co-editor of the Drinking Diaries. To see her work, go to