“No.” I stretched and yawned. Then I remembered. “I had to tell them about the beer.”
“The beer?” She stood there with her hand on her hip. “What beer?”
“Come on, Mami, the beer,” I said. “He drinks a lot of it, you know that.”
“Because your father drinks a couple of beers you had to tell the doctor? I don’t understand that. He works hard. He makes a lot of sacrifices for you.” Mami started to put the pots in the refrigerator.
The above is an excerpt from my constantly revised manuscript. It’s an exchange between my protagonist and her mother, “Mami.” Because I work in Addictions, I’ve been privy to many reasons why a beer for some people just isn’t a beer. I don’t usually blog about it, but I experienced an occurrence recently that set me to thinking and blogging about “a couple of beers.”
Running late to a friend’s anniversary celebration the other evening, I decided to stop for a card and a bouquet of flowers to commemorate this special event. I chose the card quickly and picked up a lovely arrangement of bright orange happy flowers. I stood at the counter, waiting for the sale to be rung up. The grocery store owner is a fortyish beauty who was doing arm exercises-totally missing my ‘I’m in a hurry cues.’ I’ve shopped there for years and see her and her family often.
She told me about how she’d started to gain weight, standing at the counter for hours on end. Giggling, she told me she couldn’t stop eating or drinking. I commiserated, I too love to eat and drink. She said it again. The signal went off in my head. She’s talking about “drinking-drinking,” not just drinking. The store owner had no idea that I’m a nurse practitioner, that I work in addictions and know a thing or two about health. I sometimes whether I have a neon light on my forehead announcing what I do for a living because a lot of people reach out when I least expect it. It was then she admitted that she was so stressed that she drank a couple of beers every night to relax. Her stress level was high, with young adolescent boys she’s raising, a very busy store to run and whatever else she didn’t say during the five minute exchange. The other thing I heard from her was that she has high blood pressure and gets headaches. When she told me she drinks for the third time, I got her message.
My local store owner isn’t alone. This past week, I realized that during at least three psychiatric evaluations that the reason the folks came to see me was that they were stressed. That was their leading sentence. They all drank beer to cope. Some of us can drink-drink and some of us can’t.
My first suggestion to this woman who chose to confide her high stress level was to try relaxation techniques such as meditation instead. She had no idea what that was. I explained it. Secondly, I suggested she go for walks to de-stress. She remembered that she did that last summer with a friend and loved it. Apparently, she just needed a reminder. We talked about alcohol and high blood pressure not mixing. Talking to an objective person about one’s problems is another way to reduce the anxieties of life. That was one intervention she did on her own when she told me her problem before wrapping the flowers.
I’m glad I was there to help out. I didn’t have to take my prescription pad out or lecture her on the evils of alcohol. It’s not about that. Yes, some people need twelve step meetings but some don’t. A listening ear and a little education go a long way.
My friend loved her card and flowers. I’m glad that I’m her friend and that drove me to stop at the store and to be the person my other new friend needed.