Of Candles and Wine…

Raising three sons has been an exercise in food management.  Boys are always hungry and will often return to the kitchen looking for a snack before you even finish cleaning up from the last meal. And no, they never want leftovers from that meal. 

Each week I’d shove my overflowing cart through Costco, proud of the heaped contents that offered proof of my demanding brood and therefore, my achievement as a mother.  That heavy cart showed I was important, needed, and since most of the contents were clearly not for me, a bit of a martyr.

I’d often hit the grocery store straight from work, my smart suit and heels further evidence of my superwoman status.

As the boys got older, we developed an evening routine:  After doing the supper dishes, I would light a candle on the stove and turn off all the lights in the kitchen.  This signaled to the ever hungry snack-seekers that “the cook” was off-duty.  They were welcome to come and get themselves whatever they wanted to eat, as long as they cleaned up after themselves.  Otherwise, the kitchen was closed for the night.

It was brilliant and worked well, at least for a while.

Eventually lighting the candle was accompanied by pouring a glass of wine as a signal to the end of my day.  Then it evolved further — the cook poured herself glass of wine while cooking, and then another with the lighting of the candle.

Finally, I forgot all about the damn candle and just tucked into the wine.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not saying in any way that my kids are the reason I used to like the vino so much.  (Actually, I still like it, I just don’t drink it.) If anything, the boys (who are now young men) are probably the main reason I didn’t drink a whole lot more than what I did.

But as I look back now, I am retracing all those small shifts that led me to where I am.  What can I learn? What do I want to return to? To stay away from?

I still like the idea of the candle in the kitchen. It’s pretty and cozy that way. I can’t see the stains in the aging grout or ring of schmag around the bottom of the tap. Presumably, even my own flaws and cracks are softened in the flickering light.

I can putter through the semi-darkness and make a cup of herbal tea, which I am hating ever-so-slightly less.

Instead of saying “Kitchen closed, Cook off duty”, the lighted candle whispers, “Good job, cook. You made it through another day.”


  1. I’m so glad I’ve found this blog! I started binge drinking with friends at a very young age. I’ve just always like the taste of wine and beer. Loved being a little bit buzzed. And then came college where it’s ki da expected that you party and go crazy. And how did I go crazy! Then comes the first job sharing a house with friends – and every night is a party! Finally in my late twenties moved to a new country and into an apartment by myself. What’s better than have a gin and tonic if you’re alone and binge watch TV. Or I have to go out and drink to make new friends. Oh look work has free drinks – better drink as much as I can. Always finding another reason. I don’t think I know what it feels.like to not wake up dusty. But I’m very successful in my job and life. My friends say I’m the life of the party and I always feel the pressure to entertain everyone – but I need to do that without alcohol! I’m going to read pages from your blog and comments when I feel like a drink during witching hour. Tonight was my second night without alcohol. I’m ashamed to say it but in 16 years I don’t think I’ve skipped a night of wine, maybe once when I was doi g a diet I didn’t drink for a week here and there but that would be followed with binging! I’m really determined to not drink anymore. I’m sure I might still have a glass of wine but I want that to be on holiday or at a restaurant. Not every single night and not to excess. I also need to think about how much money I would save!!! Thank you for your blog!


    • Hi Nixi, I’m glad you’re here and It’s great that you’re giving yourself the gift of freedom from alcohol. It isn’t easy, the addicted part of your brain will work hard to manipulate you over the next for days and make you think that it’s okay to drink but don’t be fooled. Stick with your plan to go without. You’ll feel so much better and every morning when you wake up you’ll want to shout “I DID IT!” Getting through every day is a success. As for having a glass now and then in the future, you might find it’s more trouble than it’s worth. It’s actually easier to stay completely alcohol free than it is to have a little now and then. But worry about that later. Because for now the goal is to change the pattern and take back your power. What a beautiful thing! I am cheering for you. And as you can see from all the comments in this blog, we are not alone! There are millions of cool, fun, smart, happy people out there living in recovery and they will show you how it’s done. It’s a great life!


  2. I love the candle idea as a way of telling myself I have finished another day of doing my best to care for my children and now I can relax (alcohol free). I think I shall adopt this – thank you!!! I’m on day 8 today. I have two kids under 5 and since the second one was born and my dog passed, my drinking has just ratcheted up to a point that it took control of me instead of me taking control of it. So perhaps my candle could also signal my having conttrol over my life at the end of each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am on day three. I have three babies, 17, 15, and 11. Girl, boy, girl, and a wonderful husband. I cannot believe how similar all these stories are to my life. It is utterly comforting.

    I have so much going for me in this wonderful life of mine and at the same time a history of alcoholic darkness in my family. My Grandma was an alcoholic for much of her life, my Uncle shot himself through the heart after being 30 years sober and fell off the band wagon, my beautiful mother and best friend died at the young age of 55, 11 years ago. My mom struggled with binge drinking with vodka during my college years, had a hysterectomy and stopped drinking for 10 years. Then she got really ill from shingles…was put on pain killers etc and died 2 years later from a high toxicity level of prescription pain medication. Our last conversation went like this, “Mom, you need to stop taking the sleeping pills, the pain medication, the anti-depressants, and the alcohol, your going to end up killing yourself.” My Mom, “you are going to have to accept me as I am.” My reply, “I cannot do that and I hung up on her.” She died 2 day later. That was my last conversation. It will haunt me forever.

    So, I have always thought that if I did not drink before 5, NEVER during the day, it would be impossible for me to become the A-word. I honestly don’t know how I got to the point of drinking my wonderful friend, Cabernet, in such quantities. It would definitely start at 5 when I start to cook dinner. My heart would be pounding often from such a high stress level. We run our own firm out of our home with 3 teenagers, of coarse everyday is stressful. I LOVE’d looking forward to a glass of wine so I could “wine” down the end of my always hectic day…one day my son said, Mom, can you just have a glass of wine so you can “chill”. Ouch. One day I had a glass at 4:55 and my 11 year old said, Mom, it isn’t 5:00 yet. Ouch. One morning I was talking to my 17 year old about something that happened the night before, and I could not remember what she was talking about. That never really happened to me much before but “blacking out” after a bottle+ of Cab, was happening more and more. In fact, this would encourage me to say, ok, I am going to only drink during the week. Nope, that did not work. Okay, I am going to try to drink really small glasses of wine. I still made it through the bottle. My husband and I would share wine during the night and I would be worried that when we shared we would inevitably open another bottle and I would drink more than I know I should. I don’t seem to have a stop button/or a stop cork.

    A few times when I tried to quit, people would talk me out of quitting because I am a lot fun after a few drinks…not so wound up. But nobody knew actually how much I drank, as of 3 days ago. I had lost 30 lbs on Weight Watchers, drinking oodles of wine. I worked out like crazy woman 2 hours a day…but running our own firm out of the house, summer, and the kids, I could not keep that up after a year. This summer I gained 10 lbs. back. I was at the Y at my workout class looking in the mirror and I was sooooo disappointed in myself on so many levels…I was drinking too much, I was gaining weight, my anxiety level was going up, and during class, I decided that I need to break the cycle of too much drinking (I still cannot spit out the A-word but I am fully aware I am). I went to my car and looked up on my ipone, women drinking too much and I found this website. I read the stories. I cried. So similar it is eerie but comforting at the same time.

    I went home to my husband and we went on a walk. I started crying and told him how ashamed of myself I am, and that I don’t know when the lines of drinking too much wine and not being able to stop was…but I was there. I have tried to moderate so many damn times I cannot count. He just hugged me and told me he love me. What mighty fine man. These last 3 day he hasn’t had anything to drink around me.

    I went out and bought every non-alcoholic/low calorie drink I could find. Diet tonic and cranberry is delicious. I hardly know what to do with my spare time at night. I come up to my office and read the Unpickled, starting from day one to encourage me…my 11 year old who doesn’t like to read aloud, had read to me every night so far…that is a plus. I wake up feeling pretty good. You said to treat myself very well the first few days, very delicately. That is good advice. I even took a nap in the middle of the day…

    I am so nervous about not being able to drink wine forever, so I just really have to take it day by day.
    So, I am off to have my sweet pea read to me.


    • Spaz, I know this is an old post, but your story moved both my wife and I and we were wondering how you were doing! We hope you continued your amazing journey!


  4. I refer to the time between 5:00-7:00 pm. The Witching Hour. For years I had the habit of slipping out to the back porch with a martini once the table was set and dinner was about 15 minutes away. Then switching to wine with and after dinner. I didn’t get blotto, but I was cloudy. I am 2 days’ sober and, man, the craving comes on like clockwork around 4:45. The ritual is for me the hook. The ritual must be broken, but it is hard with a family to make dinner for every day. Have tried many times to stop drinking. Nursed tonic water and selter during the Witching Hour, but only succeed in abstaining for six weeks at the longest. This time I’m determined to make it permanent. Our twin sons leave for college this fall, and I want to be done with booze when they go. I fear that not having them around and being somewhat accountable to them would give me the green light to drink more than I do now. I am 58 years old and worry about what 30 year’s of moderate alcohol abuse has done to my brain and memory. I’ve read that an alcoholic’s brain shrinks but can largely recover with about 18 months of abstinence. I hope that is true.


    • I am cheering for you as you change course. Be patient and loving with yourself, and bravely face the new future you envision. You are strong enough to raise twin sons – you can do anything!


  5. My 20 year old son still looks to me fo fill his tummy. I just told him today that I’m going to rename his number in my phone to say “feed me” when he calls 🙂


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