Truth And Transparency: I Think My “OFF” Switch is Broken

Anna Garrett's picture

Glass of wine

If you look at my family tree, there are alcoholics teetering on nearly every branch. Given this, I am keenly aware of a little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I need to pay attention.

In the last few years, I have started to wonder if I’m heading in the direction of a problem. Not a Ready-for-Betty-Ford kind of problem…but one where my “OFF” switch has gone on the fritz.

I have never said this out loud, much less put it in print, but I think it’s time to be honest with myself. I teach women about the risks of breast cancer and alcohol and how alcohol disrupts hormones, and every day I am reaching for the wine bottle at the stroke of 5:00 pm. And occasionally counting down to said stroke.

This feels out of alignment and that misalignment requires a lot of my mental energy and feels very wonky. And given my already-astronomical risk of breast cancer, it’s just plain stupid.

Research shows that midlife can be a slippery slope for women who drink even a little alcohol. That’s because they begin to experience new stressors…body changes, aging parents, divorce, and retirement…the list goes on.

And alcohol is a socially acceptable way to become comfortably numb to anything we’d prefer not to deal with.

So what does problematic drinking look like?

“There aren’t kids to get out of bed in the morning, so OK, I’ll have another drink.”

“There’s nothing big on my calendar tomorrow. Pour me another glass, please.”

“I had a tough day, I deserve it.”

“I had an amazing day, let’s celebrate!”

And so it begins.

A recent study shows about 10 percent of us – us being women over 50 – binge drink during any given month. That’s 5 drinks at one sitting, although you have to wonder about those numbers because who’s doing all that score-keeping after the first two.

Whether or not you believe the math, you can’t question midlife biology. Our metabolism slows as we age. So that one glass of wine hangs around in your liver for-freakin’-ever. Hangovers linger on and on and on. The floaty around your middle gets bigger and bigger. Estrogen levels get all out of whack. There is nothing pretty about this picture.

I could drink like a fish in my 20s. And my 30s. And for most of my 40’s. But now that I’m in my 50’s, I’m tired of puffy eyes and feeling wiped out the next day if I have more than 2 glasses of wine. But more often than not, I do it anyway and that’s what makes me wonder about my OFF switch.

I found this on a web site about women and alcoholism.

“The defining characteristic of addiction is loss of control over when you drink, how much you drink or the way in which you think about drinking. Getting hooked psychologically is independent of the amount you drink. If that one drink per day becomes the focus of your life or if you feel like you can’t enjoy dinner without a drink, that’s a warning of psychological dependence.”

Hmmm. This is the part that makes me squirm. My evening wine ritual is as ingrained in me as brushing my teeth. I wonder who I would be without it and that thought makes me nervous.

I wonder how my relationship with my husband and friends would change.

What would I do with the time I spend zoned out in front of the TV?

Would my introvert no longer be allowed to hang out in the corner at parties while my lubricated self entertained?

If awareness is the first step, then I am there. The cold truth of this is that warning signs are everywhere and I can choose to ignore them or take the next step…whatever that is. If this post hits close to home for you, I invite you to share below or e-mail me privately at We are all in this together.




Dr. Anna Garrett's picture

Thanks Gail

Hi Gail,

Thanks for writing in. I feel like I'm trying on new clothes just now :) Your support and kind words mean a lot...I appreciate you taking the time to write in.

Anonymous's picture

i quit drinking for seven

i quit drinking for seven years because of these reasons. with the help of aa. i'm not sure if i was an "alcoholic" but i didn't like who i was becoming and the dependency. i feared all those things. i found out that i didn't NEED alcohol to be fun at a party and feel comfortable and full of life. i think that i needed that time of total abstinence though because i never would have figured that all out. now when i was not drinking and i went out i had a purpose to be somewhere (celebration, birthday, work party etc). i didn't just go to bars and drink soda. now that drink ocassionally i still don't go out unless i have a purpose...
i still need to beware of getting in the habit of drinking everynight. even one glass of wine every night is habitual if you do it every night. but at the same time i look forward to my coffee in the morning... i don't know i'm sorting it all out for myself as well. ultimately i left aa beacase i didn't believe i was so powerless over alchol and a lot of other things they say in aa. for example "TO DRINK IS TO DIE" is one thing they say i started to question. especially when i would see someone leave and moderate. the truth is alcohol can be devestating and destructive... i want ot use it for enjoyment and celebration in good health and connection with others. its a slippery slope.
God Bless

Dr. Anna Garrett's picture

Thanks for checking in


I am a bit resistant to the idea of AA. Maybe that's me just kidding myself. I'm experimenting with moderation...but if that doesn't work, then it may be time to consider something else. I'm trying things on (kind of like shoes) to see what feels like it fits.

Thanks for writing.

Terrilynn's picture

Hitting close to home

Your blog post definitely hits close to home for me in almost every way. Although I don't normally have a daily drink, once the Friday work day has ended, I feel compelled to go to the store for my weekend supply of wine. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings are usually wasted by zoning out with three or more glasses of wine. It has become a habit that is so very hard to break. And for reasons I don't understand, I find it hard to change. I've been thinking of going to a hypnotist, or maybe trying EFT (tapping) to see if that will help. But I first feel it is important to know and visualize who I want to be without wine -- will that person be different from who I am now? Like you, I wonder if my relationship with my spouse will change, or possibly end? Some scary stuff that I may be avoiding by numbing out with wine.

Dr. Anna Garrett's picture

Thanks for commenting

Hi Terrilynn,

It is very much about finding the hole that needs to be filled. The spouse thing is big for I settling for something less than I want? Can I fill this space with something other than wine? I like the idea of visualizing who I would be without the Pinot Grigio.

Thank you for sharing!

Gail Harris's picture

I love your self-honesty

Hi Anna, Wow. You were so honest with yourself, and maybe sharing it with the world makes it even more powerful. I really, really applaud you. It sounds like you are in touch with your inner voice, and that voice will NEVER steer your wrong. I support you in your self-inquiry. Trust it. And if you ever would feel that talking to someone you don't yet know, will help, just let me know. i'm there.

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