I'm not much of a drinker. I had a drink here and there in college, and a series of them once in a misguided attempt to fit in with people I would never see again. After that I gave up alcohol as more trouble than it was worth. I'm generally just as happy to drink a caffeine-free diet Pepsi as anything else.
That said, when I got to my childhood home and started preparing to move my father home with hospice, there were moments when a drink or two sounded like a fantastic idea. At first it was a joke - "This trip is going to require a lot more diet Pepsi, if not something stronger." But the more I thought about what I am facing, the more tempting the idea was.
I ran to the grocery store after I got to town in order to get some food to eat while I am here. For a minute, I wondered if a four-pack of wine coolers would go with my bagels and peanut butter. After all, I had a couple nights to myself at the house before I would be totally responsible for my father's care.
I don't have a moral objection to alcohol for adults of legal age who can use good judgement in their indulgence. And I didn't walk away from the beer aisle because I thought buying it would be a moral failing. I walked away because I knew the drink(s) wouldn't change my reality and could cause more harm than good. I walked away because I knew that would be the first step down a slippery slope of complications - and I don't need more complications in my life.
Today, when the hospice social worker was quietly asking me how I was coping (a conversation that is really best had away from the identified patient in my opinion), she mentioned that caregivers with a history of depression, anxiety or substance abuse need to be watchful for signs that the role is wearing on them to the point of needing additional mental health assistance.
My mind immediately went back to the internal debate I had. I felt a wave of guilt, like I had been "caught" just thinking about drinking to numb the stress. Once she left, I thought some more about the whole thing and felt affirmed in my judgement to stick with diet Pepsi. My wiser self had prevailed in that moment. Stressful circumstances like these are breeding grounds for pain-numbing activities and too many of those just lead to more pain later on.
If you want to know a simple way to help during these days, pick up some caffeine-free diet Pepsi for me. It's my drink of choice for this season of life!