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When an alcoholic accidentally ends up in the wine aisle

I made a wrong turn down in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and ended up in the wine aisle. This was no ordinary wine aisle or grocery store. This grocery store is in Palm Beach – just a couple of miles from President Trump’s Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago.

This grocery store had valet parking. Many shoppers stroll the aisles with their untrained, fake service dogs – the ones wearing little service dog vests and tags their owners purchased online. The wine aisle is…well…stunning.

Most grocery stores these days sell wine – some with corks but a lot with screw-off tops or in cartons. Even though I am 19 years clean and sober and very curious about wine packaged in what looks like a child’s juice box, I still avoid the beer and wine aisle.

During my drinking days, I bought a lot of wine in grocery stores. A lot. So, I just stay out of that aisle – even though it means I forfeit eating certain snacks, which – in my regular grocery store – are also sold in the wine aisle. I really don’t need the snacks and certainly don’t need the wine.

But somehow, in this snazzy grocery store, I made a wrong turn. It took a couple of steps before “ruh-roh” popped into my head. But what the hell. I’m 19 years sober. No biggie. Just walk fast and look forward. My peripheral vision usually sucks but on that day, it seemed to be exceptionally good.

This wine aisle literally had wine on both sides of the aisle, from the top shelf to the bottom. The “ruh-roh” voice in my head was replaced by another voice: “Just stop and look at the labels. Wine labels are soooo interesting, don’t you think? You haven’t looked at a wine label in years. Look how colorful they are! Wow. Not like they used to be. I wonder how much they cost?”

Then I was struck by another, really visual thought. What if all these wine bottles just fell off the shelves? There would be a huge wave of wine – YUGE! Imagine the mess – and what I would smell like.

If you had passed me in the aisle, you never would have known this was going on in my head. I was just another middle-aged woman in a hurry to finish her grocery shopping. But this is how alcoholics and addicts think. You don’t get to see it and so you think we’re just another shopper hurrying to finish our shopping.

You wouldn’t believe how much time we can spend thinking about drinking or using drugs. So, you probably think we are doing well. We are in recovery! We look great! We have a job! We make our bed in the morning! Yeehaw! Look how clean and sober I am!

But if you could be in our heads for one hour, you would understand that addiction is cunning, baffling, powerful and sometimes, silent.

Being clean and sober is as much about not drinking or drugging as it is about changing how we think and behave. Sobriety not only requires an enormous amount of self-discipline but also self-awareness. We have to recognize when our stinking thinking kicks in. We have to ask ourselves, is what I am thinking bringing me closer or further  from a drink or drug?

I am sharing my shopping faux pas with you because I need to tell someone I still have these thoughts. It doesn’t mean that I am going to relapse. It means I am still and alcoholic and always will be.

Still, I wonder, is there a straw taped to the side of those large wine cartons like you find on a kid’s juice box?

When an alcoholic accidentally ends up in the wine aisle

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2018). When an alcoholic accidentally ends up in the wine aisle. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Jan 2018
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