Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Heidi says: My life is very pressured, what with working and taking care of the house and kids. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine to help me to relax.

George is a supportive husband and although he did not grow up doing housework or caring for children, he really makes an effort to help me with the dishes, or vacuuming or with our son and daughter.

Our kids are 8 and 10 and at a great age. They are good kids who try hard in school and enjoy playing soccer. Our 10-year-old daughter also enjoys her dance lessons.

I like my job. Having gone through college to secure such a position, I have been fortunate enough to remain in my field despite my taking off for a few years when our children were babies.

Between working and raising kids and trying to be a good wife, I admit I have often used my wine to transition to a more relaxed, better feeling.

Recently, George has questioned my “drinking.” I do not see anything wrong with my having a glass of wine now and then. I do not go clubbing or partying. I drink at home and openly. I do not drink compulsively every night. I am not an alcoholic.

How can I show George that this habit is really reducing my stress threshold and is a positive factor in our marriage?

He says:

George says: I appreciate all that Heidi does for our family. She had even cared for my mother after Mom had a stroke, helping her to return to better health. Heidi loves me and our kids and does well at her job.

I just have an increasing uneasiness and concern when she drinks. Heidi tends to drink more and more wine. What originally was just a glass before bedtime is now two or three glasses. True, she does not drink every night.

When we have friends over, I notice she begins to talk more loudly as the number of glasses of wine have been imbibed. Heidi also becomes a bit sarcastic and uses language she normally would not use. I am sure our friends of many years who monthly share dinner with us have noticed this change.

Previously a couple of drinks made the night. Last time we got together it was at our home and I realized after the party that the 1.5-liter bottle of wine that only Heidi was drinking, was gone. She had consumed the whole bottle!

During that party, Heidi appeared to be a bit tipsy and she made some offensive comments that had to have impacted some of our friends. No one said anything, but I have a concern that this drinking is a habit being taken to a new level.

I have mentioned a concern gently to Heidi and her response was to become very defensive and negative with me. What do I do to show her my love and support, but also to let her more fully know my concern for her increased intake of alcohol and the negative behaviors I am now observing?

What do they do?

It’s funny that we all “have a relationship” with alcohol. It’s maybe the only thing we consume that we feel the need to relate directly to the rest of our lives. You never hear people open up about their toxic relationship with peanut butter, or how they’re working on their relationship with decaf coffee.

But alcohol? From heavy drinkers to teetotalers, we all have a personal bond.

The key to recognizing a problem is determining whether drinking has a detrimental effect on your life.

Alcoholism is generally diagnosed by what some experts call the Three C’s: control, compulsion and consequences. Any person who always drinks more than he or she intends to, is preoccupied with drinking, and suffers negative consequences from it, has a problem that requires professional help.

“If those behaviors are present, red flags go up for me,” says Nancy Jarrell, a family therapist and addiction specialist at Sierra Tucson, a psychiatric hospital in Arizona.

Heidi needs to ask herself a few questions:

  • Can I handle more alcohol now than when I first started to drink?
  • Do I drink more when I am disappointed, under pressure, or have had a quarrel with someone?
  • Am I more in a hurry to get that first glass of wine than I used to be?
  • Do I sometimes feel a little guilty about my drinking?
  • The next day, do I sometimes regret things I did or said while drinking?
  • Do I ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after an evening of heavy drinking?
  • Do I eat very little or irregularly while I am drinking?
  • Has my physician ever advised me to cut down on my drinking?

If Heidi answers “yes” to two or more of the questions, Heidi and George need to sit down and have a serious conversation about Heidi’s drinking habits.

The very first words Heidi said at the beginning are “My life is very pressured,” Since it sounds as if the pressures in Heidi and George’s life are not capable of being reduced at this time, perhaps it would be helpful for Heidi and George to seek other ways to handle the stress other than wine. There are many natural, and possibly more enjoyable, ways to relax. Sometimes the simplest suggestions give the greatest pleasure.

Read a book. Begin by checking out the current bestsellers in the top 10 lists, both hardcover and paperback. If you really don’t want to, or can’t afford the expense of buying new, check out the selections at your local library.

Exercise. Take a walk after dinner. Bring George and the kids with you. Besides being good for everyone’s health, you will be amazed how much your family will enjoy each other.

Learn and practice controlled breathing exercises. You don’t need to learn yoga or meditation to get the relaxing benefit from controlled breathing exercises. You can do your controlled breathing anywhere. You don’t need a special mat, or clothes or instruction. Just close your eyes and sit quietly someplace, breathing slowly, in and out, for a short period of time, say 5-10 minutes. Try it the next time you just need a little time to reflect and relax.

Develop your spirituality. Life shouldn’t be all about going to a job or taking care of a family, or both. You don’t need to be religious to reap the rewards of a heightened spirituality. It doesn’t require chanting or prayer, necessarily, although these prove very helpful to some. You can develop your spirituality by looking inward and trying to improve your outlook on life. Read a part of the Bible each day. Say a prayer, thanking God for your family. Becoming more spiritual will give you a new appreciation for life and how precious it is. You will be able to give more of yourself to others, and gain richness beyond measure in return.

Celebrate all that’s good in your life. Instead of thinking of what you don’t have, add up all the riches you do have. Include the love of family, the bond of close friends, a job you enjoy, good health. Goodness has a way of spreading its way around. When you are positive in your outlook, and act in a manner that inspires others to do likewise, you are helping to lift others out of themselves and into a better appreciation of life. Life is all about living. Make this life the best you can for as long as you have it! You won’t need wine to help you relax. Living life to the fullest will be your gift — to you and to those you love.

“I command you: Be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).