woman shops at the grocery store

My Long Walk Down the Wine Aisle at the Grocery Store

By Nina Bradshaw is a professionally qualified social worker and therapist in the UK. She earned a Master's Degree in Personality Disorder Studies, a Master's Degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and a Master's Degree in Sociology/Social Policy/Social Work.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

woman shops at the grocery store

Alcohol is everywhere. Barely a day goes by without us having to see or hear something related to or directly involving a drink. From advertising and TV shows to friends and colleagues creating plans that revolve around drinking, we live in a culture where the idea of booze is everywhere.

For most people, this isn’t too much of a problem. They can take it or leave it, maybe enjoy a couple and leave it at that. Or perhaps they can have an occasional blowout and then not bother with it again for weeks or months at a time. However, for the ex-drinker, the prevalence of alcohol can be a big problem and may affect even the simplest of daily activities.

One writer shares how the most mundane tasks have changed since sobriety and what it was like to finally overcome her fears.

In the Beginning

When I was in early recovery, one of the most difficult places for me to be in was the grocery store. These places are designed to lull you into a way of thinking that make you want to buy things that you may or may not have sought out to buy when you went in. The lighting, the music, the displays and the layout of the aisles are all done in such a way to attract you to their products. And if you have a weakness for booze, coming upon the wine aisle may be devastating.

I remember on one occasion a few months after I had stopped drinking, I went to the store to do my usual shopping and was feeling particularly vulnerable. I was tired and stressed and struggling with financial worries. As I was wandering around looking for my usual food items, I could almost hear the wine aisle calling out to me. I walked closer to the aisle and could see other shoppers with bottles of booze in their trolleys. I was jealous of their ability to consume wine, and sorry for myself for not being able to. If I had not run into a friend at that moment, I do not know whether I would have weakened and gone to grab a bottle or two.

After this, for a long time I became almost phobic of stepping into the place where all that booze was out and waiting for me to pick it up. The mere thought of it would send me into a spin, salivating and longing to grab a bottle or several and place them in my trolley. I would imagine the other shoppers who could calmly pick up their supply of wine with barely a second thought, and feel so envious. The wine aisle became my nemesis.

A Slave No More

As time progressed, I determined to take back control of this phobia. I knew that if I did not learn to be around alcohol without it triggering intense cravings, then my life would become limited.

I had to help a friend prepare for a big birthday party. She wanted me to go with her to pick up supplies, both food and booze. Ahead of the date for this, I took myself to the supermarket and made myself walk down the aisle. Quickly at first, I would push my trolley up the aisle, keeping my eyes focused on the floor in front of me, not allowing myself to become overwhelmed by the anxiety and temptation of the bottles of booze.

Gradually I let myself take things slower, looking up at the bottles, reading the labels. Over time, I have learned mastery over my fear of the wine aisle. It was not easy, and I can on occasion still find myself feeling anxious when I walk past all that booze. Eventually, however, I have been able to buy a bottle to take as a gift for someone, with barely a flutter of anxiety. I am now able to meander round the grocery store and not have to worry about avoiding the once treacherous aisle, and life has become so much easier. At least, the grocery shopping has.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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