“Would you like to sample some wine?”

She was very cheerful the lady at the supermarket who asked me this question. She was dressed smartly, standing beside her display table at the edge of the booze section which is also the end of the cheese and dips section.

This is where the alcohol lives in the place where I do my weekly shop. It comes at the end of the isle which starts with the bread and milk, moves into cold meats and yogurt, then ends in cheese and dips.

I’d just picked up some grated mozzarella cheese to have on our pizza dinner and some hummus for the kids school lunches when I glanced up and caught her eye. She smiled warmly and gestured to the bottles on the table beside her; “Would you like to sample some wine?” She asked me.

I didn’t really have time to think. Before I knew it a breezy “No thank you!” came out of my mouth and I moved on. My brain didn’t freak out. My heart didn’t race. I was the very model of a casual, cheerful housewife turning down free booze at the supermarket. My how times have changed.

Back in my boozy days I would never have turned down a free sample. And a trip to the supermarket would always include multiple wine purchases. Why wouldn’t it? It was always cheap as hell and right there for me to grab.

When I first got sober, the supermarket became a real challenge. Every shopping trip was like running the gauntlet. From the moment I stepped through the automatic doors I’d be having a fierce internal dialogue with myself about why I wasn’t going to buy any wine today. I’d frantically remind myself as I turned down each isle why I’d quit drinking and what I was hoping to gain by turning sober.  I’d rush out the door with my trolly at the end feeling tense but proud that I hadn’t buckled and picked up any bottles.

I wish alcohol wasn’t available in the place where we do most of our grocery shopping – next to kitchen staples like bread and cheese – but unfortunately it is. And as much as I’d like to persuade our lawmakers to remove alcohol from our supermarkets, I don’t have the power of the alcohol industry and their clever lobbyists who are working hard to keep it there.

So instead I have focussed on the one thing I CAN change – and that is my own thinking.  And here I’ve been very successful. As the months and years of being a non-drinker have passed I have completely flipped my thinking. I no longer see alcohol as the magic ticket to fun and relaxation, I no longer have any desire to numb and avoid my emotions and I no longer think of guzzling wine daily as a harmless thing to do. And as a result of this change in my thinking the booze section of the supermarket has become less challenging, and for the most part it now has zero impact on me.

Except of course when there’s a nicely dressed lady standing at the edge of it trying to give me a free drink. Then, yes, it did have a brief impact. But not an entirely bad one.

I noticed how easy it was to turn her down and that felt good. I noticed how I had zero pull inside of me to sample her wares and that felt great. And I noticed how more feisty and detailed responses to her offer formed in my mind as I walked away.

I imagined a response in which I was far more  detailed: “No way. I haven’t touched that stuff for nearly six years and feel far more grounded in myself and connected to those around me than I ever have in my life. Do you think I want to throw all of that away for a sample of your foul tasting liquid?”

I imagined a response in which I was far more blunt: “No way. I’m not touching that shit. Do you know it’s a group one carcinogen that is estimated to cause over five billion dollars worth of harm to our country every year?”

But as satisfying as it was forming these responses in my mind I’m pleased I kept it brief. The wine-sampling lady didn’t need to hear my story or nor did she deserve my anger. She’s just a woman trying to pay her bills and earn money to get her own grated cheese and hummus.

No. A cheerful “No thank you!” was enough. But boy did it feel good heading home for a nice refreshing fizzy water that didn’t leave me feeling guilty and hungover.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. SueK 4 years ago

    I go through this at our farmers’ market, which seems every week to have more and more wineries, craft breweries, cideries, distilleries offering free samples. And you’re right @Mrs-D, there is a point when they cease to be confronting and threatening. Thank goodness for that. I try to be pleasant to them, just saying, “No thanks, I’m not a drinker.” But sometimes I really just want to yell, “For Pete’s Sake, it’s 9 o’clock Saturday morning, and you’re offering people booze? What is the matter with you?” But they are only doing their job I guess.

    At least here you don’t get booze in the supermarkets or corner stores, so it’s relatively peaceful doing your groceries.

  2. Petunia 6 years ago

    Thought provoking blog post. I tried all different supermarkets, asked my (ex) husband to buy the groceries in an effort to break the grocery shop/alcohol purchase habit. It was unsuccessful and distressing for years and wasted, intoxicated years. Thank goodness with support from this blog site I’m booze free for 117 days – Yeehhhaa, yippity doo dah!! The link to Cancer Society’s report on Ethanol’s carcinogenic effects is shocking. Shocking that these scientific facts are reported and largely ignored by lawmakers and educators. Young people could be educated at school with these facts. Would fit in really nicely with the NZ Science curriculum biology component. That would get a squeak out of the Liquor lobby. 🙂

  3. MsLil 6 years ago

    Yes I must say it is difficult when I visit NZ and see all the wine in the supermarket aisles.
    I associate it with fun and laughter and cheese and deli yummies. I could never resist grabbing a couple of bottles for dinner – it was the thought of sitting outside with my Dad on the veranda and sipping the liquid until I was mellow. After all I was on holidays and back home. But alas we know this is all perceived nonsense. An illusion – at least we suspect it is.
    I notice however that most people can walk past this section of the supermarket and not bother – its only the ones like us that get tempted to stop. If the stuff wasn’t in the supermarket we would go somewhere else hell or high water! I don’t think there Is a problem with the supermarkets stocking wine – I think the problem comes from within ourselves and not being able to enjoy wine in moderation – the ‘normal’ recommended amount.
    They don’t have wine in the supermarkets where I live but that sure never stopped me from going 2 shops down to get a bottle or 2!

  4. Lucy 6 years ago

    I work in a super market and I avoid the wine, beer and spirit isle like the plague.. even when shopping I won’t walk down the booze isle… hate the stuff… great post mrs d.x

  5. Gilbert 6 years ago

    I remember when I thought I’d never be able to eat cheese again because I associated it with wine so much.
    I was convinced of it . Time under the belt is marvellous and I just whizz by the wine area thinking what a waste of space. I don’t linger and wish at all. It’s dead space to me. I have been through lots of other types of drinks but now I drink mostly soda and Kombutcha that I make myself. Yum.

  6. Cinderella 6 years ago

    I really get this post too!! Inside the entry way of our nearest supermarket is the fruit and veg department followed very quickly by the wine and beverage aisle. I was there today with my sister my ‘notorious’ drinking buddy of a few months ago. Luckily I had my pretend horse blinkers on and completely ignored the wine section – ) ‘Sis’ on the other hand who had gone in for something completely different did not.
    She came back clutching her bottle and seemed quite relieved that she didn’t have to stop again on her way home from dropping me off to pick one up. Sadly it’s all about the convenience isn’t it!! And ‘yes’ having the luxury of free sampling to boot ‘doesn’t help. Having said that………my lovely sister doesn’t have the same attitude about alcohol that I do. So even if we tried to have it struck from our local supermarkets probably a huge portion of customers would rise up in opposition. The lovely Mrs D….we wouldn’t stand a chance I don’t think !! Yes, sis did get the product she originally went in for lol. @islandone that sounds like a really posh supermarket…. ;-0

  7. IslandOne 6 years ago

    I really hear this one. The wine section in my favourite supermarket is just beautiful. It’s a separate, climate-controlled room, with dark wood furnishings and wine on wooden shelves and aisles, arranged by region. It’s like being in a winery, not a supermarket. You can get everything from a cheap Oyster Bay to a top of the line Tuscans that have a comma in the price.
    I used to love going there on Saturdays – they’d have a senior sommelier from one of the distributers there, with the free samples and usually some really obscure but nice cheese to try with it (I discoverd St. Agur there – my favourite cheese). After all of the fuss and a long one on one wine chat, I’d usually feel obliged to buy a bottle or six (ten percent discount for six).
    I don’t think that the sommelier is a bad person, and I don’t think that the wine distributors are bad people. But their interests and mine no longer converge. I have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than hang out for half an hour in a dark windowless room being talked into putting three hundred dollars down for half a case of wine just to prove how sophisticated I am as a drinker.
    24 days. Very conservative estimate on money saved: $800. Clarity: Priceless.

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