I went to the dentist this morning. I am lucky to have quite good teeth and apart from one filling years ago, I have never had to have any treatment. But over the past few years check up appointments have become increasingly stressful.
The main thing I worried about was that I would smell of alcohol. There was an easy way to avoid that – not drinking the night before the appointment. I wasn’t keen on that idea. I wanted to drink and I resented not being able to do so. If I am honest I was not sure I could cope without a drink. Sometimes I would manage an alcohol free evening but usually I would just cut down. The next day I would clean my teeth several times, rinse with liberal amounts of mouthwash and freshen with gum. I don’t know whether any of this fooled the dentist. I don’t think I want to know.
As well as about whether my breath would smell of alcohol, I became worried that I might have developed mouth or oesophageal cancer which the dentist would identify during the examination. As time went on this worry became a morbid preoccupation. I was certain my drinking must be affecting my health. I knew that when eventually my fears were confirmed, it would be completely my own fault. But by then it would be too late. In spite of this I still couldn’t stop drinking.
I had similar worries when I had hospital appointments. I could lie about how much I was drinking but what if they made me have a blood test? It did happen a couple of times and for the following two weeks or so I would be on edge in case the results revealed a problem with my liver. When that time had passed I considered I was in the clear and perversely would celebrate with renewed gusto on the basis that no news was good news.
But now all that worry has gone. My appointment at the dentist was fine. I wasn’t worried I might smell. Even though I know it is possible I may develop one or other nasty condition as a consequence of my history of drinking, that fear is no longer at the forefront of my mind. I have had some blood tests which have come back normal so for now I’m breathing a (fresh!) sigh of relief.