I used to love to drink.
Playing around with that sentence, I could omit “used to” and you would have a snapshot of my relationship with alcohol for the past 14 years. Take out the part about love in the same sentence, and I have a potential future of sobriety, in which I walk away from alcohol, in which it’s no longer a part of every social situation I attend, in which I don’t order a glass of rose with a friend and sink into relaxation with every sip. This scary/hopeful unknown future, where alcohol is somebody that I used to know.
And in between these two scenarios, there’s the present moment, where a part of me hopes that I can learn to control my drinking, learn to stop after a glass or two, learn to approach alcohol in a new way. Where we are casual acquaintances. Where I can take it or leave it.
And the other part of me suspects, with a sinking feeling, that I will never be able to control alcohol, that I will never know when alcohol will swoop in, take over, and control me, and that to think that I am anything but powerless to alcohol is naive, foolish, or is perhaps the scariest scenario: denial.
And all the images and flashes of memory that fuel the different scenarios; controlled drinking, or straight-up sobriety: the nights when I pour myself a glass of wine and don’t finish it, dumping the majority of the contents down the sink when cleaning up from dinner without thinking twice. The nights that I have a few drinks and go home without any fuss at all, and fall asleep easily, waking up tired, but not hungover. The beads of moisture on a champagne flute as I enjoy – and I mean enjoy, pausing and sipping and being with – a crisp glass of sparkling wine on a patio as city life unfolds; those moments in life of being unhurried or harried in the busy-ness. Where I can float above it.
And then the other memories, and worse, the non-memories: slurring, smoking, screaming and raging at a significant other without provocation, the confused look on someone’s face when I repeat something I just said five minutes ago to them, the confession of secrets laced with shame, waking up in the morning with a thud in my head and my gut: what the fuck did I do last night? And all the days walking on eggshells, not bringing up the night before, but with my defenses sky high, jumping at any perceived criticism or judgment. one thing i learned early on in this drinking game: if any part of the night is hazy, best to act like everything is normal, and don’t ask any clarifying questions. pretend like everything is fine. and i don’t mean that in a 50s housewife- keeping-up-appearances-type-of-way. I mean, pretend like everything is fine because if it isn’t, I have no idea what to do about it, and then i am in big, big trouble.
And that’s how it was so long ago, in college, when I was black-out drunk and making a scene, regularly. And lately, as a 30-something, when the occasions of social drinking prove too much for me to handle, and suddenly, I am wasted, and I don’t know what I am saying, and I am wandering away from the group, and I have no idea how I got this drunk. And that is always how it is. I never know how I got this drunk, when I was just planning on having a few drinks/a bottle of wine/several bottles of champagne.
As I write this, the pendulum swings in the direction of sobriety because, well, come on. Listen to me. And I haven’t even let my mind wander to the really, really bad stuff, the stuff that people without a drinking problem would say “nope, not touching that stuff ever again.” I am just skimming the surface, starting off light, because I am in the research phase, because I am just thinking about life without alcohol, without that shimmering glass of sparkling rose on the patio, without the shame and guilt, without the perfectly crafted Aviation cocktail, without ever having to wonder who I offended, who I have to avoid for awhile, what people think of me. Without a status symbol. Without a loss of control, an irresponsibility. Without people having to take care of me, at 30 something years old, because I can’t stand up straight. Without a sense of normalcy, of not having alcoholism.
Maybe the scariest and most frightening part of this is that if I take that huge leap of sobriety and dive right into the thick of it, I will have to accept who I am, and give up on this picture of a girl that I want to be. Because maybe I am an alcoholic, and I can never be that girl with cool confidence and utter control over myself, sipping an elegant glass of red with my co-workers, radiating calm and peace.
And of course, maybe I can be all those things, minus the elegant glass of red.
To start, this blog will be about finding peace with myself, perhaps as an alcoholic, perhaps as some other version of problem drinking person, but knowing that I need to make a serious and drastic change about how I relate to alcohol.
It’s been 7 days since my last drink.