A few weeks ago, a writer for the Huffington Post embarked on "a personal health journey" which was inspired by Shawn Phillips' Strength For Life. A week into his detox, the writer bemoaned his sober state, suffered a deep lamentation on missing out on "reminiscing about the last three fancy-pants beers I drank, chatting in occasional slurred words and too-loud laughs with fellow evening warriors," likening his detox to torture for booze is everywhere! He's missing out on beer! Free liquor at events! Ice-cream socials that somehow involve alcohol! A week off the sauce?! Oh, the humanity.
Four words: Welcome to my world.
Last week, after a well-meaning friend threw me a bottle of tequila on Facebook (a congratulations on finalizing my screenwriting deal for my memoir), I wondered aloud how someone could find humor in sending virtual booze to a recovering alcoholic. And then I paused. Rewound the tape. Because this was the first time, in almost a year and a half of being sober, that I said those words out loud: recovering alcoholic, and instead of the feeling of dread that I'd always assumed would accompany such a proclamation, I experienced enormous relief.
For fourteen years I was in a committed relationship with a bottle of wine. I planned my life around wine; my home was always well-stocked. I surrounded myself with enablers and those who drank just as much, if not more, than I did. I found myself saying that I needed that one, two, three glasses of wine after work because I deserved it! This was my reward for a job I loathed and a familial history I was desperate to flee! So, the way in which I experienced the world during those years was through a liquid filter because a life otherwise, I had once believed, was unimaginable. But after humiliating myself one too many times (thankfully offline), waking up with the panicked "What did I say this time?" dread, and always, always, always feeling ashamed, sick, and tired, I realized that perhaps there was another to live my life.
For over a year I've been living the other way. Watching friends from the sidelines ease into a bottle of wine. Toasting my colleagues with sparkling water. Repeating the words: "No, thank you. I don't drink... I don't drink..." until it becomes somewhat of a mantra. Finding new ways in which to connect with my friends other than the staid, "Let's grab a drink." And to say it's been easy would be naive because imagine if you had a lover for well over a decade, and this relationship was dysfunctional, hateful and unhealthy, but there was love, nonetheless. It's not easy giving up on something you've leaned on. Something you've loved. But I have to remind myself that that love was killing me, albeit slowly. That for a time, my committed relationship managed to ruin everything good in my life.
But there are the memories of slippers sliding off and cocktails in the gloaming. Of clicking bottles of Russian beer whilst traveling down the Neva -- this is how we want to remember our first loves. It's so easy to filter for the good times, isn't it? Evoke romance to the point of nausea. But I allow myself these memories because it simultaneously reminds me of the darker moments -- the friends who screened my calls because they couldn't deal with yet another of my drunken, tearful nervous breakdowns, or the time I drove drunk in the Holland Tunnel, or the time I was sick on my bedding because I couldn't make it to the bathroom in time -- episodes which always seemed to magically accompany those "good times".
Lately, I'm learning that my life is never as terrifying as I imagine it to be; that not being present in my life in order to avoid the terrifying spaces is perhaps worse than actually living my life. Now I breathe through the dark days, continue with my therapy, and lean on my friends, because this is my one life-shouldn't I live it and love it with all of my heart?
With all of this in mind, I find it profoundly disturbing to hear people brag about getting wasted, proudly regaling tales of their blackouts, binges, and hangovers on their websites, on subway platforms, in cubicles. Glamorizing their evenings out and the train wrecks which inevitably ensue in such a blasé fashion. Is it normal to openly lament if one doesn't drink for one solitary week? Do we find ourselves saying we need that glass of wine, rather than simply enjoying and savoring it?
This is not me judging or me proclaiming that everyone should adopt my sober lifestyle, however, I'm seeing so many women lapse into decisions heavily influenced by alcohol without really considering the consequences. Are we perhaps more focused on selling a "provocative" image of ourselves, garnering page views and lucrative book deals, rather than focusing on our health, happiness and well-being?
Let's think before we drink, shall we?