I remember it like it was yesterday. The icy taste of cold white wine at 5 a.m. and the familiar deep breath that followed. “Okay, I’m safe. Voices in head, officially shut off.” It wasn’t an unusual taste. I had had it before – many times at this time – but today was different – today was a school day – that’s what I called “going to work.” I cracked open the fridge, pulled out the cork, poured a glass of chardonnay and sucked it down like it was OJ – the juice – not The Juice. I WAS still drinking out of glasses so I guess that was a bonus back then. I had not deteriorated to full on drinking out of the bottle. I’m not a savage. But it was a workday and I immediately started to panic. I had NEVER had a glass of wine before work. I had drank before other awkward situations – parties, dates, temple – but never before work. I knew instantly that the party was over. The music was about to get turned off inside the multi year long rave I was attending. The dance floor was closing. The lights were being turned on and I was taking the ugly chick home at the end of the night and that ugly chick was me. I immediately called my bosses assistant and left a message that I was sick as a dog. Then I drank about three more bottles of wine. I drank all day long. It was a Thursday. I knew I had to quit drinking but I decided to go out with a bang. I got hammered and it kept on into the night. And that’s when I started rolling calls. Like an agent at the end of a long day when he wants to dump bad news on his clients – I started calling people – hammered – to tell them what I was the last to know – that I was an alcoholic. It was the best drunk decision I had ever made which is easy if you know some of the drunk decisions I have made. Some tiny part in my wasted brain knew that if I told people I was an alcoholic – they’d hold me to quitting drinking. I called my best friends and my family. I cried. I sipped. I cried more. I called a few more people. I cried. I drank more. Then I decided to take Friday off too because that would seem more believable at work – and then I drank all the way through Friday too. I mean – come on – I needed some kind of cushion for this momentous kind of occasion. I don’t know if anyone believed I would hold myself to this since I was wasted when I informed everyone I had a drinking problem. Kind of hard to take anyone very seriously. People always ask me what “my moment” was and this was it. Nothing big. Nothing earth shattering. I had simply had a glass of wine before work and that was it. Party over. If it was going to seep into my professional life – there was no going back. And I didn’t. Sixteen years ago today.
Quitting drinking remains the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was many months of anger and sadness and it’s been years of struggling with those annoying questions like – why couldn’t I keep it together? Why couldn’t I handle something so simple as drinking? Why did I have to be all or nothing? But that’s the thing about booze. It’s not simple. It fucks with your brain and then it takes your memories and leaves you with guilt and sadness and huge voids of time you can no longer remember how you filled. The only good thing that comes from drinking too much is it makes the dull more fun. It makes an annoying person at a party easier to deal with. It makes being too fat or too thin or too ugly or too shy – a distant foggy memory. It makes all of your problems disappear until you can’t remember them anymore and then when you do remember them you drink again. But they never do fully disappear. They just hide and then smack you in the face when you least expect it.
Quitting drinking was a terrifying experience for me on a very different level too. I remember thinking – I can’t give up alcohol – isn’t my funny going to disappear? It didn’t. How will I ever write another piece of comedy? I did. How will I ever be the life of the party? I wasn’t. But I could be now if I wanted to because I’d actually speak clearly and not slur my words and not fall down face first in your artichoke dip or fuck your boyfriend in your guest room closet. It happens.
When it comes to giving up the booze – I was one of the lucky ones -because my life instantly became better and I immediately knew I had made the right decision. It didn’t make it easier but it made me see that there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and it was filled with great jobs, great friends, and memories that I get to keep forever or at least until the old timers kicks in which seems to be about a week away. I don’t regret any of my drinking days because they are amazing memories filled with inappropriate goodness that I believe everyone should have. But at some point – you have to let your life be lived with full clarity – because nothing is better than that. I can tell you that fully from being on the other side. Now a few people have told me that I can no longer say that I’m sober because I started smoking pot about two years ago and I say go fuck your righteous selves because smoking pot is totally different. I would never do the things I did with booze – with weed. I am conscious of everything I do while high and remember everything that takes place. I never wake up with regrets in the morning after a night of smoking pot. Well I usually regret the amount of food I’ve taken down at about four a.m. but that’s a whole other Oprah. I never wake up to a stranger in my bed. I never have someone tell me we met and not remember. I don’t’ have friends no longer speaking to me for reasons I don’t remember. And I don’t have the fifteen pounds of liquor pig weight that came with drinking. I never ever ever wake up in the morning and think – fuck what did I do and why did I say that. Every decision I make is mine. Everything I do – I own. It is quite difficult to live your life like a giant open wound of pain and regret filled with people carrying salt so if me smoking pot upsets your balance of what I consider to be sober well – I’m sorry – but you do you and I’ll continue to do me.
Me not drinking may be more difficult for my friends because now I have to talk about EVERYTHING that’s upsetting me. I have to get it out or I can’t move on. It’s probably why I write the way I write – like a bat out of hell spewing words with abandon. It’s also made me a less tolerant person. I hate small talk. I hate bull shit. I hate liars. I won’t judge you if you’re wasted but keep your distance or shits going to get real with me. Trust me – if I could drink I would. Don’t remind me why I don’t.
June 20th is summer solstice. It is known as the longest and shortest day of the year. Solstice actually means “sun stopping” and after today the sun reverses it’s direction. The irony of this being the day I quit drinking is not lost on me. It was the longest and shortest day of my life. Today I celebrate my sobriety with a lot of joy – and a few tears for what could have been if I did things a little differently. I’ll never know what life path I could have taken if I’d given up the booze earlier. But I’ll try not to look back – and continue to look forward and keep striving to make some amazing future memories. Thanks for being on the ride with me. We don’t have to strap in anymore but I expect there will still be a few bumps.