New Year’s Eve. For many folks, that means one thing: TIME TO DRINK UP.
Not me, though.
I didn’t know the extent of my drinking problem until stopped drinking. I was clued in to how bad it was when I told my friends I had sobered up. Every single one of them reacted the same way.
“Oh thank God.”
Sometimes they’d add a little extra something like “You were so horrible” or “Does this mean you are quitting the band?”
Another thing that should have clued me in: when I cleaned out all my stuff to move out of the house for good (long story, typical story), I found no fewer than six flasks. Some were engraved with my initials. I didn’t remember buying any of them. Perhaps they were gifts? I used to joke about the guys who carried flasks around, saying that they had the booze habit so bad they couldn’t stand to be even an arm’s length away from a shot of hooch. I joked about the disguised flasks in the shape of binoculars or cell phones. Buddy, I’d think, you’re not really fooling anyone. That little kid is asking Mommy why the weird man is sucking on his binoculars.
And here I had six of these flasks. Six.
I never drank like a normal guy. My average Wednesday was a bigger bender than three normal people’s Saint Patrick’s binges. Holidays, of course, were far worse. When I tended bar, I had a big book that told the holiday for every day of the year. Gave a little backstory and everything. “Drink up, lads! ‘Tis St. Groper’s Day! The patron saint of Topers!”
I’d set the stage by fasting. I’d skip meals the day before and get up bright and early, my shriveled stomach crying out for toast, bacon, eggs. I’d quiet the rascal down with a special “good morning” cocktail made just for the occasion (usually a pint of medium-grade whiskey kept handy in my bathrobe pocket. If I was really ambitious I’d have made coffee in which to pour it, but usually I skipped that troublesome part).
From there I’d do some quality sitting, with or without the soporific of TV to guide me. After a while, the bourbon would be gone, and I’d be feeling festive enough to get dressed. When I’d managed that–usually only took twenty or thirty minutes–I’d fish my car keys out of some jacket or other and head to town.
This could be as early as nine AM. By nine PM, I was choosing bars at random from the whirling blur of the spinning world. I’d close one eye to stop the spinning and plunge through the doorway the way a man might jump off a moving train. If I fell (which was about half the time), I’d pick myself up with infinite dignity, walk carefully to the bar and pull the wad of money from my pocket (after the first drink, all my money turned into to prop money like Mr. Howell had in Gilligan’s Island. There was an infinite supply and it had no inherent value). And though my memory of the entire night would be sheathed forever in murky blackness, I would apparently see everyone I had ever met. Family. Exes. My boss. I’d have no recollection, but somehow they would remember the most minute detail. What I said about the girlfriend, how I felt about Ford trucks, how my fly had a red mitten zipped into it. Everything.
If I could get served, I’d be the best friend of bartender. I’d be the best friend of whomever happened to be standing next to me. I loved everybody in the bar! Everybody in the world! I LOVE ALL YOU GUYS SO MUCCCCHHHH!
I was that guy.
Sober holidays are a relatively new thing, but I enjoy them as much as anyone can enjoy compulsory celebration. Where I work, time off is also compulsory, so I get to spend time with my daughters and my girlfriend and her kids. I like to cook while wearing elastic-waist pants. to play board games, to try to flip my head around whenever somebody points a camera at me so my face is blurred.
I enjoy waking up in a great mood, drinking my coffee slowly, not getting arrested. It’s nice to remember what I did last night and know that when I see my friends they will not be furious with me for repeatedly trying to get the cat high last night Dude, I swear, he liked it. He was BEGGING me for it.
My stories might not be as good. But really–how good were those stories?
Dude, remember that one time we got so (drunk, high, balls tripping) when me and (name of horrified friend who is sitting with his wife and kids at the dinner table staring at me) and (name of friend who is dead or in prison) stole (always stole) a (cop car, shopping cart, dray horse, minivan full of Korean exchange students). Man did we get (arrested, away with it, injured).
They are fables, really.
Fables with the same moral:
Live and Don’t Learn
I’m with my friends on this one. Oh thank God.