On September 15, 2012, I went out drinking with my friend “Clint.” This, obviously, is nothing new. Clint lives on Long Island, so we started at his house, bought some beer, and took the LIRR into Penn Station—drinking the entire way. Our first stop in Manhattan was at Keen’s Steakhouse on W. 36th Street. Kicking off the night at one of our old-school, “old New York” places is customary for us. From there, we took a cab downtown and drank our faces off throughout the East Village.
Sometime well after midnight, we bought more beer at Penn Station, caught a train back to Long Island, and continued drinking at a bar near Clint’s house. When that place closed, we walked home. Clint sat down on the arm of his sofa, announced that he was tired, and fell asleep bent over backward like a drunken parabola. I was supposed to be sleeping on that sofa, so knowing I couldn’t wake him up, I carried him into his bedroom, threw him on his bed, pulled his shoes off, and went back into the living room and passed out. Drunk off my fucking ass.
When I woke up the following morning, I stopped for coffee, then drove to my mother’s house. I went upstairs, pulled my clothes off, and took a nap. I haven’t had a drink since.
Today marks six months for me without a drop of alcohol. This is the longest break I’ve taken from drinking since my first beer—which was choked down at least twenty-five years ago. I didn’t stop drinking because I had a problem. I didn’t have the shakes, and I don’t think I’ve ever said “I need a drink” in my life. This time, I stopped drinking and just stopped thinking about it.
I drank far too often last summer. I’d hatched a plan to quit my job, I was dissatisfied with a lot of things, and I was going to happy hour just about every night. Every afternoon, I’d start texting and emailing around to see if there was anyone in the city who wanted to meet me after work. There always was. We’d go to a bar near my office, and I’d pour beer down my throat until I felt better. As that was happening, I’d text other people to come out, and the initial person I’d be out with would end up handing me off to someone else. I’d get home in time to watch P90X infomercials, having chugged beer since dinnertime, then get up at 7:30 and go back to work.
And then there were the weekends. I don’t really remember them.
I was going on a lot of dates back then. Most of these were happy hour meet-ups where I’d employ a very unusual method of impressing women. I’d schedule the bar meeting at 7:00, then show up at 6:00 and pound Stella for an hour before they arrived. I’d start off strong, but the booze would eventually take over and I’d sit on my stool yelling at these poor girls about everything under the sun. This was ugly.
Most times, I’d never hear from them again. Once in a while, one would text or email me the next day, telling me I was a “good guy,” but that I had “issues” I needed to “resolve.” This was very astute analysis on their part. Suffice it to say that I stayed single for a very long time. This was probably for the best.
I can’t tell you exactly why I stopped drinking. I don’t know what I was thinking on September 16th. I’m sure I felt like shit. I’m not a kid anymore, and it takes me far longer to recover, so I’m certain I was still feeling it the following Monday—which probably sucked. I don’t remember anymore, and I don’t really care.
Drinking doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’ve been in bars a few times during these six months, drinking water or ginger ale, and I haven’t given a flying fuck about any of it. Two weeks ago, I was in a restaurant with a group of people, all of whom were getting shitfaced, and I didn’t get the urge, even though I wasn’t entirely comfortable and didn’t know most of them—a situation that would ordinarily have me downing drinks with a vengeance. Last week, I was in a bar with Clint again, and I ate a cheeseburger and French fries and drank ginger ale. Again, I didn’t care. I neither missed it nor needed it.
Ironically, several people have offered to take me out drinking tonight to celebrate my half-year of sobriety. What they don’t know is that this didn’t start off with an expiration date. I’ve never formally expressed any drying-out period that was scheduled to end on a particular date. There haven’t been any milestones along the way. The only time I’ve said anything about this to anyone was on New Year’s Eve. I was invited out, and I went to the Berkshires with my girlfriend instead, telling people I wanted to see whether I could make it to the Super Bowl without drinking.
I knew I could. I pretended it was a struggle. I don’t know why I did that. I watched the Super Bowl by myself with a bag of chips, two jars of salsa, and my Brita jug.
What happens now? I have no fucking idea. I may keep it up, or I may not. I like being sharper mentally. I like not feeling like shit for the next two days after a binge. I like being in full control of my behavior and my mouth. I like not having mood swings. I like not spending money. I like not being a fat fuck. I like being productive. I like being able to work seven days a week if I need to. I like taking care of my own problems in real time instead of self-medicating and leaving them for some tomorrow that never seemed to come.
Since high school, I’ve had three or four constants in my life. Drinking is one of these. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I never went more than a week or so without taking that edge off. I’ve never thought I was a full-blown alcoholic, because I could easily go a week or two between binges without thinking about it. I may be way off base with my self-diagnosis here, but judging by the past six months, I think I was right. I could give this shit up for the rest of my life and not even think about it. I know that now.
I might even do that. Who the fuck knows?
Anyway, it’s been six months since I’ve had a damned drink. For something that was never officially declared or decided, I think this was a very good decision.