My life is getting very good. After a rough few years, battling through some self-inflicted wounds, the passing of my hero, my grandfather, and a good dose of old fashioned bad luck, I’ve come through the woods and into the sunlight.
My life is quieter now, and while my former self would have been quick to label it boring, I find it deeply fulfilling. I’ve traded my worst habit for a far less bad one (drinking for cigars); my mind as alive, consuming books and ideas at a thrilling pace; and I have time to focus on that which gives me the most pleasure.
Just a few years ago, it was alcohol that gave me the most pleasure. Now of course I would have never admitted that — I didn’t even see it. I would have told you that social interaction and live music topped the list. But, in that I never did either without consuming more than my fair share of our favorite toxin, it was the alcohol that I most enjoyed.
Washing the dishes tonight, it’s been 13 months since I quit drinking, and Aerosmith’s Dream On played through my Alexa. Great tune. I reflected back to seeing them live half a dozen years ago, my mother and I having shared a great number of legendary classic rock shows together. I remember telling her how epic it was to see a band finish with two of the greatest rock ballads ever written — Dream On & Sweet Emotion — and have it be their original songs. While I can name a fair number of songs I like more than either of those, I struggle to think of another pairing by the same artist that rises to that kind of legendary level.
But, when I think about it a little harder, that’s just about all I remember from that night. Sure, I have a few SnapChat’s worth of memories of a few other songs floating around up there — I vaguely remember belting out I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing — but it’s mostly the vaguest of blurs. I remember driving to the show (drink in hand), getting to my seats (two drinks in hand, less reloads means less chance I miss a moment), the ‘What an ending’ comment to my mother, and then a series of texts and phone calls trying to locate my party.
At the time I thought it was them who had gotten separated, but I was very drunk. Retrospect is will get you like that sometimes.
And happily washing those dishes in my new, better, life, I began to think of just how many memories alcohol has taken from me. Ironic, of course, because those were the nights that I wanted to remember most. But that meant, in all likelihood, I was partying the hardest. Trying to get every last ounce of joy out of those moments.
But because of alcohol, I have squeezed those moments out of existence.
I’ve seen the Rolling Stones. Thankfully, I remember the moment Lady Gaga strutted out on 39 inch heels to join them. I mostly don’t remember the same moment with Bruce Springsteen, nor most of that show. Don’t tell my mother, tickets and a flight to New Jersey weren’t cheap.
In one of my most infamous sessions, I remember drinking the better part of half a bottle of Crown in the hotel room before I went and saw my favorite DJ, Zomboy, in Miami — a trip gifted to me by my best friend. I remember almost nothing his set (aside from something about a hat?).
From once in a lifetime moments, to an average night out with my favorite people, there are large gaps in what I remember. Before you pass any more judgement than you already have, my drinking wasn’t as bad as it may seem here; I rarely blacked out, and usually didn’t even brown out. But when there was a big moment — a moment I’d like to remember — my drinking to rose the the occasion as well. The bigger the moment, the bigger the party, the less likely my hard drive was spinning as it should for the entirety of the night.
It begs the questions — why do so many of us drink to the point of wiping clear those incredible moments? Surely the moment itself would be enough.
When I stopped drinking last year, it wasn’t for any amount of time. It was just for then. My relationship was strained (for a few reasons, many, but not all, rooted in alcohol), and I knew that it would likely not survive with any amount of drinking. That was an easy choice to make, as my drinking had already been reduced to near zero, and we’re madly in love and limitlessly happy once more.
But I’ve gotten to a point where, truly, I don’t miss it. It took a long time — months — to adjust to the social aspect of it all. Then I noticed that, save for my inner circle, no one remembered I didn’t drink. I still have friends that offer me a drink in bars, on golf courses, despite my having declined the past dozen previous offers from that person.
“Oh shit,that’s right, I’m sorry man.”
No, no. Don’t be sorry. Your offer shows me that you don’t remember that I’m the social outcast I thought abstinence would make me. Not drinking was always the easy part. Realizing I had an identity that existed outside of alcohol was the hard part.
But not only do I have an identity without the stuff, I love that identity. I write. I think. I read. I create. I’m driven. And I’m in a state of calm happy that I’m not sure you can get to when you live your life in a cycle of intoxicated & hungover, to various states depending on the day of the week.
And I get to enjoy a hard drive that works in recording the best moments of my life now. At least for a little while — I can already feel the aging process coming for that hard drive. But hey — at least I’m giving myself my own best shot to remember all the good in life.
Alcohol did a funny thing to me — and I suspect there are many others like me: alcohol never let me see the cost of alcohol, until I walked away from it. I suspect that’s why it’s become as prevalent as it has. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic. Either way, I’ve found profound happiness without it.
Final Note: I never considered alcohol a real problem in my life, until I put it past me. No matter your relationship with it, do yourself a favor, and do one month a year without it. The harder that is to do, the more you need to do it. Breaking patterns will at least give your sober mind a chance to make the best decisions for you from there. Sober life is not as bad as you think — but if alcohol is working for you, then cheers to you, and I love you all the same.