Monday, August 6, 2012

Drinking Like a Gentleman*

When I first got sober, I was certain that the only substance I ever abused was crystal meth. Even when I finally started listening to the counselors in my outpatient program and agreed to stop all of it – the beer, the pot, the pills – I was only doing it to placate them. In those early months, I vowed that one day I would drink again because I had no problem with alcohol. Maybe I would smoke pot occasionally as well, because again, I had that under control.

As time has gone on, it's been brought to my attention that while the amount of alcohol or cocaine or pills might not have been excessive (I won't even pretend that I smoked pot in moderation – unless every night for five years is moderate), the behaviors around my drinking and using were pretty twisted.

Apparently, people who don't have a problem with alcohol don't routinely swear off liquor for 30 days or more just to prove they don't have a problem. Usually my stints of abstinence would follow some “minor incident”. For instance, about a month after I moved from my parents' house to an apartment in Center City Philadelphia, I found myself sitting at the bar in a gay club alone because I had the hots for the bartender. I'm going to make the assumption that since in the entire year I lived there and was frequenting (5-6 nights a week) the place he never asked for my phone number, he was probably just flirting with me for the tips.

Anyway, I'm there drinking vodka/cranberries (I'll have a cape cod, but with a lemon instead of a lime please) and doing shots (kamikazes with Chambord – was I the gayest 23-year-old on earth). All night. I probably got there around 9 pm. And I was enthralled. I didn't talk to anyone else. I only left my seat at the bar to go to the bathroom. And right back for more. By 2 am, I was feeling pretty great. By 2:10 am, I have no idea how I was feeling because I don't remember anything after he said “last call”.

The bar was near 13th and Walnut St. and I lived on 12th between Lombard and South, so I maybe had a six-block walk to get home. I don't even know how I got down the steps from the second floor of the bar, let alone how I made my way across 12th St. I have a vague recollection of getting to my bedroom and thinking, “there is NO FUCKING WAY I can sleep on that waterbed right now.”

Luckily, I also had a futon mattress that I was using as a sofa. I must have pulled that out and flopped down on it. I say I must have because I didn't wake up there. I'm only piecing things together from the evidence. I woke up on the waterbed. And the first thing I noticed was that the room smelled like someone died in it. But not bad enough that I got out of bed very quickly.

Eventually I dragged my ass out of bed and started to make my way to the bathroom. That's when I saw it. The futon was covered – COVERED – in puke. A lovely, Chambord-and-cranberry-colored puke. Apparently, I threw up in my sleep. I have to give me credit though. At least I had the good sense to not lie in it all night.

Did I mention it was February in Philadelphia? And, you can probably imagine, I had a bit of a headache. But I didn't have much choice. I dragged the futon downstairs and through the kitchen – where my new roommates were having Sunday breakfast – into the backyard. While trying to avoid freezing or vomiting, I hosed down the futon as best I could. I know that futon ended up back in my bedroom, but I have no idea how (or if) I ever got that smell out of it.

What I do remember is that I was right back at that bar that night, only this time I said, “I'll have a cranberry juice but with a lemon instead of a lime.” You can imagine the odd look? “No cape cod tonight??”

“No. I think I'm going to not drink for 30 days.” I distinctly remember mentioning 30 days specifically. If I had only known then that I could get a pretty chip with that embossed on it when I got there.

*For my non-alcoholic readers, the title refers to a passage in the Big Book that reads, "If anyone who is showing an inability to control his drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him." -- page 31

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