I was late to the party when it came to drinking. While other kids were getting wasted in high school, my fear of being out of control led me to slowly sipping one drink at a party then convincing myself I was drunk. I wasn’t faking it, I just didn’t know what it felt like. I was more of a pot smoker those days, because as a naturally high-strung person, pot seemed to fit with my personality far better than doing shots of vodka at someone’s house while their parents were away.
In college, I also wasn’t big into drinking either. I’d attend parties at off-campus apartments, would drink to fit in, but didn’t get the type of drunk that I would eventually become all too familiar with when I got older. I can count on one hand the amount of times I was really drunk in college and I can point to the scars on my body as a result of these few incidents. Yes, I have a scar on my ass from when I couldn’t wait in line to use the bathroom, when outside to pee in the woods, leaned against a tree, and fell over but not before ripping a huge cut on my right bum cheek thanks to the bark. Classy.
When I moved to New York City my drinking still wasn’t anything crazy mostly because I couldn’t afford to drink at a rate that would make me intoxicated. Although within my first week of living here I did get so plastered that I somehow wandered from the East Village to Soho because I had yet to understand my surroundings, I eventually found my way home, threw up in my bed and slept in it; it had yet to become a regular thing.
Having come from a very long line of drinkers, I’ve always been aware that the gene is there inside me. My father in his wilder days loved to have more than a few cold ones with his buddies, my grandfather (his dad) had such an alcohol addiction that my father, as young as 10 years old, would have to go to the local bar to drag him home. But as both my parents explained it, it was a different time, and my father wasn’t the only 10-year-old dragging his dad home from the bar. My grandfather was a very successful and respected engineer, but that didn’t stop him from over-indulging in the sauce. The first and only time I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I pictured Francie Nolan’s dad who, like my grandfather, was also a raging alcoholic, to look just like my grandfather in his younger days. My grandfather died when I was five years old, so all I had were pictures to support this image.
But it wasn’t just my grandfather. My cousins on my father’s side also have had their bouts with alcoholism. My aunt, the one who disowned me, has a daughter who’s not only an alcoholic, but a drug addict who’s also been arrested for prostitution; another son who’s also a huge drinker and whose wife actually drank herself to death — she was in her 40’s. My father’s other sister has a son who’s in jail, probably for the rest of his life, because he’s been been arrested for DUI so many times. Basically, there’s a shit ton of alcohol issues on the French side of my family; for some reason the Irish and Swedish side (my mom’s) has managed to keep their shit together.
It wasn’t until I met Swede that I realized, after it had been pointed out to me by everyone who truly loves me, that I indeed had a problem. In case you didn’t know, Swedes can drink like it’s nobody’s business and since it was he and I against the world before he decided he needed to drop me to hang out with repulsive hipster people, both our weekend and weekday behavior was one night after another of binge drinking. Starting on Thursdays, we drank 24 hours a day until Monday rolled around. We got up early and immediately started and went all day and into the night until one of us passed out first.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood on the corner of Bedford Ave throwing up, just so I could go back into the bar and drink more. Or how many times in a fury, because although I’m relatively a loving drunk unless I’m fighting with Swede, I’ve hurled a beer bottle across a bar, tried to smack a girl who was hitting on him and have been 86’d from bars. It’s not that I can’t hold my liquor because four years with Swede taught me otherwise, but if you’ve been drinking martinis, champagne, whisky and then beers in between all the hard stuff since 9am, at some point you are going to fall apart. You are going to start arguments with strangers, you are going to talk back to cops when you’re spotted walking a desolate Bushwick street drinking a beer, and you will get a disorderly conduct ticket when you tell that cop he should go to the closest donught shop and fuck himself. For years, this was how we lived.
By the time Monday rolled around and our bodies suffered the torture of what we had to it over the weekend, we were both sweating profusely, shaking as we tried to work, swearing we’d never drink again, but by the time work was over we’d meet for a drink to “even” ourselves out. Swede and I don’t know moderation when it comes to drinking. “Evening” out just meant doing it all again.
With my favorite drinking buddy now gone, favorite in that he’s the only one of my friends who can drink like me, (fuck, the good times we had), I still drink way too much. As New Yorkers, we all drink too much. Alcohol is included with every brunch, sometimes offering an all you can drink deal for a mere $25 bucks, and almost everyone I know drinks every night to some degree. Although I try not to drink every night, when I do, I will drink until I black out. Even if I’m home alone, listening to Neutral Milk Hotel on repeat, missing the days when Swede and I would be trashed by 11am and singing along to Belle & Sebastian every Sunday, as that was our tradition.
I’m not blaming Swede for my issues with alcohol. He brought out the best in me more times than I can count, but he almost brought out the worst in me more often than not– we were, and are, too similar for it not have been a tumultuous relationship. We never thought twice about dropping $20 on a martini after martini at Freemans or drunkenly hopping in a cab at 3am and paying $400 dollar for him to drive us to Atlantic City where the weekend was a total blur. We had days after days of incidents that I can’t even remember, and night after night where he was passed on on the sidewalk and I begged a cab to pick us up promising he wouldn’t throw up once we were in the car.
When I do go out with my friends now in my sans Swede life, I always drink more than them. My tolerance is so high that what two drinks does to my friends, will take me four or five to get there. When the night has supposed come to an end and I should be heading home, as my friend is about to do, I know that with the alcohol swimming in my blood, I will not be going straight home. I will go to some bar in my neighborhood and I will drink more. I’ll drink to the point where I can barely stand. If I’m short on funds, I’ll go home and drink whatever I have on hand which is always Grey Goose, Jameson and beer. I drink when I’m sad. I drink when I’m stressed. I drink when I’m happy. I drink when I’m angry and since not everyone can drink like me, I’ve convinced myself that drinking alone is OK, when everyone knows it’s not the healthiest option.
My family has suggested AA on several occasions, but since I was able to go a whole 24 days without alcohol on my own, I figured I don’t need AA. My drinking problem has forced me to say things I would never say and there have been too many days that I’ve called in sick to work because I was so hungover and vomiting, that it was easier to dismiss it as a “stomach bug.”
I can finally admit I have a drinking problem. I know that I’m incapable of controlling it, because after a couple drinks, it controls me. Even as I sit here at 10 am, I want to dive into the Sam Summer beers in my fridge, but considering how much work I have to do today, I’ll wait until 4pm.
So there you have it. I finally admitted it, and from what I’ve gathered that’s the first step in recovery. I just don’t think you’ll see me at an AA meeting anytime soon. To be frank, I’m not about to give up drinking. I plan to work on it, but I don’t plan to give it up entirely. It’s my vice, it’s my crutch; if you take away my crutch, I will fall on my face. Although I guess there have been more occasions than not that thanks to too much of Jameson, I’ve fallen down anyway. But when you’re that intoxicated, you don’t feel anything, and you don’t remember it either. Sometimes I just don’t want to remember.