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Sip, Sip, Horray

PUBLISHED June 30, 2023

There was a period of time during the pandemic that I was drinking everyday. This was when Zoom celebrations were still somewhat novel and we were Clorox wiping electric bills. The world was in limbo; we kept up the appearances of our office jobs but no one was being held to any meaningful obligations. In the atmosphere was a bizarre milieu of excitement and fear–similar to a drug high–like the edges were peeling off from the corners of the world.

There was nothing to do, and there was a lot of booze.

I’d pour myself maybe a finger’s worth of some fancy whiskey; or some days it’d be a beer or two while cooking dinner; not uncommon was a half-bottle of wine while cruising the FaceTime rounds. We all knew we were drinking too much, but we were coping, or we were bored, or we finally had an excuse to.

I’ve always loved alcohol, and, despite my size, have also always been a good drinker. I take this to mean: I don’t lose my cool and I don’t lose my shit. In college, I led our group of girlfriends in establishing The Kingdom of 1910, the nickname for our three story, five bedroom party house. Our catchphrase was, “Pinkies up; get drunk, stay classy.” I’ll dance my ass off on a beer-slick counter top, sure, but I’ll be gone before the lights come on and have everything and everyone I came with.

Like any relationship, the older you get, the more complex and nuanced you both become. My palette developed. The difference between bottom shelf vodka mixed with soda and a dirty lime and a slightly dirty Kettle One vodka martini alongside a dozen oysters is like the difference between a regrettable one night stand with your douche bag ex and the nice guy who turns out to have a great penis and loves performing oral. One leaves you feeling sick and one makes you feel satisfied and sophisticated.

I suppose I also drank to make people more interesting, as the great writer (and famous alcoholic) Earnest Hemingway observed. Through the rippled views of alcohol just about anyone can incite your curiosity. Strangers become friends, distant relatives stir up a strong sense of kinship, your partner appears irresistibly sexy.

In my now fifth month of pregnancy I’m making a startling realization: Was life really ever that exciting, or was I just drunk?

In the beginning of trying to conceive and regulate my menstrual cycles after a PCOS diagnosis I made significant lifestyle changes that included cutting way back on processed food, caffeine, and alcohol. The binge-drinking days of the pandemic were long gone, though some of the old habits still persisted. At the time, I was surprised at how easy giving up drinking ultimately was. Given my affection for the stuff, and the fact that I had always been perhaps a little more than a social drinker, coupled with my family history of alcoholism, I always figured it’d be incredibly challenging to give up. I assumed I would feel some physical craving, but I didn’t. With a greater mission in mind it didn’t really take a second thought to pass on the glass of wine at dinner or the shitty beer at a party. The flax seeds, wheatgrass, yoga, and kale had me on another type of high – that is, high on my health horse.

But now it’s summer, and the baby is growing healthily inside me, and the cycles have been regulated, and rosé is on every menu, and I miss the amusement of alcohol. I miss being fully entertained by the time we get to the bottom of the bottle; I miss the truths people start to reveal about themselves from that warm, wet place. I miss the social lubricant and how it makes inter-coursing with others feel good. Sober small talk, it turns out, is really fucking boring.

I guess I don’t really care about your renovations of your summer home, how many naps your dog takes, or whether or not local roads or the highway offer the fastest route from the airport. There’s nothing for me at the end of a conversation about the position you played on your college basketball team or the time you got a wisdom tooth removed. I all but lose my pulse as you recall your favorite childhood memories with the reverence reserved for major historical events. I thought I was a great small talker because I could always find something interesting about just about anyone I talked to. Turns out, I was just drunk!

This lack of interest (and here’s the real scary part) can extend to one’s self. As someone who dabbles at the keyboard, I have enjoyed participating in the stereotype of the alcoholic writer. My process, if you can call it that, generally involved a night alone, candles, feeling kind of sexy, and sipping something straight. I’d pour forth onto the page all that I could collect from the mysterious, infinite well of my own inner world, shake it over ice, and drink it slowly. And man how good it felt going down.

The phrase “A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts,” has always been apt to me. Drinking felt like a way to be more honest and to get closer to some part of myself. Oh, how much I thoroughly enjoy spending an evening alone with my own boozy thoughts, my own boozy dancing, my own boozy gaze staring back at my own boozy half-dressed, smirking self in the mirror. Champagne, chardonnay, mezcal, and martinis! We relish each other’s company.

There is of course this association between alcoholism and writers because writing is damn scary and alcohol takes some of the edge off, and because depressed people often drink and I suppose also often write. On my mother’s side looms the clinical depression and on my father’s side broods the alcoholism. Fortunately, technically, diagnostically, I have neither.  This makes things fabulous for me as an everyday citizen of the world, but strangely difficult as a writer (she says with some irony). Even before having a blog, when I would with cramped hand sketch out the contours of my daily life in a physical journal, I would oft confess, “I’m sorry I’ve been away, dear journal, things have just been so good lately.” I always have less to say when life is going well. Writing is a tool for channeling rage, and sorrow; confusion and dissonance. Clarity, peace, contentment, joy – sure, there’s something to say there, but it’s just kind of boring?

Alcohol is a depressant. It does not solve your problems, it does not make you smarter, funnier, or sexier. I’ve seen first hand the dangers of true alcoholism. It’s scary and it’s an illness and it’s certainly not glamorous or fun. But, in reality, it sometimes makes for more interesting writing. Or at least a more enjoyable writing process. As someone sans depression, who thankfully had lots to genuinely enjoy about life in her recent history, alcohol was often a mechanism by which to induce a more depressed and inward focused state of being, a way to channel the darkness through which one can bravely run blindly and feel for new ideas. And sometimes I miss that space.

But here I am, sober as a judge. Slightly less amused by life. But hopefully still with something to say.

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