I stopped drinking to get drunk when I was 27. I had started drinking when I was around 16, mostly things like Mike’s Hard Lemonade in a friend’s camper that sat in his backyard. Over time, particularly once my friends and I turned 21, the frequency and intensity of my drinking increased. I’ve never been an alcoholic (at least in the sense that I’ve never felt compelled to drink to excess, or like it was outside of my control), but for a long time we were having parties or going to bars every weekend where we would drink to get drunk, whatever that meant.
In theory, there wasn’t anything wrong with it. We did some stupid things, made lots of mistakes (I somehow remember one such incident when, after playing in a beer pong tournament downtown, I found myself driving on the thruway with no idea how I got there), but by the grace of God never hurt ourselves or anyone else.
What changed for me was a sense of losing myself. Getting further away from who I wanted to be. It was some holiday weekend (warm enough to be in a pool at a friend’s apartment complex, and so I’ve always thought it was Fourth of July, but that timeline doesn’t quite line up, so it must have been later in the summer or near Labor Day) and I got pretty sloshed. No big deal, I made it home okay (on a bike this time) and slept it off.
The next morning, though, I had to go to work. I felt so shitty that I ended up having to leave sick after maybe a quarter of the workday. I realized then that, in addition to disliking the person I am when I’m drunk, that I wasn’t being responsible and that, eventually, it would badly hurt me. At that point my body couldn’t rebound from being hungover like it had when I was younger, and so the circumstances aligned in such a way that I was able to give it up. I’ve been drunk a few times since then, but never memory-loss drunk and not with anyone aside from my wife or family.
I don’t miss it. But what I began to notice when going to parties, or hanging out at a bar, was some confusion on people’s faces when I tell them I don’t want a drink. Alcohol is such a common and accepted vice in our culture that it’s hard for people to understand those that don’t want it.
I imagine it’s even worse for recovering alcoholics, especially if they’re still friends with other alcoholics.
That was the genesis for this story. To explore that confusion and those feelings of someone that has changed coming up against those who haven’t. It’s a bit exaggerated, but I hope it’s honest, or reaches for something close to “Truth.” And I hope that if you’re someone who doesn’t understand when people turn down alcohol, that this story sheds a little light on why that might be, and why that’s okay.