When I quit drinking part of it was being scared I’d turn into the drunk guy I hate, the aging Wolfman’s regarding who talked too much, laughed at his own jokes, roped people into conversations, and smelled bad.
And rather than the time off resetting that it’s caused me to become much more like that. I have the classic junkie problem that I lowered my tolerance but not my intake.
At the time I decided to quit I felt like I was actively shortening my life. I wasn’t sleeping right, eating right, hydrating, nourishing social relationships, thinking about money, shaving, showering unless it was because I assumed I’d vomit. My heart was racing all the time, my ability to recognize cold was completely impaired and I never knew if I was in danger of freezing to death or if I was burning up.
But at least I wasn’t tedious.
One of the hardest parts about quitting was everyone telling me I was fine. People liked that version of me. Mandi was so attracted to that version of me it was devastating for both of us when it became clear he was all she was drawn to.
And I was scared of losing that, and the fear of that kept me drinking – kept me from quitting – for a long time. I didn’t want to give up my edge, my ability to be cool while 8 pints deep. Plus the fact that I’m nicer, more patient with those who deserve it and even less with those who don’t.
Classic drunk Alastair was great, and I think sober Alastair was too. He hung out, he wasn’t volatile, he emotionally seduced Maria, also he had money to blow, his skin looked good, and he read a respectable amount.
But this is the current Alastair, he parties, he has a kick ass girlfriend, he gets laughs in a group, but he’s a bit desperate, he’s running, he’s a terrified hedonist who’d infringe on a friendship in the short term to get a wicked story into his eulogy. He believes people who love him will forgive anything in time.
Which is true until it isn’t. That’s why classic drunk Alastair was suicidal some of the time. Dying now means excusing and freezing this persona in a new and tragic light. Living long enough means eventually everyone gives up on you.
And I remember making that point to caring teachers in my youth, that as much as they thought they cared they would give up on me eventually. Like I felt my family had.
As a result I often caught myself doing things I didn’t truly have an impulse to do except to confirm that they would leave me, that they couldn’t care unconditionally and therefore didn’t care me at all.
I still have that absolutist thinking and I still push people’s boundaries but now I’m more preoccupied with how strongly I can show people I love them, rather than seeking to prove they couldn’t really love me. And I’ve learned to graciously accept gestures of help, even from people who have no actual intent to help. Sometimes a kind word is all people are worth, it’s all they are comfortable offering, and I can accept it without needing to challenge their lack of follow-through and throwing it back in their face.
Anyway this is supposed to be about my drinking again. The downsides I’m much more aware of now are:
- the lack of productivity – not just while I’m drinking but the entire next day of zombie brain as well
- the money – I saved $900 in six weeks of not drinking and I blew it in 4 weeks after I returned to drinking.
- the self loathing – I find it so odd the only person openly worried about my drinking is me and that people who drink way more than me seem to accept themselves a lot better than I do. Which rather than make me feel better makes me feel like I’m too broken to be normal and not broken enough to embrace it.
- the lack of change – most of all I’m sad that I wound up back here. Even knowing that I feel better not drinking I still find myself drinking. I can confirm that it actually is better for me to not drink, I wasn’t placating myself with a fantasy that life is better on the other side, and I worked through the fear that I’d be just as unhappy sober but here I am, still drinking.
I now understand the phrase Relapse Is Part Of Recovery. I thought it meant relapse was inevitable and accepting that would make it easier but now I think you have to come back after being away to see exactly how much you don’t like it, to dissuade any lingering illusions that these were the best of times.