Friday, August 28, 2009

No Borboun, No Scotch, No Beer

Seven years today, I drank a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Grand Dame (a bottle of champagne given to me by Ru.pert Murd.och…long story) and never drank again. That was Day One. I still can’t believe it has been seven years since I drank way more than I should. I have to admit there are times when I miss it. Or, more specifically, I miss certain aspects of it. Squinting through hangovers and trying to piece together fuzzy nights and checking my Recent Calls on the cell to see who I spoke with: I don’t miss those parts. But I miss the social-ness of drinking; the (temporary and artificial) relief it brought me at the end of the bad day. Or, more truthfully, at the end of every day. When I get together with friends and they casually order a glass of wine (which the may or may not finish) I envy them. I wish I could take or leave liquor; get a drink and not feel the need for another and another and another and hey let’s go to another bar the night is still young. I wish that I never let it get the better of me and I wish I still had control.

But I don’t, and I am grateful that I got to the point in my life when I realized my consumption wasn’t normal and I am glad that I was able to stop, after many fits and starts. I couldn’t have done it without the unconditional support that I got from Nicole. What a difference it makes to try to stop when your partner supports that fully. She stuck with me as I fidgeted through the newly long nights, which didn’t include the requisite nightly bar visit. She held my hand as I walked past dark havens and old haunts, with their siren call of yeasty beer smells and sticky floors and super-friendly bartenders. She was a pillar of strength as I fumbled through those precarious early days, and is a daily reminder just by her presence of all that I got for giving up drinking. Because if I still drank, I can guaratee that I wouldn’t be with her, we wouldn’t have children, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. My drinking path was destructive and isolating and not conducive to healthy relationships, let alone parenthood. Now, each year to mark this occassion, she writes me the most beautiful cards, telling me how proud she is (usually accompanied by a gift!) because this is, in sober land, truly a day to celebrate.

People don’t believe me sometimes when I tell them how bad it was. But it was bad. Blackouts and spoken regrets and drunk-dialing and reckless nights dancing on bars are the tip of the liquor iceberg. There was the time when I literally almost died. I was drunk and walking home to my boat when I slipped off the undulating dock and fell like a stone into the cold, choppy Hudson River. I was wearing clogs that slipped off my feet and sank and a dress, which billowed up around me, making my struggle that much harder. I struggled to find the surface for the water. I finally came up, but I was underneath the dock, still under water and panicking and choking. I struggled like a caged animal, trying to find air and trying to find the edge of the dock to pull myself up. My ex fished me out, using that supernatural strength that one is only capable of in dire, life-or-could-be-death situations. It was eye-opening and terrifying, but did I quit the drink then and there? Nope. That was not enough of a wake-up call.

Fourteen rounds. I remember nights at bars drinking 14 rounds of beer. I could drink many people under the table. I used to be proud of that; about how much I could drink.

It was so difficult in the beginning, but it is not terribly trying now at all. There are days or moments when I say to Nicole “I really, really wish I could drink now” but they are usually a gut response to a bad day or some emotional upheaval. There are those hot summer nights when I would kill for a wheat beer with a sliver of lemon and those cold nights when I want a glass of throat-warming scotch, but, in general, my desire to drink coincides with a desire to make a bad situation better or a boring evening more enjoyable. Sometimes when Nicole and I go away, especially to new places, we will be walking and pass a bar and one of us will say “If we were still drinking, we would be there right now.” And we would have.

The question I get asked most: Do I mind if others drink around me? No, I don’t mind at all if you drink. It doesn't tempt me or make me feel weak or compromise my sobriety. I have a couple of friends who will still ask, when we go out to dinner, if I mind if they drink. I think that is very sweet, but, as I tell them, I don't mind at all.

For me, quitting was a life-saving decision and one I am so grateful to have made.

Pictured above, me, the subtle drunk. Notice the almost-empty glass of scotch on my hand. I couldn’t even take my had off that glass to take a picture. And, apparently I couldn’t blink in time with the shutter. Also pictured, another drunk-in-the-day shot. This time, on my boat, sitting on my smoking perch. Notice the empties over my shoulder. And the vinyl pants.


Louise said...

Congratulations on your 7 years. What a huge accomplishment.

Rebecca said...

Yes, big congratulations to you! That is an amazing accomplishment and, to my mind, it is only right and fitting that Nicole shower you with gifts to celebrate, he he.

I used to have a pair of pants just like the ones in that bottom pic...

K J and the kids said...

Don't you celebrate 7 with diamonds. :)
Congratulations. I am so very happy for you. both.

Do you know how dirty that water is ? dead bodies and stuff ? :) ok maybe that's just in the movies. ha ha
Glad you are alive.

f said...

Seven years! That is amazing.

I especially love how you and Nicole talk about it -- i.e. if we were drinking, we'd be there. That feels like a great recognition of another path not taken, which can be bittersweet in some moments (a cool beer on a hot day, for example) and yet remain so grateful of all the great things in life that you've created as a result.

But most of all I'm really impressed with those pants!! That is such an amazing photo.

The dock story sounds pretty frightening. Coming up under the dock...yikes. Really glad you came up and got yourself straightened out with Nicole.

calliope said...

7 years!!!!! Your sobriety is a fantastic 2nd grader. I am so proud of you!!

justine said...

congratulations, jennifer. what courage you had (and have!) to make such a life saving decision. and what a beautiful life you have made for yourself from that point forward. hope you are celebrating tonight, enveloped in all of that love.

Shelli said...

Seven is a magical number. I hope you can feel part of that magic, Jennifer. Yasher Koach! (all strength to you)


amy said...

congrats on your sobriety!

i also wanted to let you know that my wife and i have been making/drinking smoothies with the green powder for the last couple months and have finally come up with our favorite combination so i thought i'd share. we used frozen stawberries, frozen blueberries, fresh banana, organic no sugar added apple sauce, carrot juice and ice. i was totally skeptical of the apple sauce because i despise it but it definitely gave it a little something extra and it's my favorite by far!

Anonymous said...

You owned a boat?

Rachel said...

I stumbled across your blog and I am loving it! I just want to tell you that my mom just had her 31st "birthday" on Aug 4th, (I am 29) and every year, I send her a card, even though sometimes she herself doesn't remember. I appreciate what hell it must of been to raise three kids without any help and without a glass of wine occasionally to get her through! Mazel tov to you and to Amy! :)

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

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