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Three Drinking Stories
This is what I left behind when I got sober.
There are some recovered alcoholics who have great drinking stories from back before they got sober. I’m not one of them.
It’s not that my life was boring the entire time that I was a drinker. It’s just that the drinking itself never led to anything very exciting. When I had fun, it was despite my alcoholism, not because of it.
These aren’t your typical drinking stories. There are no exciting misadventures, run-ins with the law, or near misses. Instead, these are stories about the sad mundanity of alcoholism. They are awkward, embarrassing, and anticlimactic—all of which make them perfectly representative of my life as a drunk.
My first story takes place in a casino in Atlantic City. Every drunk needs a story about a casino, right?
When I was in my early twenties, I lived in North Carolina but used to drive up to Atlantic City every few months. I loved the chance to gamble and drink all day without anyone around me thinking twice about my apparent degeneracy.
Normally, I tried not to get too drunk in the casinos, because I worried that if I did, I’d end up losing all my money gambling. However, one night, I said to myself “screw it,” and helped myself to as many drinks as I could get.
I spent hours just drinking, smoking cigarettes, and playing video poker. Before I knew it, it was four in the morning and I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to bed. I just kept drinking, smoking, and gambling, until I literally fell asleep across the video poker machine.
I was woken up by one of the casino employees (A pit boss or security guard? It’s been too long for me to remember.) “You can’t sleep here,” he said. “You’ve got to stay awake or go to your room.”
I opted to stay awake. Even after falling asleep at the machine, I still couldn’t admit to myself that it was time to call it a night.
I fell asleep again, and the same employee woke me up. He told me that if I kept falling asleep while playing, they’d have to ask me to leave.
It turned out to be an idle threat. I know, because despite having fallen asleep twice already, I kept playing and fell asleep yet again. I received yet another warning, but still wasn’t actually asked to leave.
Eventually, after sunrise, I finally went to bed. When I woke up later that day, I had a miserable hangover and was filled with embarrassment over the night before. I never went back to that casino again.
My next story is at another classic “drinking story” location: a house party. This took place a couple of years after the casino when I was living in Chicago. I was still in my early twenties, but just barely.
I was on the edge of a very large group of friends back then, most of whom I only knew through my brother. They used to throw parties almost every weekend, and there was always a lot of drinking—or at least I always did a lot of drinking.
I wasn’t actually very close with many of these friends, and in fact, most of them probably never even saw me when I wasn’t drunk at a party. To this day, I don’t think most of them even know what my sober personality is like.
At one particular party, I remember standing in the kitchen talking with one of these friends-of-friends, and getting really worked up about politics. I started going on a long drunk rant, and he was politely nodding along.
Then, suddenly, as I reached the peak of my argument, I vomited all over the floor. Without thinking, I even tried to catch it on the way down, which led to it getting all over my hands and shirt.
I was mortified, and it’s still one of my most embarrassing memories to this day. I cleaned myself off, cleaned the floor, and didn’t talk politics for the rest of the night.
The Cocktail Hour
My last story takes place another few years later when I was still living in Chicago but had started attending law school. Despite my alcoholism, I did well with the academic side of school. The trouble was that my drinking constantly got in the way of the social and networking aspects of school, which are arguably even more important.
When you’re in law school, there are constant chances to network with experienced attorneys. I skipped almost all of them. When classes were over, all I wanted to do was go home and drink.
However, one evening during my first year there was a cocktail hour hosted specifically for donors to a specific scholarship fund. I was one of the four recipients of said scholarship, so I was supposed to attend to meet and thank the donors in person.
I was a total ball of stress going into this event. It felt so awkward to me to have to thank them in person for donating money, and I struggled with social anxiety in general back then. However, I specifically decided not to drink anything at the event, because I worried that once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of all these rich alumni.
I went to the bar, ordered a diet coke, and drank it within a few minutes. When I went back for a refill, the bartender gave me a wink and said something about me being a “friend of Bill W” (a euphemism for someone in AA.)
For some reason, her comment made me feel like I had to prove that I wasn’t sober. Despite my earlier decision to stick to cokes, I changed my order to something alcoholic (I no longer remember what exactly).
Just like I had feared, I ended up drinking it incredibly quickly and then going back for another. Then, all within just ten or fifteen minutes, I had another and another. Suddenly, I was drunk and feeling miserable. I left to go to the bathroom and never went back.
That’s the last of my drinking stories. You can see that drinking sometimes led me to unusual situations, but there was nothing fun or exciting about those events. They were uncomfortable and awkward, and they left me feeling sad and depressed.
That is what drinking was really like for me. It was me embarrassing myself, again and again, never feeling like I quite fit in.
As my drinking habit got worse, even these stories grew infrequent. I stopped going out much at all, instead opting to just sit around on my couch night after night.
For the final few years that I drank, my habit was just plain boring.
It’s important for me to remember how bland and sad my drinking habit was because it helps to keep me sober. When I see alcoholics portrayed on television or in movies, their lives are almost always exciting. Even when their drinking habit is meant to be a destructive force, it’s at least destructive in interesting ways.
My drinking habit destroyed me in the most boring way possible. By slowly cutting me off from everything and everyone. I don’t have any exciting drinking stories, and I’m okay with that. It’s just one more reason to leave the habit behind forever.
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