I recently sorted through my old writing that somehow survived countless moves and a couple of great purges of my belongings. I realized quite a bit of the writing I’d been hauling around wasn’t worth keeping. I threw a bunch of old academic papers and cringe-worthy poetry into the recycling bin. Some of the writing, though, seemed worth saving.
I wrote the piece I’m sharing today early in the 21st century. I wrote it without a clear audience. I don’t remember it being intended for a particular publication, and I don’t remember ever sharing it with anyone. The pieced didn’t even have a title
My emotions were a bit overwrought, and the language I used leaned toward the revolutionary, but that’s the person I was at the turn of the millennium.
Without further ado, writing from my past…
I’m not writing this to tell you what you should do. Do whatever you want. I’m writing this to make sense of what I did, what I do, what I want to do. This piece is self-centered and certainly introspective. It might be a little whiny. Read it if you like, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“I often feel like I have to celebrate my self-destruction,” she said, and I knew exactly what she meant.
It hadn’t been enough to hate myself. I had to pretend that I was happy about it, that I was having a good time, by downing beer or hard cider or the occasional shot of tequila. I was partying, hanging out in bars, spending time with people I thought of as friends, looking for people who wanted to have sex with me, using my body as a commodity, giving my money to bar owners and beer companies. When I remember those days, I remember having so much free time, probably because all I had going on in my life was working for $$$ and hanging out, drinking, partying, having fun.
But it wasn’t fun. Not really. Where’d I get that idea? I never even liked the taste of beer. But oh, I liked the way it made me feel, silly and sexy and free. Just a little out of control. Like my head might float away from my body and leave me without a thought or a care in the world. I could dance and not worry that anyone thought I looked like a dork. I could kiss boys and not take responsibility or blame…I could always use the oh, I was drunk excuse. I got away with a lot.
I thought I was having deep and meaningful conversations with people. Maybe I was. I can’t remember most of it. chunks of my life are fuzzy. What’s the point of sharing the deepest parts of myself if I’m not even sure I did it? Maybe I just think I told people what was going on in my head. Maybe I just hoped people were sharing themselves wit me. When I think about the person I loved most during those days, I’m not sure if he really told me the stories I remember as his, or if if I just made them up. Most of our relationship was a lie. I’m not sure if even now we know who the other truly is. Unhealthy patterns started between us back then; even today I don’t know how to break them. I could only really talk to him when I was drunk, but I’m still not sure what I said.
I guess I had revelations when I was drunk, but I didn’t remember them once I sobered up. E[mma] told me recently that sure, she had lots of revelations when she was drunk, some she even wrote in her journal, but what good did it do when she couldn’t read her own handwriting the next day? I think I’m not going to make enough progress if I can’t remember my own epiphanies.
I had no regard for my life, no regard for my self. It wasn’t easy to live while hating myself and feeling so much despair. I thought drinking was supposed to numb the pain, but it never worked that way for me. Alcohol somehow made the pain sharper and more intense. Wasn’t being drunk supposed to make me forget? It only made me remember in Technicolor detail what was hurting me. Yep, I was often the crying girl at the party. How fun was that? Not much fun for me. I don’t know whether or not other people were enjoying it.
Now, I’m just not drinking at all. After I left [a notorious party city], I slowed down. People in [the new place where I lived] often thought I wasn’t a drinker until they aw a beer in my hand. Sometimes they were shocked. You just don’t even know, I would think, after explaining that no, I wasn’t a teetotaler or straight edge or a recovering alcoholic. Then I moved to [the Midwest] and slowed down even more. Oh sure, I still complain that this town is uncivilized because bars close at 2am and grocery stores don’t sell beer on Sunday, but I’m getting tired of my comments. What do I think defines civilization anyway?
It’s been five months since I’ve had any alcohol. I think that’s the longest I’ve gone without a drink in the last 10 years. Damn, I’m surprised it’s only been five months. It seems longer. It seems like it’s been years and years.
I worry that if I get started I won’t be able to stop. I worry that if I have a swallow beer I’ll end up getting shit-faced. I worry that getting drunk once will make getting drunk next time easier. I worry that getting drunk will lead me to turn to alcohol instead of working to solve my problems.
Sometimes it’s my body that wants the alcohol. Sometimes my body remembers what it’s like physically to be drunk. The other night, my mouth tasted like beer.
Mostly I want it in social situations. If I’m completely stressed out by another person, I really want to go to a bar and have a drink (or two or three) and try to numb my feelings. If I’m at a party and I feel self conscious, I want to drink enough not to care what anybody thinks. When four of the other five people at the table have big-ass beers to go with their garden burgers, I feel strange about having a glass of water. (Who’s that girl without the beer? I think, and then realize it’s me.)
Too shy to even talk to the boy I want to kiss, I know how easily it would be to get a little drunk and totally giddy and haul off and kiss him nonconsensually. Another crush boy’s girlfriend will probably be out of town on New Year’s Eve and I fantasize about him and me sharing a bottle of wine. Knowing my background and his, then we would kiss, and then we could fall into bed together and fuck. Although it would feel good at the time, we’d feel super guilty the next morning, but we could blame it on the booze, chalk it up to being drunk. We wouldn’t have to acknowledge any feelings between us or how our actions affect the whole community or what sort of brave new relationship we could forge as equals and comrades if we were able to keep the bottle out of the equation. But when I think about this scenario, something in me cries NO! and I am determined not to mess up like I’ve done so many times in the past.
I just want to be real and whole and true. I want to know who I really am and to let others know too. And maybe some people can live that way with a beer in their hand, but it’s never quite worked out for me. And the wildest part of this whole situation is that I bet no one I know would ever have thought I had a problem. I never lost a job because of alcohol, never got into trouble with the cops because of it, never got in a barroom fight. I didn’t even drink every night. But I think it arrested my development and kept me from being the person I want to be. I feel sad when I think maybe I wasted big parts of my life. Maybe I could have been smashing the state or writing my stories or building revolutionary relationships instead of getting drunk and walking home down the dark and scary sidewalks of [the big city] hoping someone with a gun would blow a hole in my head so I would be spared the trouble of having to figure out how to dispose of myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so depressed if I hadn’t been using a depressant in an attempt to numb my sadness.
Shit. This isn’t a happy story. And I don’t know how to end it because there’s not an ending. People at the…show tonight are going to have alcohol. I’m going to think about getting a beer, or just taking the bottle from someone’s hand and having a long, slow swig. But I know that if I have one swallow, I’ll have another and another and another. And I know that if I don’t take the swallow, I’ll have one more night to work on feeling real and whole and true.