I worry I’m a borderline alcoholic.
I don’t know if I am. The worlds I socialize in — comedy and artists and gays — are notoriously full of heavy-drinkers.
But even in that world, I’ve always found myself having one more drink than my neighbor. I finish my pint about twice as fast as the rest of the table. I’m not even polite these days to wait for others to catch up — I go and get started on my second round. I’ve always assumed it was natural for me to drink more than others—justified because I’m a 6-foot tall, 180-pound guy —so I’m “meant” to drink more to feel the same buzz. I’m allowed to “ramp” up at the start of an evening, to “stay even” with my more lightweight friends. I did not attend a “Fraternity” in college, but I somehow got familiar with all these binge-drinking related “terms.”
Drinking after the sun sets is a habit for me. I get a craving for something to imbibe — a cold beer, a glass of sparkling Rosé, a home-made Summer cocktail on my rooftop, an overpriced Aperol Negroni at a bar with the perfect ambiance. Booze begins my night — every night — and from there I continue to drink one-two drinks per hour to maintain that buzz until I go to bed around 1 AM (on a weeknight). This happens almost every night of my life.
I rarely drink to the point of getting drunk. I don’t like the feeling of being fucked up, or getting the spins, or vomiting, or forcing myself to vomit to avoid an even worse hangover, or feeling out of control.
But now I’m feeling out of control to moderate what I’m calling my chronic, daily drinking. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have at least one drink per day. I can remember that every day I’ve woken up this week with a slight hangover, a little depreciation to start my day, a feeling of “ugh” to have to power through to be productive. Because I had four-six drinks the night before, albeit spread out over many hours so I didn’t even notice I was drinking so much. Apparently, as a thirty-two year-old, the odds are no longer in my favor, and my liver can’t disguise the effects of slow-burn drinking over a long night anymore. The bags under my eyes every morning tell true.
For awhile, I got by via my ‘Potion.’ I created an elixir of Emergen-C (for the electrolytes) plus an Alka-Seltzer and downed it before I went to bed each night. Yes, I woke up needing to pee throughout the night, but the ‘Potion’ either eliminated or decreased my hangover miraculously.
It doesn’t work anymore.
It wasn’t until I went to a house party in Los Angeles that I realized some comedians/actors in the scene don’t imbibe. I showed up with a six-pack of Coronas to a house party with ten people playing the game Werewolf. No one touched the six-pack (except me) — everyone else drank La Croix and got high.
I wish weed could be an option for me, but I’ve made my peace with Mary Jane. I don’t like the feeling of being high — it brings my anxieties out front and center. Drinking dulls them and allows me to enjoy the night.
The need to drink is tied to my anxieties. Drinking is the container that keeps my fears and insecurities behind a dam while presenting the charming, “fun-drunk” Phil (I have this idea that everyone likes me when I’m buzzed, though I’ve recently been told otherwise by a former best friend). I’m dulling whatever demons I’m avoiding during the day, so I can feel comfortable in a hangout with other similarly socially anxious comedy friends at night. When I get home, my emotional dam leaks, cracks, and opens wide in my disturbing dreams of late, and I wake up exhausted from my sleep.
It is difficult for me to even admit I have a problem. Most of the people I know drink daily — my dad has had a nightcap (or two) every night since I can remember. I’ve just taken that daily drink allowance to its maximum threshold as my tolerance has gone through the roof. I don’t even notice or count how many beverages I burn through each night.
I like drinking. I like feeling buzzed. I like getting post-work drinks with colleagues. I like inventing new cocktails. I hate shitty beer. I love sharing a bottle of wine with a lover. I love the second drink ordered on a promising first date. I love drinking alone and watching a movie, when the roommates are gone and I have the whole place to myself.
I love alcohol, but I can’t keep up with my ever-growing need for it, and I can’t depend on booze to make me feel whole. It’s tricky for me to confront this because even with my amount of daily drinking, I’m still a high-functioning person. Booze hasn’t destroyed my relationships; I never get wasted, only buzzed, at the bar; I don’t drink during the day; I still rally every morning and get through the minor hangovers; I’m not missing out on too much of life or work; I’m not a mean or angry drinker— why, I’m “fun-drunk” Phil!
But I’m also done with this lifestyle! I’m done with needing a chemical substance to get through my nights. I’m admitting that I have a problem, be it minor or major or augmented or diminished (yes, I deal with pain through musical references) compared to full-blown alcoholism. And, I’m putting this out there so people in my communities can know I’m working on this and may need to remove myself from situations with easy-access to booze, or skip the post-bar hang, or just fall in love with drinking oodles of La Croix at all times for awhile.
I’m publicly committing to this and inviting anyone else who shares these feelings or can relate to the pervasiveness of booze in our social scene to join me in this conversation. I don’t want to have to quit you — alcohol. I want and can establish a healthier relationship with booze.
And if I’m unable to do so, I guess I’ll just move to Iceland where a Manhattan at a bar costs $32, and that will take care of that.