I quit drinking 5 years ago today and I’ve been insufferable ever since. Did you know I quit drinking 5 years ago today? Because I did. You probably already know this because I told you last year that I had quit drinking 4 years ago today.
If you forgot, you may want to meditate on friendship. Namaste.
Anyway, I am proud of myself. I am probably the first person in history to have quit drinking bourbon. How much bourbon did I drink? All the bourbon.
During the past five years I’ve really grown as a human being. I watch documentaries on Netflix. I eat kale. I get 10,000 steps in every day. But most of all, I’ve learned that Jack Kerouac was a terrible writer. Don’t read and drink.
I’m sorry if I ever made you read my poetry.
My first year of sobriety was a real nail biter, but I did it with the help of family, friends, and, most of all, me. I was really there for me. If I hadn’t quit drinking I’d probably be dead by now, or worse, an amateur mixologist.
Thankfully, I listened to my inner-heart voice. A tiny, squeaky voice from deep within me. “Hey,” said my inner-heart voice, “Hey John. You need to quit drinking.”
“Ha, ha,” I said. “My inner-heart can talk.” I was very drunk.
You know why I stopped drinking? Because I hit rock bottom. Then I hit rock bottom again. Then, again, rock bottom. They were cliffs, you see. I kept rolling off them, and hitting the next one. Endless cliffs, really.
Around the sixth or seventh rock bottom, an angel came to me. That angel’s name was Officer Something-something and he said “You can’t sleep on the subway train.”
Then, later that week, after one too many Chablis, my girlfriend suggested I quit drinking, and then, stop talking to her. One night I decided to fight a wall and no one wins that fight. She really showed me that drinking lots of alcohol is no substitute for having a personality.
Every drinking story is the same. I came to this horrifying realization a few months after I finally quit. I went to some meetings where people admitted they were human. Some pointed to the broken parts. Dents are meant to be caressed. AA works for so many people, but so does church. Jesus isn’t everyone’s Jesus.
The most important step is the step I call “your drinking stories are boring.” Hey, one time I got drunk and prematurely ejaculated. You know, one time I got drunk and stole money from my girlfriend’s roommate. Did I ever tell you about that one time I got drunk and did something tedious? That was also stupid?
When I told my best friend I was quitting drinking he told me he had made a bet I wouldn’t live to see 40. He got over losing that bet. Eventually.
I don’t want you to think it was easy to quit drinking. It was very difficult. If it was easy, would I be writing a rambling, self-satisfied essay on Medium?
But my point is: it wasn’t easy.
When you water board your emotions with booze, they don’t gasp, they guzzle. Glug, glug, glug. Then they grow vodka gills. My life was the autobiography of a pickle.
I’m mixing metaphors. I was a pickle with gills floating in a jar of vodka? Sure.
You know how this story turns out. It’s in the title. I just wanted you to know it wasn’t easy to emerge like a butterfly from that pickle with gills.
There wasn’t a moment of clarity either. I like the idea of moments of clarity, because I appreciate a tidy narrative. Unfortunately, there was just the slow realization, over many years, that I was feeding time into a garbage disposal. Every so often, though, I’d receive a transmission. A garbled message that was nothing but static and hissing. “Fuck you,” a distant voice would shout, the voice of a friend, the voice of a loved one. “Seriously, fuck you.”
There comes a time in every person’s life where they put on pants or they don’t.
I miss the tinkle of ice, wine stains on my teeth, vomiting beer foam. I miss talking to strangers about the nuances of the human condition at 3AM. I miss not having to take responsibility for my actions.
But I have come to accept that I will never be able to live the Great American Beer Commercial Dream, which is the most popular form of longterm palliative care available.
Being a sober asshole is so much more satisfying that being a drunk one. Drunk assholes never, truly, own their selfishness. They make excuses. I cannot abide snivelers.
Let’s take a moment to check our texts.
How are you? Are you okay? What do you think about me quitting drinking 5 years ago? I’m joking. I am not that self-absorbed. Am I?
Last year, I just couldn’t shut-up about my personal journey. In retrospect, it was probably enough to drive a person to drink, if that person weren’t me, someone who quit drinking.
I believe it was Joseph Campbell who wrote about how the hero stops drinking, and becomes a better person. That hero is less exciting, almost dull, but he sure doesn’t lock himself in the bathroom during parties.
That’s the old hero. The new hero only drinks diet ginger ale, and he deals with anxiety attacks the way Beowulf or Perseus might have, with the help of a licensed therapist. The old hero may have gotten laid off from his job as an associate editor at a lifestyle magazine and then spent the next three months getting drunk and crying in strip clubs. But the new hero, when confronted with crisis, does not drink. Instead, he meditates, and eats burritos.
Anyway, it has been five years since I’ve had a drink of alcohol. I’m very humble. That’s one thing being sober teaches you. It’s hard to fake humility when you’re drunk. Not so when you’re sober.
I know I’ve been insufferable. I appreciate the patience. It’s not easy to admit you’re happy. At least, it’s not easy for me to admit that. Life is a collection of wounds and every wound is thirsty. I guess you either count the inhales or the exhales. These days I inhale deeply. Even the wounds breathe in.
If you think this is bad, just wait until next year. If I make it.
I miss you. All three of you. I was angry at first. But I’ve learned to forgive myself for being afraid. You tried and tried again and I love you.
Feel free to celebrate the news that I quit drinking 5 years ago with a toast. I do not care if you quaff a beer or a glass of champagne in my name. Two beers? Well, if you think that’s wise. I don’t judge. But if you ever need to talk, I’m here. Call. E-mail. Text. Gchat. Direct message.
Happiness is feeling it all. Even when it hurts. Even when it doesn’t hurt. Ping me. You don’t have to drink all the bourbon. Leave some for future generations.
Then you can be a smug motherfucker like me.