Facing Alcoholism — One Year Later

A year ago, I questioned if I was drinking too much. I look back at where I was then and where I am now.

via New York Daily News

Yesterday, I tweeted that I related to Johnny Manziel because in my early-to-mid 20s I too valued having fun over pretty much everything else. To hammer home my point, I linked to a piece I had written on Medium called “Am I Becoming an Alcoholic?

It is one of the most widely read items I’ve ever written and is certainly the most polarizing. It went to various pockets of the Internet and, as happens, opinions and comments were fast in coming and were either incredibly kind or incredibly vicious. I was called “brave” and “self-obsessed,” “incredibly honest” and “completely delusional,” as well as every other adjective you can imagine. That’s not new. I’ve been told to quit writing and/or life multiple times in the bowels of the online world and while I don’t think I’ll ever totally become immune to it, I am used to it.

The really crazy thing is that yesterday was the one year anniversary of my publishing that piece. I honestly had no idea.

So I decided to take stock and see where I am today versus where I was a year ago.

Last year at this time, I was in a weird place, both emotionally and financially. I had moved from the city I adored to an area with which I was not familiar. I missed my friends. I missed my favorite spots. I missed knowing everything about where I lived. I missed passing places that held memories and stories. I missed my old life, even though I knew it was time to move on.

I had to start over. That was refreshing, but it was still an adjustment.

Our new house was much bigger, located halfway up a hill on a quiet street with a large backyard. All of that costs much more than a rowhouse in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. Add in the astronomical North Jersey property taxes and the mortgage was several times larger than our previous one. In an effort to generate income, we were attempting — and failing — to rent out the Philly house, so we were carrying two mortgages with all of the utilities doubled while also paying for all of the usual expenses of life in the 21st Century. Things were beyond tight.

So I drank.

I did it to alleviate stress, but I also did it because I was full of uncertainty. I did it because I was homesick. And, quite frankly, I did it because I was a little bored. It never consumed me. I never missed work or even showed up in a bad state. I did it at home. I never went out to the bar alone or woke up in the driveway. But once the day’s work was done and after the kid had gone to bed (and sometimes before), I’d crack open a bottle. And another. And one more. My new house also had a bar of which I wanted to take full advantage and enjoyment, so that played a factor too. Why have a bar if it’s just going to sit there unused?

There was also the romanticizing of the writer who sat at the typewriter with a drink next to him. Hemingway. Fitzgerald. Faulkner. But for a variety of reasons — my career in finance, being a very involved father, sucking at writing fiction — that would never be me.

The more we realize and embrace who and what we are, the happier we’ll be.

So I cut down on the drinking.

Over the past year, things changed. We cut bait and sold the Philly house, which allowed us to pay off a ton of debt. I’ve linked up with two close friends from college that also live near me. I’ve also put my attention and effort into the house, both outside and inside, including growing my personal library. I also read a book that changed my life, a memoir by a terrific writer that teetered on the brink of alcoholism before coming out on the other side.

I didn’t quit. I still enjoy a drink here and there. I’ll be having wine tomorrow for Thanksgiving and I’ve continued to appreciate the best beers I can get my hands on, but it’s no longer a daily thing. During the week, I don’t even think about it. When I’m playing chase with the kid or pretending the living room is the ballroom of a princess’s castle, I walk by the bar without a second thought.

Did I become an alcoholic? No, I’m proud to say, I did not.

Na zdrowie!

Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. In addition to his own site, his work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.