Thursday, December 4, 2003

Back to work this morning and no pink slip waiting for me. Couple of snarky comments, though. Considering I don't remember the last 2-3 hours of the night, including the train ride home, that's a good thing, I guess.

I've always been a little coy about my drinking - for a long time even joked about being a functional alcoholic, which basically meant I never got fired from a job because of it. The truth of the matter, though, is I've got some family history combined with a tendency to ignore my limits and tempt fate.

The first time I ever blacked out was in late 1991, a couple of months after arriving in Ft. Campbell, KY after 6 months of basic training, mechanic school and Airborne school. It was right around this time of year, mid-holidays, and I was homesick and second-guessing my decision to enlist. A friend and I decided to hit a club that night and got an early start at a sports bar on the base, downing a pitcher of beer each in a little over an hour. Since the club didn't really get going until around 11pm, we stopped off at a strip club along the way that had a BOB policy - $5/bottle to bring in whatever you wanted. I brought Southern Comfort, mixing it with Coca-Cola until I spilled my cup of soda and started hitting the SoCo straight from the bottle. To this day, there remains that moment in time where a curtain is drawn on the night and, other than brief flashes and my friend filling me in the next day, I completely lost several hours. I was apparently in quite a festive mood early on as I took the stage at one point, mike in hand, and encouraged the audience to take good care of the dancers. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the phrase "cheap motherfuckers" was in there somewhere. Later, I decided to take a private dance with one dancer I had a crush on, much to my friend's dismay as he convinced me to at least let him hold on to my wallet. I remember a Prince song playing at some point, though not which one. Within 15 minutes, the dancer was running from the back room to get my friend because I had started puking my brains out. He carried me to the bathroom, cleaned me up as best he could and took me back to the barracks. I woke up the next morning in my bed, fully dressed and confused, my contacts still in but nearly bone dry. Thanks to my roomate, I was able to put together that after I was brought to my room, I spent three hours in the bathroom puking some more before falling asleep. My roommate brought me back to bed. I was a total wreck and only nature saved me from probably killing myself as a scheduled jump (as in from an airplane) that morning was canceled at the last minute due to weather.

While that remains the worst episode by far, I've had several lesser ones over the years.

Back in 1995, I went to AA for 89 days. Initially, I went because of a girl I was interested in and the night we met, she was heading to a meeting so I tagged along. Predictably, she turned out to be a bit unstable (she was in NA, too, and had a history of paternal sexual abuse), culminating in the first and only time I've publicly fought out in the street (within a relationship) as she broke a bottle and threatened to cut me with it! Anyway, AA was interesting at first, and the writer in me indulged in the drama of the meetings, the stories being shared, the way coffee and cigarettes and willing ears were so unblinkingly substituted for alcohol. The first thirty days or so, I hit at least three meetings a week, well below the recommended meeting each day but not bad for someone not really willing to admit to that first step: that I was powerless over alcohol. In my mind, alcohol was simply the symptom of a larger ill, an addicitive personality that manifests itself in overindulgence of all kinds. Alcohol wasn't the problem; I was. Sixty days in, I started to get annoyed with many of the people in the meetings and was only going once a week. A couple of people offered to sponsor me - to be that 24/7 ear when John Barleycorn comes calling - but I couldn't get past the blind leading the blind feeling. On my 89th day, the eve of AA's first significant milestone of 90 days sober, I skipped the meeting I was planning on attending and went to JR's (the bar on 46th Street where I had my first real drink - a screwdriver - bought for me by father back in 1989 when I'd moved back to the City from Westchester; I was 20.) and had a drink out of spite. Not really sure who I thought I was spiting but I saw it as a statement to myself that alchohol held no power over me.

I still believe the problem is much larger than alcohol itself but I've come to realize it's time to stop playing coy about its effects. With myself, at least. Oddly, there was something about waking up yesterday and finding $35 in my wallet and having no idea where it came from that really threw me. Last I remember was giving my final dollar to the coat check person at Noche, around 10pm. I found the ATM receipt a little later which simultaneously eased my mind a bit (I didn't DO something I got paid for!) while disturbing me that I don't remember withdrawing the money at all (what if it were more?) and have no idea what I spent $5 on in a drunken haze.

So all that to say my New Year's resolution to stop drinking is legit. And it's not waiting for January 1st to take effect. I'm not some dumb single kid anymore with nothing to lose and I need to stop acting like I am. As Blogger is my witness, I'm off the sauce. A single glass of wine in social settings will be my only indulgence. Whatever friends that are reading this, I fully empower you to hold me to this.

How I'll survive through poetry readings anymore is something I need to figure out. ;-)

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