Sweet Spot

When I was drinking, my goal every night was to get a little bit more than buzzed, a little bit less than drunk, and stay there.  There was a sweet spot that, in my mind, had all the good things about drinking — relaxation, a certain contentment that bordered on euphoria, loving everyone, not minding anything — and none of the bad.  No memory loss, no slurred speech, no outward signs of being affected.

The thing was, as time went on this state was devilishly tricky to find, let alone maintain.  Somehow I started sweeping right by buzzed and going straight to drunk.    I would have one drink and not feel a bit different.  I’d have two and it would be closer, but not quite there.  Then I’d have the third and I’d know I had gone too far before I even finished it.  But I couldn’t think of anything to do about that except to maybe have a little more.

Many years ago I read Johnny Cash’s autobiography, and something he said stuck with me.  He said that every addict, whenever he gets drunk or high, is trying to reproduce the experience of the very first time.  Obviously physical addiction plays a part, but for those of us who were never physically addicted, I think this is the major motivator.  It explains how we can continue our self-destructive behavior, night after night, even when most of the time we’re not having fun anymore.  The hope that, maybe this time, the magic will come back.

One year later

Mother’s Day, 2014.

I got some lovely homemade gifts, and some beautiful flowers.  We went out to dinner, the four of us.  The sun was shining, a beautiful spring day.

I thought I would be bouncing off the walls with happiness today, but it didn’t turn out that way.  I woke up remembering this day one year ago.  I try not to think about that day very much, but it all came flooding back here, on mother’s day.  The regret, shame, and humiliation stayed with me all day.

My girls were bickering a lot, and I didn’t really deal with it that well.  We had to drive forty-five minutes across town for my older daughter’s soccer game. It felt like we were all irritable.  My youngest was carsick.  It was one of those days where all the big things went right but all the little things went wrong.

But, I didn’t drink.  I didn’t throw up in my bed and pass out.  I didn’t need my daughter to call someone else for help.  I didn’t end up in the hospital.

And that’s a good day.

Work trip

Last week I went on a business trip, a national meeting for the company I work for.  These are people who drink, either a little or a lot — but mostly a lot.

Three years ago, at a similar meeting, I finished off a boozy evening doing shots of scotch with the president of the company, the vice president of the company, and one of the other local directors (like me).

The next day the other three seemed just fine.   I was so hung over and sleep deprived, shaking and queasy, and of course I had to give a presentation.

I swore then that I would never drink again …

… that is, not that much.

… not that much with the people I work with.

…  not that much with the people I work with, at a national meeting.

… well, at least not when I have a presentation the next day.

 

Actually, I did learn my lesson about trading shots with my co-workers, so that was something.

The meeting last week was the first meeting since I gave up drinking, and I was really nervous about it.  There is a lot of evening socializing at these meetings, and lots of good-natured pressure to drink more.  (“Let me buy you a drink!”  “Shots all around!” “Let’s get bottles of wine/pitchers of beer for the table!”)  So I decided a white lie was in order.  I said I was taking medication that didn’t mix with alcohol.

The last night of the meeting, there were plans to meet at the bar across the street from the hotel.  I begged off because I had to call my daughters to say goodnight, but then I got three different texts from three different people asking me to come.  So after my good night call, I went.

I got there about 10:30, and everyone was jolly and loquacious.  I was greeted with enthusiasm.  I ordered a Diet Coke, and watched with a fair degree of awe how much alcohol was consumed over the next hour.  The president of the company (the one I had done shots with three years before) was frankly hammered.   I could not have asked for a better deterrent to ordering a drink myself.  When the bill came, it was $250!  For less than ten people!

It was the first bar I’ve been to since I quit.  I did have fun.  But I did feel like I was missing something, and, at times, I actually felt bored.