I can still taste the juxtaposition.
The cool Pinot Grigio, slightly dry, slightly sweet, fully refreshing—and yet warm as it melted down my throat, into my bloodstream, and settling in that happy place of Tipsy Land. I was never the biggest fan of red wine, but don’t get me wrong, I can smell the tannins and earthiness and feel my cheeks get redder and my voice get louder just at the thought of that, too. I could call it a one glass night—but that meant filling the biggest wine glass I could find to the very brim; sometimes, I could fit close to ¾ of a bottle into one glass. Still one glass!, I’d tell myself. I’d curl up on my bed, with that monster glass of wine on my nightstand, and as the tipsiness washed over and the generalized feeling of anxiety quieted down, the need for connection grew stronger, like a giant magnet. And so I’d whip out my flip phone and play my favorite game: texting anyone, anywhere.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Laura.
It all sounds very romantic—to a point—in retrospect. Quarterly wine shipments from the quaint vineyard near Charlottesville. Wasn’t this the sign that I had arrived in Yuppyville? I was a member of a wine club! (And a book club—which was really just an excuse to drink wine and wax philosophical about a book I had only read a few chapters of). A bottle of white, red, rose, and some delightful seasonal treat. I’d go through those bottles pretty damn fast. And of course, I kept the empties in a trash bag in my bedroom. Because hey, none of my housemates needed to know my rate of consumption. It was a little secret I’d keep to myself, from myself, for myself, me me me. Lest I be blamed for discrimination, I drank plenty of other stuff too—beer (I could take it or leave it, but who are we kidding? I usually took it), rum and Diet Coke, a fancy cocktail or two (or three or four or five--count with me, everybody!), margaritas—oh, margaritas. Or tequila shots. Those never ended well. Jello shots, vodka cranberry, etc. etc. But I kept coming back to w(h)ine. I had it; it had me. We made quite the team.
If I’m giving you the impression of an isolated, lonely existence, that’s not the case by any means. I was a social drinker too, life of the party, everyone’s drinking buddy. Dancing on bars, chatting with strangers. Up for anything with anyone. It was a win/win for me. I melted away my anxiety and persistent, nay, unrelenting OCD--and I became the me I wanted people to perceive. Plus, I was (supposedly) having fun fun fun! Until I passed out early. Or threw up all over [insert furniture type, name of person, etc.). Or had to be monitored with such a CIA-like vigilance so I wouldn’t go home with Guy X, Y, or Z (but I did, and many times at that).
Eight years after my last drink (well, multiple drinks, really), all of that is still familiar—yet feels like a movie reel. I remember it well, but it doesn’t feel like my life. I can romanticize drinking because I’m so far removed from it—wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of wine with dinner like a normal person? I mean, normal people can leave alcohol still in the glass. They get tipsy--the point where I usually was just revving up--and call it quits for the night. Not me. I did (and still do) look at unfinished glasses because why would you waste such precious nectar? And so even if I think, with all this time elapsed since I last drank, that it might be safe, I remember that it usually wasn’t a one glass of wine night. Or maybe it would be, this time. What would happen the next time I made myself a very public limit? JUST TWO TONIGHT, YOU GUYS! Maybe I’d be wheeled off in an ambulance after being found passed outside of a bar I was forcibly removed from. (True story). I had absolutely zero control; I was powerless over alcohol and yes, my life had become unmanageable. When you think someone else will take care of you because you can’t be held accountable for your own actions, something’s not right.
So as much as I can wax nostalgic about my love affair with wine and its tipsy, deliciously tight embrace, all I have to do is remember why I got sober. Because I can’t safely ingest alcohol. I’m not responsible when I drink; I’m not my own best advocate. Sure, one night I could be fine, at a dinner party or happy hour or work soiree, living the good life. But the next I might drink myself into oblivion and then god only knows what would happen. I’ve already been to that casino; already folded my hand more times than I can remember. That’s not a gamble I want to take now--or ever again.