booze

Ode to Wine (...and it's not what you think)

odetowine

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.
At a Virginia Wine(o) festival.

At a Virginia Wine(o) festival.

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.

                       B    arolo Wine Region, Italia--STONE COLD SOBER, BABY!  Circa 2010.

                       Barolo Wine Region, Italia--STONE COLD SOBER, BABY!  Circa 2010.

And that’s the best insurance I have for choosing sobriety today, and every today after that.  

Nancy Carr's Last Call

Life is beautiful.  Messy, but beautiful.  I've been super busy with my regular 9-5 but also with The Sobriety Collective's efforts and with my own goals of helping our joint cause.  More details on that to come.  Point being, Nancy sent me her story in late May--yes, May!  And I thank her for her never-ending well of patience.  I'm so thrilled to bring her tale of resilience to you and I'm super excited to read her memoir!  Yay for new additions to my Kindle!  

**

Nancy living life--not drunk here!

I got drunk for the first time at age 13 at a teenage drinking party in Avalon, NJ.  There was a large punch bowl filled with grain alcohol jungle juice and I was eager to try alcohol, as it was a constant in our household growing up.  I wanted to be cool and I wanted to fit in.   But it was never the taste that made me chase it, it was the alcohol buzz.  The effect that it produced was one that I loved and craved. Then, when I tried cocaine at age 16 for the first time and that combination together, it was like BAM! I’ve arrived! Within a few years I was dating a drug dealer and my usage increased.  My 20s were a bit of a blur and wild, but by 30 I had become a “recreational” weekend cocaine user and a daily drinker. I also had a thriving career so I was considered a high-functioning alcoholic.  I was able to make my weekend drug use and daily drinking work within my lifestyle as I only hung out with others that drank and used the way I did.  I thought I was a typical “party girl” and weekend warrior.  By 32, I had racked up my first DUI.  I also moved over 22 times during these years and kept jobs for 3-4 years until I knew they’d find me out.  I was able to maintain pretty well.  But I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t really care.  Alcohol and cocaine were the two things that made me feel normal and happiest. 

In November 2003, I was drunk and typing in my journal about how messed up my life was.  I knew I needed help, but I was too scared to ask anyone.  A few months later, at age 37, I received my 2nd DUI in San Diego – a town I had been living in for the past few years – and sitting in that jail cell for 11 hours really made me think that I needed to do something different.  In May 2004, I walked into an AA meeting.  I left that meeting and quicker than you can say alcoholic, I went out and drank for a week – during that week I had my moment of clarity.  My first real A-HA moment; I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me during my life was from drinking and drugging.  I may want to give the sobriety thing a try.  So, that’s what I did.  I had heard Hope in that first meeting and I clung onto that hope and walked into recovery with complete blind faith.  I had no idea what to expect as I knew nothing about sobriety.   I got sober the AA way; 90 meetings in 90 days.  I got a sponsor, I worked the steps and I did what the woman in recovery told me to do.  I didn’t want anyone in my family or corporate life to know what I was doing, so treatment wasn’t an option for me.   I’m grateful I got sober the way I did and I’m so appreciative of the Fellowship where I got sober.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  AA doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s just what worked for me.

I’ve been able to live life today free from the bondage of alcohol and drugs.  I don’t hang out in seedy places, I don’t get DUIs, I don’t wake up in stranger’s beds and I don’t have to wonder what happened the night before and who I pissed off.  I have been able to get married in recovery and share my journey with someone else who gets me and who is also in recovery.  I rescued my constant companion and dog, Lucy, and she brings me so much joy.   

I have been able to maintain and make new friendships – I get to live and participate in my life today.    The freedom I have today is just amazing and the fact that I get to live my life today without lying, manipulating, cheating and stealing is all just gravy to me.  I am just so happy that I don’t HAVE to drink today.  I am a strong supporter of AA and helping others and being of service.  I am grateful I don’t need a drink to manage my life and that I get to have choices today – healthy choices on who I want to be, not who alcohol and cocaine want me to be.   As Sir Elton John once said in an interview, “My biggest accomplishment in my life is getting sober, it’s not the Grammy’s, the money, being Knighted or how many records I’ve sold, it’s my sobriety!”

That drunken journal entry turned into a Memoir that I recently launched via Kindle, “Last Call, A Memoir”.  It’s a story of my experience, strength and hope.  My hope is that I can help someone - anyone - that may be able to relate to my life as a “social party girl” and realize that they too have a chance at a better life.   A life where they will be able to wake up in the morning and have dignity, integrity and self-love – because that’s what living a clean and sober life has given me. 

**

 

 

Connect with Nancy.
Twitter: @NlcarrC
Blog: Last Call 2015

Buy Last Call, read,
rinse, repeat.

"I Miss Being A Drunk." - The Kristina Wong Story

When I read Kristina's original piece on xojane (I think the lovely Ms. Kelly linked to it), I wanted to reply to her immediately if not sooner with ALL THE THINGS!  But if I told you what I said, that'll ruin the surprise.  So bunker down for a few, drink the story in (it's a mockTALE of a story...wakka wakka), and check out the update, after the jump yo! - Laura

I Miss Being A Drunk: Should I Go Back To Booze After My Year Of Sobriety?

Now that my experiment in going alcohol-free for a year is up, I’m not sure if I should go back to drinking.

KRISTINA WONG

JAN 14, 2013

When I was a kid, alcoholics were trashy white people staggering around trailer parks, sloppy miserable men who worked in factories and returned home to abuse their broken families, or lonely 20th century American novelists typing away the next great American novel in ramshackle rooms they rented for $10/month.

They weren’t Chinese American honor roll students who went to good universities like me.

Even though I work in an offbeat profession as a comedic performer/writer/commentator touring one-woman shows across the country, at the core of me is a very serious person who has worked as hard as any med student for every grant, gig and award I ever received. 

I justified all those years of getting wasted and making an ass of myself in public as my work in advancing racial progress.

All those years of screaming profanities in the faces of bar patrons, belting out Guns N Roses karaoke numbers before vomiting out a car window? It was a subversive stereotype-breaking guerilla theater performance for an audience of drunks. I was proof that you could be a Chinese trophy daughter and still know how to party. 

But I wasn’t just Captain Morgan meets Cornel West. When I drank, I was consistently hilarious in ways that took forever to hone in my stage shows. At least, hilarious is how it felt as the room spun around me, joy amplified with each sip. And if I didn’t have a live audience, I resourcefully found an audience to receive my inebriated but genius text messages at 4am.

Booze made any of my actions forgivable -- a get out of jail free pass.

Probably drunk here. Nix that. Definitely drunk.

Drinking was my reward for not succumbing to a grown-up life of marriage and babies. Drinking kept me tuned into the antics of teenagers who worship Justin Bieber the way I used to crush out on Ricky Martin (waaaay back in the day, before he came out). Drinking was that temporary roller coaster ride where I ventured outside my own body and a cathartic excuse to scream at everything.

I was a superwoman with booze. No social situation too intense, no company too intimidating, and no stranger not worth professing my love to. But something changed.

I was no longer 23. I was hungover on weekdays. I was drunk dialing people in the middle of the day, including my father. I was running out of people to joke about these antics with the next morning. My friends were breeding and there were fewer and fewer people willing to babysit me through a night out.

As my yearly income increased, so did my tolerance for signing off on extremely high tabs. At the worst of it, last December, I woke up hungover in the media lounge of a conference I was attending and had to attend that morning’s plenaries with a huge pounding headache and the sting of shame.

But don’t get me wrong, I was still hilarious. And I still wasn’t an alcoholic.

So without any dramatic interventions, without any meetings or rehab programs, I decided on my own to see what life would look like for 365 days stone cold sober.

It wasn’t about going to five AA meetings a day. It was just going to be a yearlong experiment with a start and end date in seeing how my strength, spirituality and viewpoint would change sans alcohol. What would my nights look like? How would I make friends quickly? How was I going to “meet up for a drink” without said drink? How would dating be more or less awkward? How much moolah would I save?

Committing to a one-year window actually made turning down alcohol easy. Surprisingly, my biggest trigger was not social situations or stress but my inner cheapskate that ached to turn down free booze. With saying “no” came this sense of presence and control over life I hadn’t had before. I’ve become more honest and straightforward than I ever remember being. I find myself more direct about expressing when I’m upset or just able to navigate past potentially high drama situations altogether.

And most remarkable of them all, I traveled through Scotland and Ireland this year without a drop of the booze. It was a much more boring trip, but I remembered a lot more of what happened.

This other weird thing happened when I started to tell people I wasn’t drinking -- a secret society of sober people outed themselves to me and I became an instant member of the Underground Dry Gang. People would confide in me that they were slipping out to an AA or NA meeting. People would verbally beat down the people who coerced me to give up this sobriety experiment, a pressure that I wasn’t going to succumb to begin with -- but thanks for the back-up.

Then there were the drinkers who became so empathetic about my experiment, they’d apologize at length for drinking in my presence, or also go dry for the evening in unsolicited solidarity.

Declaring my sobriety made me feel complicated. Saying I was “sober” seemed to instantly indicate to others that I had lived a dark and stormy past and that I was trying to turn my life around. When really, there was no past horrors, I just wanted to make a change and see what would happen. But who couldn't use a little edgy PR?

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to date sober. I can still meet people in bars and feign drunkenness on virgin margaritas. And usually, my dates drink less because I’m not drinking at all.

Initiating a first kiss was once made easier by alcohol because I could just collapse face first onto someone and if they didn’t reciprocate, I’d hardly remember the next day that I failed. In this year of sobriety, first kisses are just as awkward; I just tend to narrate aloud every emotion I’m experiencing. Everything is much more honest.

I did gain 15 pounds this year which is bizarre because being awake and active more hours in the day means I’ve exercised more this year than I ever have in my life -- five times a week! It could be because non-alcoholic ginger beer is so high in calories or more likely, because I’ve adopted a cupcake addiction in the wake of cutting out cocktails. Or maybe I was just really dehydrated all these years and this is all water weight.

My skin also cleared up dramatically -- age or no booze, I’m not sure why.

But this year in experimenting is coming to a close, and now I’m faced with asking myself if I’m capable of hitting the bottle again. Because a year without booze has changed what drinking means. 

Sure, I could be more moderate in my drinking. But I’m learning that there is no “medium” dial for me. I go hard or go home.

The infamous drink.

My drink of choice was the Long Island Iced Tea. (Hey, it’s economical and college drinking habits die hard.) It was a drink I became so synonymous with that when I did a show in Miami in 2010, the theater bar named the featured cocktail “Wong Island Iced Tea” after me.

Like a born-again virgin, I’ve grown this nice new thick sobriety hymen, and it almost seems a shame to just pop it arbitrarily. I’m also on a streak and if it’s anything I hate to break, it’s a streak.

But I am tired of feeling like I’m missing out. I miss the transformative haze that is getting drunk. I became better at meditating this year, but drinking was a much easier way to turn off the thoughts in my head. 

What do you think? Shall I celebrate the year in sobriety with a glass of champagne? My liver is in your hands.

**

 

 

Here's the cheeky little Twitter update I promised.  Also, K has her own Wikipedia.  Word.  

 

WORTH THE WAIT, right?  :)

 

Follow the heck out of Kristina.
Twitter:
@mskristinawong
Facebook:
ILoveKristinaWong
Email Kristina.