Yesterday was pretty rough. My brain box sounded like a thousand scorching espresso machines auditioning for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Today I felt a wee less desperate. Just wee.
However, I also felt the all too familiar pang that peeks its head over the fence after a few days of successful sobriety: the “oh, I’m totally fine and never actually had a drinking problem” feeling. It’s the one in which you think you’ve smashed the hard reset button and suddenly your motherboard isn’t completely fried.
Wrong! That feeling is an adroit liar.
After lunch, as I contemplated my bus route home (no car, remember?), I knew I’d have a decent 40-50 minutes (depending on the route) to kill after work. This meant food… and… drink? Those lilting voices of reassurance cooed, “you’re all good, kiddo,” and I nearly convinced myself I’d have just the barest sliver of enough time to guzzle a martini, shovel a few salty snacks in my face, then shimmy home.
“You don’t have a problem. In fact, you’re perfectly normal. So just get a drink and shut the fuck up already.”
I rode the wave of flawed thinking and false feelings until I couldn’t stand my own bullshit anymore. So I got a turkey and pesto panini w/ a decaf Americano (what a combo!) from this bomb ass coffee shop across the parking lot at work. It was a fantastic dinner. Perfectly satisfying. Utterly delicious. My will feels stronger, and that’s pretty fucking awesome.
I’ll cut to the chase: I woke up around 7am, shoved my wobbly 34-year-old body into my now ill-fitting running apparel, then hit the pavement around 8:30am (my cat, Big Bertha, was asleep, yet still demanding of my attention, you understand).
Today’s stats: 1.51 miles // 14:53 time // 9:52 pace.
I know it’s a very, very modest improvement in distance from yesterday’s hilarious maiden voyage, but there’s a key difference: I wasn’t on the brink of spontaneous combustion. Felt okay, actually. Breathing and cadence also improved, so I’ll take it. I still needed to stop at a mile and a half, but that’s actually for the best, which is to say, keep the mileage low for now and accumulate the miles at a consistent clip.
This past summer, I was training for what would’ve been my third marathon slated for fall, but wound up busting my right quadricep after doing too much, too soon. My impatience is my fatal flaw. That said, I’m humbled by my body and its need to just… ease in on leaning in.
Oh! And! I haven’t smoked in two days. AND! I didn’t buy cigarettes yesterday or today, even though I was at the market and very well could have and very much wanted to. My lungs are probably like, “bitch, wtf? Make up your goddamn mind!”
In 2008, after mercifully dispatching two back-to-back serious relationships, I overhauled my lifestyle. That’s to say, I became a vegetarian, I bought a pair of running shoes, then spent the better part of that year learning the novel notion of self-care; I learned what mattered to me outside the context of a relationship. That was pretty neat. It was a lot of work, but neat.
In the ensuing decade, I ran two marathons (terribly), and a smattering of 5k’s, 10k’s, and half marathons (opposite of terribly). When I get in the groove of it all and settle into a routine, I love the way etching positive habits and discipline into my prefrontal cortex makes me feel. A cocktail of the endorphin variety.
I haven’t run in five months, though, eschewing the many pleasures of hauling my doughy sack of flesh outside to knock out a few miles, for the insidious pseudo-pleasures of after work martinis and afternoon weekend Manhattans (though, towards the end, morning Manhattans). Being drunk also meant eating like shit, and eating a lot of shit. And so I did, and would, and how!
It’s no secret that fat shaming is awful and not the way forward. It’s a losing man’s game. But the shame we feel for ourselves, that savagely mean motherfucker of a critic inside my head is giving me the most grief. I have a healthy level of vanity, sure, that’s fine. But I also have a stable, not-so-fleeting memory of how it feels to feel good. I felt good when I was 34 pounds lighter and in shape; I felt good when running half a mile didn’t leave me winded and wanting to heave; I felt good knowing I was taking care of myself, and it’d show. And now, ten years after running my first marathon, that inner voice is like, “look at what you’ve become, you fat loser.” Among other things.
So, just like overhauling my lifestyle and taking charge of my health ten years ago amidst two heart-smothering breakups (with guys who were ultimately no good for me), I’m doing the exact same now, but with booze. That relationship is over. It wasn’t good for me. Although I already have pangs of separation anxiety, there will be beauty beyond this layover in what feels like profound loss.
I’m taking up running again, starting today. This time, however, with no foreseeable goal in mind other than hitting the road and logging miles, clearing my head, and weaponizing the benefits of exercise to combat the emptiness of abandoning an addiction. These first few weeks will be slow, painful, and embarrassing. It will take a lot of work getting back in shape, just like being sober is going to take a lot of work. But I’m so ready to actually do the fucking work, and get as bloody and humiliated as I need to get. It’ll be worth it.
Day one of sobriety is officially in the can. I successfully circumnavigated Thanksgiving dinner without a single drop of booze infiltrating my face (despite wanting many, many drops). You know how it is: families can be excruciatingly difficult to endure when crowded, hot kitchens are involved. Something about the culinary chaos flings everyone to the far end of the tension scale. Wine helps. Gin helps, too. Many gin and tonics.
Frankly, despite instinctually (and intellectually) wanting to numb out via hard alcohol, I physically wasn’t feeling up to it. Having already been hungover from heavy, blackout drinking the night before, I needed a reprieve.
That brings me to Wednesday, 11/21/18. The last drinks. As far as concluding tales of alcohol-soaked, drunken debauchery go, it was a pretty mundane evening. I cooked dinner. But, maybe that’s how it has to be, sometimes; accumulated years of extreme, easily fatal nights and days culminating into one utterly ordinary instant. I work an 8-5 job, which, mercifully, let us leave early for the holiday. The moment I got home around 3:30, I made my first martini (Beefeater, pretty dry, very cold, no olive or twist to speak of). By 4pm, I was making my second drink and roasting vegetables (just some baby red potatoes, an onion, quite a few cloves of garlic tossed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, cumin, coriander, and paprika). By 5pm, I’d moved jauntily from martinis to old fashioned-s, using some Larceny bourbon I’d picked up a couple of days before. Good deal on Larceny at Stater Bros.: $21. By 6, I couldn’t be bothered to splash together bitters and simple syrup, so I drank it neat, as one does.
I woke up at 3 in the morning, in bed, lights on, laptop open. It was raining. The creepy thing about blacking out is waking up unable to recall a single moment during the two or three hours preceding your passing out. Creepier still is knowing you’ll never, EVER really know; those memories now nothing more than fistfuls of snow that have long since melted through your fingers.
That’s not to say you can’t try to put the pieces together. Read your text messages; open your browser; the dishes in the sink, are they washed? I tapped my MacBook awake to reveal I’d passed out watching a season 4 episode of Sex and the City. The one where Miranda’s mom dies. This must’ve drawn out the maudlin in me, because after a cursory glance at my text messages, it was apparent I’d tried to tell a couple of friends how much I hated November. My dad passed away a few years ago in November, and an ex of mine committed suicide two years ago, also November. When one of my friends wrote back that he liked this month, I wrote, “K, get back to me when the people you love start to die in Nov.”
I cringed myself to sleep after reading a few more texts. When I woke up in the morning, I looked like shit. Complete and total shit, stepped in and run over. I’ve gone from having the body of a healthy, dedicated runner, to looking like the gelatinous floating orbs of a lava lamp decided to make a person and wear clothes that don’t fit. My face was drawn, puffy, saggy. The bags under my eyes will soon be sponsoring podcasts.
It’s an odd thing, being a drunk: you alienate people, burn all the bridges, make the last few friends in your corner extremely uncomfortable. Booze will also betray your body and wear itself proudly on your face, in your eyes. And that’s the rub of it, when all that’s left after all that drinking is just you staring back at a stranger in the mirror.
Today is day one, both for this blog and my new life as a teetotaler. My sojourn into sobriety. My mania for mocktails.
I’m starting this blog to coherently keep my accountability in check. That’s to say, I’ve quit drinking before. Many times. I’ve stood one arm akimbo as I poured the final drops of whatever down the sink, sworn off all iterations of imbibing, promising myself never again. Again and again.
I’ve broken a lot of promises.
This time, however, I’m using this blog as a tool to help me put a lot of shit to bed; a coffin for all the experiences and feelings and terror that has chaperoned my drinking career. Yesterday was my last drink, today is Thanksgiving, and I’m indeed thankful to be writing these words.