ON THE WAGON
I quit drinking. Four days ago. I am not really sure what to do now. That’s not true. I quit for a reason. It wasn’t a bad hangover or some atrocious mistake where I was found passed out on the end of my bed with my pants around my ankles and all the lights on, and with Kanye West instructing a prenuptial in the background and Her waiting for me to come out of the bedroom to keep dancing. No. It was more of a slow burn, an unscratched itch. Too much Rescue Me and self-medicated boredom, and thinking that maybe there is a touch too much of me in Dennis Leary’s character; or, more like, there is not enough of me in Tommy Gavin and so I pretend to be him. Either way, whatever the psychology, I need to stop.
I needed to stop a long time ago, really. I started drinking ten years ago. I have had ups and downs. In fact, in the early days, I would quit for months at a time to prove that I wasn’t addicted. Last time I tried to quit for six months but only made it four. But, it’s gotten pretty bad the last two years and the thought of becoming a chalky and cracked old boozehound who can’t see the difference between happy and drunk or who doesn’t know the meaning of quit, or who can’t see the paralysis of the drink, or who thinks alcohol is a reward or a social stimulant, scares the shit out of me.
But the thing is: I like to drink. Tommy Gavin said that too, so maybe I’m more like him than I let on. I love ice cold beer. I like that familiar slide into drunkeness. I know its peripheries well. The laughing and the dancing, and the endless stories at the bar ledge. Drink all night, drink the next morning, two and a juice, Bailey’s and coffee, ceasers at brunch, wine on the beach, old fashioneds with the stuffy academics, flasks at weddings, tallboys on the rocks by the lake, Stadium draught, Schooner Tuesdays, Sunday Funday, “What do ya got on tap?”, “Any specials?”, “a Canadian and a shot of Club please,” In Like a Lion, Sidecar, Manhattan, Sangria, Margarita, Harvey Wallbanger, Paralyzer.
I take satisfaction in holding my liquor. I can drink with anybody, and in years past I might have divined some sense of twisted masculine superiority from that ability. I could drink a two-four in a night, no problem, and go looking for more. I’ll do a shot of anything, but prefer whiskey. When I was poor and thirsty, I invented the charming scavenger hunt known as the “booze scrounge” where I poached other people’s vulnerable cans of beer and bottles of liquor. I could stay up all night too. Christmas time. Summer time. Middle of the semester. Playoff time. After a big game. After a big job. When I was nervous about something in the future. I would stay up and drink and listen to music, write a little. Searching for those sparkling moments of clarity swimming in the bottom of a pint glass or ice cubed tumbler. No more.
Now all I have is the tower of dirty glasses in the sink and a thickening waistline and the burning, pounding, ass dragging headache that wont go away the next day. Why? Why do I want that? I would rather have sore legs from an 80K bike ride. Chlorine smelling hair from a two hour swim. Sweat from painting bookcases in the backyard and the stifling Southern Ontario humidity. Cuts and bruises on my arms and legs from a violent football game. Blisters on the balls of my feet from a squash tournament. Caked on dirt from the bush. Callouses on the tips of my fingers from guitar strings. Too many ideas in my head from great books and creative film and art exhibits or poetry slams. And debt from travelling the world, not from another case of Keith’s down at the Thames, or from debit payments at the same god damn bar stool with the same old baseball game and that basket of wings that feels like paint remover on my intestines. No. No more.
I feel like I’m after something. Afterlife. What an awful word. But I need to shake it up. Change it around.
I know the first two weeks are the hardest. If I make it to the start of hockey season, I’ll reevaluate. Hopefully, I make it passed there, sail on through Christmas. And if you can make the winter sober, you can do the spring. Then I’ll try the summer clean. And if you can do 1 year, you can do all the years. Maybe I won’t touch it anymore. Maybe I won’t need it. I already know I don’t need it.
But maybe I will learn to not want it anymore.
Because I still do.