This time last year, I was dissolving into a slushy mess that got even worse once COVID-19 unexpectedly resulted in the nationwide shutdown that altered our existence beyond anything we could’ve foreseen.
By late summer 2020, I had made the tough decision to stop drinking until whenever.
After a month of substituting wine and vodka for water, juices and tea, I began to notice the twinkle in my eyes, and slowly uncovered the smooth, medium-brown skin color that had eluded me. There was also the renewed stamina, spearheaded by a rejuvenated engine, supplying the level of energy that alighted the epicenter of productivity.
I felt like someone who had been sound asleep with eyes wide open, who was suddenly awakened to the gratifying status of potent alertness that didn’t require mind-altering substances to enhance what didn’t require magnification by means of self-destruction.
Labor Day weekend came around, and I was in NYC visiting a friend who was also adamant about following the CDC guidelines, and so we were thankfully able to draft out my week-long stay with the care and duty to ourselves and others, that appropriately recognized the precarious reality of navigating a global pandemic.
She and I were partners-in-crime during the headiness of the 2010s, back when bottle service and frequent trips to glitzy locations that turned clubbing into a must-have for nightly itineraries was standard fare.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we survived that extended streak of drunken afternoons, blurry nights, and heavy mornings that consisted of the late breakfast platter soaked in greasy splendor.
We often talk about those times with laughs and praise for how we looked out for each other, even though we drove people around us absolutely crazy, due to the predictably annoying outcome of taking one too many shots, not long after downing a large cup of “Call a Cab” — a favorite treat, courtesy of Wet Willies.
As a die-hard New Yorker, who worked in the heart of Midtown, surrounded by the trappings of what makes heading straight home after a long day chained to a cubicle — a challenging feat — it became part of the routine to hit the Beer Bar and other hotspots every other night, before diving into bed in a dizzying spin, with great expectations for the next day.
Having glasses of wine in my studio apartment helped to make the tight space seem larger, once I was halfway through the large bottle of Cabernet. And it weirdly infused my writing with the unfiltered gems that gave me the false impression of how I needed to be inebriated to maintain exciting momentum.
But as with every horrible habit, the really bad days eventually catch up to you in ways that can be frighteningly cumbersome, both mentally and physically.
Getting older means not being able to recover from reckless bing-drinking episodes as seamlessly as you used to back when age wasn’t an intimidating number.
Nobody ever warns the youth about how dangerous alcohol can be to your overall health, particular as the years pile up to reveal the accumulation of what will eventually result in debilitating chronic diseases that drastically shorten lifespans.
Truth be told, if I had been seriously warned about how the likelihood of being diagnosed with certain cancers associated with high alcohol intake over a period of time, substantially increases based on your history — I probably wouldn’t have over-indulged with blatant ignorance.
But as they say, better late than never.
My dear friend and I are now accommodating the stage in life when slowing down and recognizing the value in periodic self-reflection is the preferred activity.
My long-awaited visit was discussed beforehand, and anxiety on my end was due to the breaking news confirming my new religion of sobriety, that would have to take precedence over my friend’s birthday weekend, that’s typically a mind-blowing boozefest with me as ringleader.
I gave a rundown of reasons why blood sugar and family history of diabetes, coupled with my adopted meditative stance were the barriers preventing my once-trusted participation in the bonding moments that engineered our longstanding friendship.
Surprisingly, my best mate was immediately receptive to my requests for an alcohol-free environment, which was a load off my shoulders, since I had been contemplating how we would be able to replicate the fun-filled hysterics that would ensue from our constant drunkenness.
Once we were face-to-face, we were able to have the adult conversations about how the bad old days were great, but the future has to be a lot less fuzzy and more evidential of how we’ve both evolved with the capacity to have a grand time without falling over each other, as we try to hail a cab to the next destination.
Our successful reunion that consisted of a birthday toast, while the rest of the days and nights were consumed with catch-ups and belly laughs from incriminating photos, had me thinking about how differently things would’ve played out if one of us had been reluctant to consider the newly-minted path of the other.
There are plenty of testimonies by those who made the crucial decision to quit drinking in order to preserve the dignity of the rest of their days, and have sadly run into issues with partying friends who aren’t in the headspace to be graciously supportive.
Obviously giving up on the drinking habit that has defined the course of relationships for as long you’ve been friendly with your core group isn’t a small feat, and can absolutely be the unnerving test that weeds out those who are too selfish to truly demonstrate loyalty and affirmation when it matters most.
Even dating can be complicated by your newfound sobriety, and I’m guilty of instances when I was unfairly judgmental of guys who offended me with the revelation of abstaining from alcohol.
For some reason a potential date without bottle service was a dealbreaker, and looking back it’s incredible how invested I was in the flow of poison that became my consistent companion — until the toxicity forced a lifesaving separation.
Soaking your pain in mind-altering substances is not a new concept, but being able to overcome those threatening tendencies can be the lifelong battle that you can’t possibly accommodate without the help and encouragement of those who care.
As a support system, it’s not your responsibility to carry the burden on behalf of a loved one who’s struggling, but having the back of the one who desperately needs that reassurance is the invaluable resource that means more than you’ll ever know.