Everyone’s relationship with alcohol is complicated.
I’ve been reading Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind over the last year, working through my own relationship with alcohol to better understand why sometimes I abuse it.
I’m not there yet—whatever being “there” even means. But the more I reflect on how little alcohol has done for me in the past, the more I wonder the role it has in my life in the future.
I hesitate to write about it for fear of shame. And that makes me want to write about it even more—because we should be able to talk about it, just like we talk about struggling with sleep or a headache or any other “physical” ailment.
Here are two poems I wrote on the blackout drunk:
(Originally a spoken word)
At first, it’s overwhelming. Lights. People. Commotion.
Talking about how everyone has been but it’s all shallow because nobody is really asking.
You drink more. And your world and vision start to get smaller and smaller until it’s all a little more manageable, until all you see is whatever’s in front of you.
There’s a game—there, two people shooting basketballs into hoops (you are at a bar that’s also an arcade for a friend of a friend’s birthday). You didn’t realize that this is now your worst nightmare. Someone speaks. To your right. Your friend is saying something to you and somehow you’ve understood and you reply something funny or clever because you are funny and clever, apparently.
You push through the crowd like there is a red carpet in front of you that no one else can see. And when you get to the bar you clasp the counter with your two hands. You’ve made it.
What can I get you? The bartender asks.
He’s cute and you’re like, Give me whatever you’re having.
He rolls his eyes and walks away.
What the hell man! You throw up your hands. Terrible service. What is this. Life is so f*cking unfair.
Finally, you get a beer and you tip 20 percent because these servers are working so hard and you remember that one time you were a server for the summer and how hard it was and how tips make all the difference.
You stumble back to your friends and spill your beer on someone’s shoe but you are so so sorry and it was a stupid mistake and you’ll buy them a whole new pair of shoes and suddenly you are best friends and have your arms around each other.
And then you and your friends and your new best friend are eating fries and burgers at McDonald’s down the street and you’re so glad you only got fries because in university you always used to forget you were a vegetarian.
And now you’re in a cab and the windows are down and the whole world is passing you by in a beautiful flash of colour within the darkness of the night and you have stumbled home and onto your bed
and you wake up in the morning,
a dry mouth and all you remember is basketballs falling into hoops and you think,
what a great night.
And you do it the next weekend, all over again.
I’m chasing after that moment
Right before the blackout
But just like that, it’s gone.
And I wake up with a half-eaten slice of pizza
Garlic sauce all over the new coat I just bought.
That moment has disappeared,
And there’s only more emptiness and grease stains
than there was
We numb, distract, busy ourselves into not thinking about our problems. For those of us who don’t fit the (outdated) stereotype of “alcoholic,” but want to rethink our relationship to alcohol, it has to start with going within.
I’ve realized over the last few months, especially in quarantine, the more time I’ve spent alone with myself, the more I’ve come to understand the root behind much of my struggle with this.
The more I do things that don’t involve drinking—like painting again, writing a creative story, talking to old friends, even going on a date—the more I want to experience life this way: raw, unfiltered, able to feel it all.