Giving Up Alcohol

“Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back
Seventeen more will bury me
Can somebody please just tie me down
Or somebody give me a goddamn drink”
-Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

“Alcohol can trigger episodes,” the nurse practitioner said. “You need to avoid it.”

As she says it, all I can think of is that half empty 1.5 liter bottle of Pinor Noir sitting on my kitchen counter.

“Okay,” I think. “I’ll finish that first. THEN I’ll give up alcohol.”

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I guess.

But how long do I need to give it up for? I know I should probably give it up forever, but Christ. I haven’t even been to Ireland yet. How am I going to visit Ireland and NOT order a Guinness? How am I going to visit Ireland without making a stop at the Jameson distillery? How am I going to visit Ireland and not get jubilantly faced in honor of my Irish ancestors?

Fuck.

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The last time I tried giving up alcohol I fell into a deep depression, which forced me to seek mental help three years ago.

It’s hard for me to acknowledge, but alcohol is a big part of my life. I often wish a pharmaceutical company would create a depression medication that would make me feel like I do after a few beers or a couple glasses of wine. I feel so much more relaxed and inclined to have fun. The best part is that I love everyone. When I’m drinking, I feel more spiritually connected to every human being. I see people who might typically annoy me in a new light. Just another one of God’s children. Imperfect and beautifully made. Like me.

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I met with the nurse practitioner last Monday. I finished the bottle of wine last Wednesday. Greg and I were watching Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I was giggling at Sam Rockwell channeling his best George W. Bush impression as Zaphod Beeblebrox, former President of the Galaxy. For a moment I thought, “Man, I miss Dubya. He was awful, but so damn funny.” I nostalgically recalled all of those State of the Union addresses I drank through during the aughts. Take a sip when he mispronounces nuclear. Take a sip when he says terrorism. Take a sip when he mentions homeland security. Take a sip when he says weapons of mass destruction. Finish your drink when one side of the room gives him a standing ovation.

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Later that evening I tried telling Greg a story about something funny I saw online and couldn’t properly explain it.

“Are you drunk?’ he asked.

“I don’t know.” I put my nearly full third glass down. I felt embarrassed. It kind of snuck up on me, like it always does.

I just wanted to finish the wine and not waste the money I spent on it. I just wanted to feel good.

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Alcohol is such a large part of the mostly Irish and Italian American Catholic culture I grew up in and live in. My parents weren’t big drinkers (my Dad gave up drinking years ago) but Mum sometimes had a glass or two of beer in the evenings. My Italian American friends grew up with wine at the supper table and were allowed to drink long before they turned 21. I can’t help but smile ironically when Christian friends tell me they avoid alcohol because of their faith. In the house I grew up in, we always kept a bottle of scotch on hand for one of the priests in our family who would often visit us for Sunday dinner. Mum also knew that some Catholic nuns, like the ones who taught her in school, drank too.

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Nearly everyone drinks. It’s just a part of life in the Boston area. It seems like something is always being celebrated, and there is always a reason to say “Slainte,” clink glasses, and imbibe. Even if it’s for something silly.  My friends and I once got smashed during a get together we deemed “A Very Good Friday.” Instead of avoiding meat and reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice with reverence, we decided to eat Easter-themed goodies, drink, and celebrate!

Even though it made me forget sometimes, alcohol gave me some of my greatest memories.

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I ended up pouring that third glass of wine down the sink. I winced as I did it, but knew I was already too drunk for a Wednesday.

Last Friday I thought to myself, “Man, I haven’t had a drink in a while! Check me out. Maybe I should have some hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps tonight to celebrate! I mean, it’s Friday, right?”

Then I realized I had only been sober for one full day.

Not drinking means I can’t celebrate like I normally do. I have to watch everyone around me get tipsy and happy while I feel jealous and annoyed with my drunk, sometimes loud friends.

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Do I need AA? I’m not a real alcoholic. Am I? I’m functional. I don’t have a DUI. I have a job.

Avoid alcohol, stressors, and get enough sleep. Not doing these things can trigger an episode. Not doing these things can affect your life in a big way.

If I had my way, I would celebrate giving up drinking by drinking.

This is going to be rough.

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