What can you do with a drunken sailor when they stop drinking?
Reviewing My Options
A few weeks ago, shortly after passing the 60 day milestone I thought to myself:
"I’ve got this not drinking thing nailed…I am really good at not drinking, almost as good as I was at drinking."
I was feeling pretty damn good about myself.
Then one day, while hurrying past the beer case at the grocery store, I spotted bottle I recognized but had never seen in a store before. I stopped and looked at it…I picked up the bottle and thought about a nice afternoon I had spent drinking that beer, for months I had searched in vain to find that beer again. I wanted that afternoon back and I wanted that beer. My mind went through my options as I understood them in the moment:
Option 1: I could buy the beer, bring it home and drink it. Not drinking is my choice and I can choose to undo that decision at any time. Of course I’d be disappointed with myself and I’d have to explain my decision to others which I didn’t want to do.
Option 2: Buy the beer and drink it in the car on the way home. Tell no one. Again, I made a choice to not drink and this option would allow me to have a beer and skip the awkward conversations that would follow if I told people I had chugged a beer on the drive home from the store. The downsides to this option would be that I’d also need to buy a bottle opener and some sort of gum that masked both my breath AND my shame. (Note to self: market shame masking gum). More importantly I’d need to lie to my wife, my family, my friends, people on Facebook, my doctor etc… As a general rule, I no longer like to do anything that requires me to lie to everyone I know.
Option 3: Don’t buy the beer. Even in the confusing moments that I stood there with the beer in my hand I knew I didn’t want to take the first two options. I might find myself wanting to try option #1 someday but the fact that I considered option #2 convinced me that this was not the day to do so.
After considering all of my options I put the beer back in the case and bought brownies instead.
What It’s Like Now
I’ve gone 60 days in a row without having a drink. I’m pleased about this but it’s no big deal, not drinking is just a habit I’ve gotten into, like running and wearing ties to work. I honestly haven’t thought about it much over the last few weeks, I have been too focused on the things ahead of me to think about something I’m not doing. Today however, I thought about it.
Thirty years ago my father quit drinking. When I came home from school he showed me the pamphlets he had gotten and told me he was turning over a new leaf. My parents had separated a month earlier and he felt that cleaning up was his best chance of getting the family back together. It was a step in the right direction but probably too little too late. In the end it didn’t matter. When I went to see him next weekend he was drinking and he continued to do so for the rest of his too short life.
Now that he’s gone it would be easy for me to say that my father drank himself to death but that oversimplifies things. My father made a choice to lead a hard drinking life, perhaps because he was afraid to fail at trying to find a better way. Living with the feeling that you have no choice has got to be awful and dying with the feeling that you never had a chance is probably worse. This is all speculation, I don’t know what my father went through and I don’t think I ever will but I get the sense that at some point he just gave up.
I don’t know how long I’ll be a non drinker but at least I feel like I’ve left myself options.
An Open Letter To The Guys Getting Bottle Service At The Ted Leo Show On Saturday Night
It was great to see all of you at the Ted Leo show at Skybar the other night. I don’t know about you but I wasn’t sure what to expect on Saturday night. Skybar isn’t exactly known as a rock venue, it’s more of a fancy hotel’s rooftop lounge, but I think we can agree that Ted made it work. Mr. Leo is top notch and the show was way better than the NBA All-Star Game event that was also taking place at the hotel that night.
Anyway, it was good to see you out supporting great music. Also, I’m happy to see that you laid out the extra money for the reserved seating. There was one thing that I have some questions about and it’s not: “Why were you getting bottle service at a Ted Leo show?” It’s your money and if you want to pay for bottle service go for it. Skybar is pretty pricey (my three Diet Cokes cost more than $20) so when you’re there you may as well go for it. The question I have for you is this:
"Why, when you were ordering bottle service, did you decide to go with a bottle of Captain Morgan?”
It’s your money and you can spend it any way you like but ordering Captain Morgan the, cheap spiced run you can buy for about $16 a bottle at most LA supermarkets, seems like a poor choice. I know that that bottle of Captain probably cost you $175-$200 at Skybar but when you’re already paying for bottle service, why start pinching pennies when it’s time to order? Next time spend the extra $25 for something that isn’t a frat party staple. You’ll have a better drink and I won’t have to write you one of these ridiculous letters.
Someone who wants you to make better choices.
P.S. - In all seriousness thanks for supporting Ted Leo but choose better booze next time.
I just got a message from someone who doesn’t have the “Ask” feature on their Tumblr activated, so I am responding publicly.
“Hey Rob, I hope you can find the time to answer/help me with my question.
I’ve been a heavy drinker now for more than 10 years, and it’s affecting my health and liver. Even when I think about stopping, I get the fear.
I know you have quit drinking and any advice you could give me would be much appreciated.”
- My favorite definition of alcoholism is: “Drinking creates problems in your life, yet you continue to drink.” It’s a flexible definition and I think that’s good. Are the “problems” health issues, DUIs, ruined relationships, or lost jobs? Who really cares?
In addition to being one of the funniest people alive Rob Delaney also makes very tough things like quitting drinking feel not quite so tough. He’s right about everything above. Thanks Rob and to anyone who is considering taking this advice: you are not alone and you can do this.
How Is It Going Today?
To this point Valentines Day is turning out much better than it did in 1997. That was the year I had my first full on grown up blackout (I had had a few as a teenager and one from mixing pills and whiskey) but on February 14th 1997 I woke up having no idea what had happened the night before beyond a general sense that something very wrong had taken place.
After I pulled myself together I went shopping. I showed up at my then girlfriends house loaded down with gifts. They all had her name on them but they were really intended to make me feel less ashamed.
Yesterday was the most challenging day I’ve had in the 6 weeks I’ve been a non drinker. Has it (only) been six weeks already? Late in the day I got some news about my job that was not good. Since I still have that job the news isn’t that bad but it was a severe blow to me professionally.
After driving home feeling discouraged and defeated my thought’s moved to what would make me feel better; for most of my adult life this would be the point where I’d start making drinks, as in more than one. Sometimes I’d stop at three drinks and sometimes I’d stop at “I can’t stand up anymore”; last night I stopped at the thought and went no further. Instead of bourbon I had a soda.
When I woke up this morning my problems hadn’t gone away, or even gotten better, but I felt clear headed and ready to face them. This is some sort of progress.
Steamfitters Local 638
The 20 plus years between the first and last time I got drunk are filled with a lot of stories, some are happy and some are not. This is a small part of one of those stories, I will get around to finishing it eventually.
That Sunday was one of those marathon drinking days that my father and I used to occasionally spend together. We started with a hearty breakfast at his place at 8 AM and a beer as soon as our coffee cups were empty. By 9:30 we were at a bar and by noon we had left the car behind, a family friend was our driver for the rest of the day as we hit several bars that I had never been to but in every one they knew my father.
At the last stop of the night something was different. Among the usual construction workers, steamfitters and brawlers was a well dressed, manicured woman who knew my name before I introduced myself. The woman was introduced at the office manager for my father’s company but I knew this was a lie. Having been down this road before I knew, even after drinking all day, who I was meeting, the only question was did she know who I was meeting?
As fate would have it I would get the opportunity to find out what she knew. My father bought a round while I punched a few songs into the jukebox, when I got back he was gone leaving just she and I to talk. Since I was drunk I jumped right into business and said:
"I don’t care who you are but I’m no idiot, you don’t work for my father. I’ve known him longer than you have, I know how you know him."
This was not the first time I had a conversation like this; I had gotten used to my father making me an unwitting accomplice and I had gotten used to keeping uncomfortable secrets from his wife and others. This was the price I paid for getting to stay in my father’s inner circle and on this day it wasn’t so bad; she was smart and easy to talk to. This day was just another one of those days, he’d buy the drinks and I wouldn’t ask him any questions, I’d keep somebody occupied while he took care of business. That was the plan, and I found it easy to stick to, at least until it was time for another round. I reached into my pocket for some cash and my ID. As I asked her if she wanted another Guinness I flipped my drivers license over to show her the picture I had taped to the back and said:
"That’s my little sister" (Technically my half sister who I’m 20 years older than)
"Really, how old is your sister?"
"She’s two in the picture and three now."
"Wait..when did your mother die?"
I stepped back and realized what she had just asked me and knew why she had asked it. Before I went to get the drinks I replied:
"Since I spoke to her yesterday it must have been after that."
Things got worse after that, much worse.