Welp, if that was a pink cloud I woke up on this morning then it was one of those gauzy summertime types totally incapable of holding my 200-pound ass up for more than an afternoon. (I know we learned cloud types in primary school, but fuck, I’ve been drunk since then. Surely you know the ones I mean?) Anyway, yep, it is as it sounds: I had my first craving.
So what happened is this: apparently there’s touchy-feely homework for this outpatient intensive treatment program I admitted myself into (no clue why that possibility never crossed my mind) so, me being the studious-type human I am (read: nerrrrd), I dove right into it this afternoon. It seemed simple enough, just jot down 20 reasons you drank and prepare to read them in front of the group.
Bad idea? Too soon? I don’t know. All I know is that I hit send and immediately thought, fuck I need a beer. And as luck would have it, there were about six light beers rolling around in the last case I bought sitting literally right behind my chair.
I toyed around with the idea of popping a naltrexone and just going for it (I half-assed the Sinclair Method for about a minute last year — we’ll talk more about that someday very soon), but the fact that I agreed last night to remain sober for a full 24 hours before any group meetings, and had my second one in a couple of hours, gave me honorable pause.
Let’s back up. So about that agreement, something there bothered me, but being stone-cold sober during the meeting, well, of course I didn’t broach the subject. The thing is this: in the list of “mood-altering substances” that I agreed not to imbibe prior to meetings were prescribed sleeping medications. As a life-long insomniac I found that pretty troubling. As it is, I happen to be on a course of psych meds right now that mostly make me drowsy enough to nod off at a decent hour as a friendly side-effect (read: off-label use), but I know from experience that that could change at any moment and then I’ll have to either go back on one of the bad boys or return to drinking myself to the point of passing out cold on a regular basis. Not sleeping for two or three days at a time simply isn’t an option this side of grad school.
Alright, now that we’re on the same page, while I do think that I have a valid concern there, and I will be broaching the topic with my counselor in my next one-on-one, I was able to recognize that I was also using that valid concern as a probably less-than-valid justification for having a drink this afternoon. You know, like, if I might eventually have to break the rules (for the greater good of my mental health) then fuck it, might as well fucking break them already, right?
I know, I know, I’m fucked.
Anyway. After dishing to my wife and moving my one-on-one up by six days I decided that I needed to get honest with myself before doing anything else, so here I am. As for the calm-offending list, enjoy:
1. Silencing the inner critic while writing.
2. Ease social anxiety when I don’t feel good/smart/accomplished enough around others.
3. Enjoy the company of people I’d otherwise avoid or be bored talking to.
4. Ease the boredom when hanging out alone.
5. Take the edge off/better ignore the stress of difficult/uncomfortable conversations or situations.
6. Substitute for the hassle of actual socialization when feeling lonely.
7. Uphold the talented-but-hard-partying Hemingway reputation I spent so long curating amongst my old friends.
8. Silencing the intrusive thoughts when OCD/PTSD gets bad.
9. Feeling bigger and tougher/more masculine when self-esteem is low and I don’t like what I see in the mirror.
10. Loosen up for meetings or telephone conversations so that I think quicker on my feet when put on the spot, after a few glasses of nice scotch.
11. Lighten the tedium of grading papers, answering student emails, and/or reading all the shitty poetry in the magazine’s slush pile (when I was still editor).
12. Fit in and feel more comfortable with extended family.
13. The distinct thrill of having at least one vice left when I’ve become the “family man” who cooks healthy meals, stays in shape (ok, shape-ish, lately), holds down a professional job, and cares for the children all fucking day.
14. Become more impulsive/worry less about planning everything to a T/take more chances.
15. Getting to be the one who throws the best parties and thus showing off how together/enviable my life is/how far I’ve come.
16. Ignore it all, when I’ve made a mess of things.
17. Before I got custody and when I lived alone, to fill in the quiet darkness after the boys would leave every Sunday night.
18. Crippling insomnia can’t kill you when you’ve finally passed out drunk!
19. Kill the urge to pompously backseat-drive, when riding passenger on long road trips. (Note: getting anywhere in Texas is pretty much a long road trip.)
20. To access that sense, however fleeting, of ritual and communion that sitting down with a drink or walking into a familiar bar can offer, when otherwise feeling adrift in the world.
Oh, and I didn’t drink. Maybe tomorrow? I have, however, begun smoking again. You win some, you lose some.