Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Pour Your Own Poison"

I had a talk with a friend about my trying not to drink again. My decision came about partly because I was trying to be healthy and also my liver must hate me after all of these years and probably deserves a respite. My friend ask why don't I just cut back on the amount I drink while I'm out. I just laughed at that. You would think someone who has known me since we've been about 11 years old would know better. I don't believe in moderation, or at least I get confused by it, particularly in hedonistic activities. I received a gift from both sides of family- addiction. Whether it's drugs, drink, gambling, hoarding or (for my mother) working, my family goes all in. I live like a Spartan, don't really like drugs or spending/losing money, so all that is left is working and drinking. I'm still underemployed right now and so that leaves drinking.... BUT my underemployment has helped with the drinking since I can't afford to imbibe. So, when there is a cost, I can't drink that much anyway if I wanted to.

The problem is when I show up and there is no cost....

For example, one of my nephews had a birthday party during St. Patrick's Day weekend. I normally hate going out around this holiday because it normally involves an argument and/or tussle with some drunk white guy, usually from Boston. But, I figured I'd be good at this event. Just Puerto Ricans and black folks. And I wasn't drinking so it was going to be all good. What I neglected to remember was that parties for kids of a certain age was partially for them to see family and get gifts but it was mostly for adults to sit around and drink while children are contained.
So, I get there early with my younger brother Rock and my father and it's just my older brother and his wife at this point. He shows me the apartment set-up and where the food and drinks are. 
"There is a cooler of beer right there, man" he says.
"Naw. No thanks. I'm taking a break from drinking," I reply.
He pauses to look at me for a second. I guess my legend has proceeded me or I got more internet readers than I thought. 
"Okay," he says. "Well, it's there if you want."
I thank him again and sit down. It's cool for a little while. Very low key. Then people start to arrive.
Here is a thing you should know about me and my brother Rock- we are very similar about a lot of things but different about a lot of others. One of those things is how we deal with people. When first meeting us, most people would think that I'm the one who is more comfortable with meeting new people. It's true to a point. I'm excellent at feigning false interest and witty bullshit. I learned that from years of private schooling and dealing with people I really don't want to talk to in the first place. But after the initial bit, if I'm bored or don't feel I have anything to contribute I become the quiet guy. My little brother is different. He never starts up so he maintains a dickish aloofness that actually makes people want to talk to him. So 40 minutes into a party with sober Sean and a sober Rock, you'll probably be dealing with him more than me.
This was not going to work. These people were family or close enough where I had to step up. Plus, after eating all these chips and pretzels I was getting thirsty.
"I'm getting a Coors," I said to my brothers, who were both drinking. I never get bent off of Coors or most lighter beers so I figured it would be cool to take one night off.
Six beers in and I'm nice but still good. Food is done. I'm eating, chatting and just enjoying the mania of kids running around with Nerf guns and other random forms of artillery. Kids have a lot of cool dangerous things nowadays. 
I'm chilling in the kitchen when I see it.

My old Southern friend...
Jack Daniel aka SoCo's crazy, rude uncle. Or creepy older cousin that goes muddin'. 


It was unopened and I asked my older brother if he was going to open it. He grabs the bottle and takes off the top and places it back on the counter.
"It's all yours' he says. "But you pour your own poison."
Cool with me.
I make a not too strong Jack and Coke and take a seat. Everything is all good. 
I sip it and just enjoy the warmness and the music playing and everyone talking.
Eventually I finish that cup and it's birthday cake time.
This is the point where the smart guy that lives in my brain starts banging pans and saying "YO! Don't eat cake and don't make another cup. Just because it hasn't hit you yet doesn't mean that this liquor is going to be cool with you tonight. All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."*

What do I do? 

Eat cake and make a strong cup of  J & C.

I believe there is a screwed up adult child checklist. Certain milestones you hit before you can truly call yourself a screw-up. You don't have to hit them all but you should take note when you do. They include but aren't limited to- 
-shitting yourself in public 
-rushing to pay your taxes on the afternoon/evening of April 15th
-crying alone or in shower, preferably with a shitty sad song playing in the background
-getting in a car with someone else who should also not be driving
-waking up on a floor
-waking up to either angry texts ("I can't beleive you...") and/or scared texts ("Where are you???Are you alive?")
-waking up in a hospital or jail after drinking heavily
-getting really sick in the middle of a crowded party
-throwing up in front of a parent

I accomplished that last one with flair.
I made it safely from the party, safely onto two trains and was almost to my father's apartment in the projects when I felt it. It was going to happen. I paused, bent over, spread my feet wide** and let loose. I vaguely remember my dad being concerned but Rock just saying "Don't worry. He's good."
Yeah, I've become that guy to my brother.

Anyway, what did I learn from all of this? Moderation is hard fro me and I need to observe and respect that. I don't need to drink. Not really. But this episode has allowed me to go out recently and cut myself off with more confidence and at the right time. I think the key to me to maintaining that level of sobriety is having someone around me that isn't as sober as me or is drinking like I do. And to also do a mental "Don't drink a lot, Sean" admonishment at the beginning of the night. I don't think I'm quitting (at least not right now) but I have definitely pulled back from the demon juice. 

I'm proud of that and I think that is a step to moving past adding anymore items to The Screw-Up List. I already am a few steps back so I need no more minuses.

*He is a Battlestar Galactica nerd.