A Hiatus From Hooch (May 22, 2010)

drunk

My name is Becky Boop and I am a social binge drinker. I have been afflicted with this evil tendency since the age of 16, the first time I sampled red wine in mass quantities from the liquor cabinet of a high school pal’s parents. That eve I made prank phone calls and fell down the (carpeted) stairs, and the following school day was painful on many levels. This should have been a standard coming of age lesson against the perils of chugging alcohol, especially when you have responsibilities to face the next morning.

Yet this very incident, plus or minus a few details like young age, repeated itself recently, and in fact, I am good for an episode of this nature every few months. Now I recognize the difference between binge social drinking and full blown alcoholism. Alcoholism is a terrible disease that destroys many lives, and has personally affected members of my own family. I can go weeks at a time without touching a drop. My problem is that once I get going, particularly in a lively (or uncomfortable – try that dichotomy on for size) group gathering, I don’t know when to stop. There is a fine line between laughing at all the times I have puked out of cab windows, fallen down or turned in bravura karaoke performances, and backing up to examine if this is really the kind of gal I want to be. There is something decidedly less humorous about these hijinks as one approaches their mid-30s. I have made arguments in the past about the extended adolescence of today’s adults, and in theory I look down upon this. So why in this case am I such a willing contributor?

The shame spiral, physical recovery time and inability to keep my busy life on track after a night of rock star partying is not worth the few hours of fun. On paper, in the sober light of day I am aware of this. I also know that drunkenness affects good judgment. The best way to keep myself out of this trap is to stay away from the sauce completely. I don’t need a drink to have a good time, or do I? Let’s examine the evidence:

1. Last weekend, as I accepted an award from the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, and my nerves were frayed beyond belief at having to endure a public round of applause, I wished for nothing more than a shot of tequila so I could bear my own insecurity.

2. Recently, I was so excited at reuniting with my one of my best friends, traveling abroad from London, I felt the need to down a bottle of wine in 30 minutes so I could keep my tongue in check. I tend to dominate conversations when I am agitated, happily or not, and I am aware this is a turnoff.

3. When I am engaged in a household chore which I do not wish to do, like laundry or washing dishes, I tend to carry a glass of wine with me, and take a sip as a “treat” at given intervals.

Were I to examine this evidence from a purely unemotional, pedagogical perspective, it would seem I use alcohol as a coping mechanism. I do not like the implications of where that behavior leads, especially, as I said, coming from a family where alcoholism has been devastating. I don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror the next morning. But I can turn this self-loathing into a positive. I can take ownership of myself and my social behavior, the way I have co-opted adversity, self-inflicted or otherwise, in the past.

My plan is simplicity itself. Just stop. Stop drinking. Get some distance between myself and the bottle until I can learn to have a healthier relationship with alcohol.

The first test comes tonight. I am having a housewarming party. I am about to leave for Trader Joe’s, where I will stack up on frozen edibles and numerous bottles of wine. Only I won’t touch them. I will greet a parade of guests, pour their libations, and try to find something un-awkward to do with my hands (in the past, clutching and sipping from a wine glass was the answer). I realize that for me, the battle to cure my social binge drinking is about something more than curbing an appetite. It’s about learning to be more comfortable with myself.

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