Okay, gang, hold on to your shot glasses! I have a major announcement to make:
I’ve quit drinking.
Well, not quit, exactly. Not really. But I have been cutting back my alcohol intake considerably, and since the amount I have cut back is easily the equivalent of what, for anyone else, would be tantamount to quitting entirely, that counts as quitting in my book (shut up! It does too!)
A couple of months ago, as I was pouring myself my nightly glass of overpriced Pouilly-Fousse, it suddenly occurred to me that I had been looking forward to that moment all day. In fact, I’d been looking forward to that moment a little too much for comfort. Especially since, truth be told, that nightly glass of overpriced Pouilly-Fousse was really more like two nightly glasses of overpriced Pouilly-Fousse.
Okay…well, at least I’d always leave a little something sloshing around at the bottom of the bottle. Unless I’d had a particularly vexing day. In which case - yeah, I admit it - I’d drain the sucker.
It was an insidious, creeping-up kind of thing, this little drinking habit of mine. Part of the problem was, after a lifelong assault on my liver that began at age fourteen with a fake-id-enabled trip to the Tai-Pan Chinese Restaurant for my very first sloe gin fizz, my tolerance for large quantities of alcohol has grown quite high indeed. Of course, there was a time when a single can of Miller Light would make me puke, but these days it’s relatively easy for me to knock back and entire bottle of wine and not really feel the effects until the next day. Which is usually also when I realize what an ass I’ve made of myself, but that’s a story for another blog.
Prior to the Great Pouilly-Fousse Epiphany of Addiction, I’d always kind of considered my college years to be my drinking heyday. You know, like normal people. When I was a freshman at Ithaca College, the drinking age in New York State was 18 - much to the delight of my gin-soaked compadres and me, since we’d all been drinking illegally for at least two years anyway (since before we got our drivers’ licenses; there’s a scary scenario for y’all). And we certainly made the most of our sudden trip to the right side of the law, bundling ourselves into Rita’s Chevy Blazer every Saturday night for our weekly trek to the North Forty - a vast, barn-like structure on the outskirts of town that boasted a cheesy disco ball, a Saturday-Night-Fever style lighted dance floor, and an ultra-cheap cover charge that provided thirsty patrons with unlimited quantities of alcohol for a measly $5 entrance fee.
Memo to the North Forty: Let’s do a quick little math review here. Remote, snowy location + cheap mixed drinks + college freshmen with fast new cars = WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?
Our drink of choice back then was an innocuous-looking concoction dubbed the “California Punch.” To this day, I’m not sure what they put in it - nor did I ever learn whether they called it that because it tasted like punch (it did) or because it packed one (it DID) - but what I do know is it was quite pink and quite frothy and made quite an attractive accessory once vomited upon oneself.
After I dried out long enough to decide to transfer to school in Boston, I immediately took a part-time job as a cocktail waitress in a shady establishment close to campus, where I happened upon a whole new assortment of mood-altering substances which, for legal reasons, are best left un-addressed in this particular forum (but I’ll give you a three word hint: Eighties Disco Phase). I never gave up my love of alcohol, though; in fact, it went along quite handily with my other new vices and was no doubt one of the contributing factors to that unexpected stint in summer school I mentioned a few blogs back.
Luckily, though, I didn’t discover my one true love - tequila - until I’d been out of college for several years and began working in real estate. I say “luckily,” because this torrid, twisted love affair between Woman and Margarita spawned a most unwelcome bastard child: an evil alter ego my friends and I dubbed “Buffy.”
Buffy…did things. Things you and I would never dream of doing in real life. Things that would make you cringe and crawl back under the covers if you were to ever wake up and remember that you had actually done them. When Buffy came out to play, the world was a very fun place indeed - for her, anyway - and no one was safe. Buffy drank and dialed. Buffy threw shoes at ex-boyfriends. Buffy got into screaming matches with total strangers over who was next in line for the bathroom. In short, Buffy was…well, Buffy was just bad.
Bad Buffy. Bad, bad, bad Buffy.
Fortunately, the Buffy Era, while action-packed, was also short-lived, because I very quickly got a new job as a corporate trainer that required a great deal of travel. So, instead of swilling margaritas in sidewalk cafes with my realtor friends, I was busy investigating the Miracle of the Expense Account, the Wonder of the Hotel Mini-Bar, and the Bottomless Business Class Wineglass of Oblivion.
But somewhere along the line, I realized that, although I always drank in social situations, I actually enjoyed drinking far more when other people weren’t around to bother me. There’s something to be said for coming home at the end of a long, cold day, cracking open a nice Chianti, lighting a fire, and just settling back in your big, comfy chair with a warm blanket and a new DVD. And once you’re all snuggled in and mellow, you get that nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that makes you not really care too much that the laundry’s not done, the house is a mess and tomorrow’s blog isn’t proofread. And that 7 a.m. personal training appointment seems far, far away.
The downside is, of course, that 7 a.m. does come. And the older I get, the harder it is to drag my ass around the Dreaded Day After. Not so much because I’m hung over, but because the alcohol disrupts my sleep patterns, forcing me to wake up at 4 a.m. and making it impossible for me to fall back asleep. And when your livelihood depends upon your being perky and articulate, it’s not very wise to show up to important meetings bleary-eyed with a tongueful of cotton.
So I’m chasing the wagon, but I’m not ready to hop on with full gusto. And I’m not sure I ever will. After all, who can turn down an ice-cold sour apple martini, especially when the good bars know to put a real slice of crisp green apple on the side which sops up the liquid like a Dorito sucks up salsa? Or a nice bottle of Pino Grigio over dinner with a friend?
So here’s my compromise: no more drinking at home.
Yes, for the first time in my life, I have a full wine rack that has not needed replenishment for more than sixty days. My laundry is done and neatly folded in my bureau. My bathroom sparkles. I’ve embarked upon numerous home-improvement initiatives, most notably the purchase, sanding, and painting of several new pieces of antique furniture.
And I’m bored out of my skull.
Yeah, I feel better. I’ve lost weight, I’m sleeping better, and I have more energy to do things, but I’m really, really, really bored.
I can’t sit still, so I’ve filled my calendar with activities - dinners with friends (where I’m allowed to drink but have discovered, to my horror, that my tolerance is dwindling along with my waistline), play rehearsals, movies. I’ve visited museums (I hate art), gone to the Symphony (almost fell asleep), and taken long walks up and down Newbury Street (spending all the way).
I’m so cultured now it’s sick.
But I keep telling myself this is a good thing. I’m meeting all kinds of interesting people and being exposed to all kinds of new ideas and new forms of expression. It’s utterly fascinating.
In fact, I’ve got to finish this entry now, because there’s a new gallery opening in the Back Bay and I need to get ready so I can be there on time. Enlightenment awaits!
Besides, I hear there’s an open bar.