The Kinds of Problems I Have Today.
When we’re drunk, we have lots of problems. We are sick. All the time. Hungover, yes, but also sick. Heartsick and sore and miserable. We don’t take care of ourselves. I have no actual evidence, of course, but I feel like I caught every flu and cold that went around when I was a drunk. I certainly never got flu vaccines. And maybe drinking a bottle of vodka a day isn’t good for the immune system in addition to all the other things it’s not good for. I don’t know. And of course, we destroy our livers and hearts and other systems. And I smoked, too. My lungs will never be the same.
We tend to not have jobs when we’re drunks. We get fired or simply don’t look for work. After I graduated, I spent two years half-heartedly looking for consulting gigs. I got one. I overpriced myself embarrassingly and lost another that was a sure-thing. So after my graduation, I was unemployed for more than two years, and I wasn’t even looking for work in any meaningful way. I felt like I deserved to have people come find me and offer me jobs. I was unfathomably arrogant and self-aggrandizing at the same time as I felt constantly worthless.
We go to jail, when we’re drunks. I was arrested for drunk driving shortly before my graduation. I only spent about 3 hours in jail. I was polite and contrite and appropriately ashamed of myself. Of course, it didn’t stop me from driving drunk again many times over the next two years. If I’d been caught, I’d have had very serious legal consequences. To say nothing of the damage I could easily have done by, you know, killing people. It was a risk I took hundreds of times. And I mean that. Even though I was drunk, it was a considered risk. I would think: “I’m way too drunk to drive. But I’m out of cigarettes. Fuck it.”
We destroy our families, when we’re drunks. I can’t even bring myself to recount the litany of horrors I visited upon the people I was supposed to have loved. I did love them. I just loved drinking more. Well, that’s not quite right. I hated myself more than I loved my family. And I drank to suppress that hatred of myself. And I drank because I loved being drunk. And I drank because when I didn’t drink, my skin crawled and my bones peeled and my blood itched. And so I drank. Instead of participating in the family I tried to build, I burned it all down.
Those are the kinds of problems we have when we’re drinking.
Today I have different problems. Today, I’m disappointed that I have trouble getting a paper into a journal. Or that I might get the house for 97% of the asking price instead of 94%. Today, I am unhappy that the brilliant and beautiful woman I am seeing lives in another city, and not in my city. Today, I am frustrated that I feel distracted and unproductive at the job of my dreams.
The comparison between the life I live now, and the life I lived only six years ago is astonishing. The problems I have today are essentially nonexistent. And all I did was give up. Do what I was told by people who had been where I was. Follow a simple plan of action. Find the people who had what I wanted and then do what they did. Yesterday, when I was stressing about the house offer I made, I had a long text conversation with someone I helped get into the program. She’s been sober for more than a year and a half now. And she was always wiser and smarter than me. She reminded me to look at the problems I have today. Versus the problems I had back then.
Six years ago, I was drinking as much as I could; hiding it. Bleeding in bathtubs because when I drink, I cut myself just to watch myself bleed. To watch all that inner gall leak out from within me. Today, when I bleed, it’s because of a minor accident. I apply direct pressure until it stops. And yes, I think a bit nostalgically about the release I used to feel from cutting. But that’s a problem of my past now.
Today. Today I have a great job, a wonderful relationship, and I’m buying a house in a city I love. And I got here by taking one step at a time. Working a program of accountability and action. And by going to bed each night, for five and a half years, sober. I am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. These are the kinds of problems I have today.