Ladies & gentlemen, excuse me for this sad little tale, but I have to get this off my chest. I have suspected it for a long, long time, but I finally admitted it to myself last night. At least, I said it out loud for the first time and knew in my heart is was true. I’m a drunk.
I come from an Irish/german background, so my family is heavy drinking group. (My parents routinely had three or four martinis at the end of every night) My friends from high school, and pretty much all my siblings friends were heavy drinkers.
I’m 33, I had my first sip of a beer at age 13 or 14 (can’t exactly remember when), but was drinking regularly on the weekends by age 16, as well as smoking pot, eating mushrooms and (very occasional) hits of LSD or Ecstasy. By the time I was 21, I was already going out to bars on a regular basis. “Going out” usually meant bar hopping to at least two or three different places, often being out 'til closing time (4am) and frequent after-hour parties after that. I dropped out of college for two years and spent most of my time partying. When I finally did go back to school, I was genuinely shocked to meet people my age who didn’t drink routinely, or didn’t actually like hanging out at bars.
I guess that’s not too out of the ordinary. A lot of people get stupid drunk when their younger. It’s just that over time, my high school friends gradually settled down, got careers, got married & had kids, and generally got lives. Me, I just kept on being a barfly.
Part of it was because I was coming out of the closet at the time. I was still in the closet to my family and most of my friends, but I was starting to cruise gay bars. (I grew up in Buffalo, which does not have much of a gay culture apart from the bar scene.) I got into the habit of going out drinking by myself. Twice, I got into accidents by driving while I was bombed.
I moved to NYC, and came out of the closet all the way, and got to meet some friends outside the bar scene. But I was still stuck in a pattern of cruising bars, sometimes for sex, or even just to meet new people I kept telling myself. I got to be a regular at several bars. Not going there with people, just coming in, getting tanked and looking for one night stands. I got to know a bunch of the regulars at my local neighborhood watering hole, and gradually I began to spend more and more of my weekend nights just hanging around the same old dumpy bar, talking with the same people. I considered them friends, but I never actually became “friends” with any of them. They were simply the gang at the bar, I never got to know them, or do anything with them outside it.
Even when I had a full-time job, I was progressively spending more and more nights out at my watering hole. At first, it was just Saturday nights, then Fridays & Saturdays, then Thursday as well. I missed work, came in late, came in hungover.
I haven’t worked full-time in over a year, due to the bad economy. In that time, I’ve been routinely out drinking four or five nights a week. I used to drink mainly beer, then vodka, then scotch and whiskey. Even though I am sometimes scraping up money to pay the rent some times, I always trot out to my local saloon the night I get some spare cash. My social life has pretty much been reduced to bar crawling. I’ve lost touch with a lot of people I used to be very close with. I haven’t had a relationship in years. I don’t paint, or work out, or go out to the theater, all things I used to really love doing.
While I keep telling myself it beats sitting home watching t.v., that I really just want to get out and talk to somebody, I usually end up sucking down drinks in a corner by myself, and come home feeling miserable. I wake up in the morning (more often like noon or even later) reeking of smoke (and I don’t smoke), less about 50 - 75 bucks or so, with a crushing headache, and regretting ever setting foot outside my door. I don’t even bother to cruise any one any more. I have less and less interest in sex lately.
From time to time, I have noticed old geezers hanging out at gay bars. Some aren’t even really old, maybe 40-ish. But you can always see maybe one or two of them, drink in hand, by themselves, holding up the wall, looking forelorn and lonely , and no one taking much interest in them. “How pathetic” I used to think, and I swore to myself I would never end becoming one of those geezers. As I grew older, I began to worry about the possibility that I might one day be one of those lonely old men. A few months ago, it struck me that I already was one of them.
I know I’m wasting my life. Some days, I really and truly despise myself. But every time that I tell myself I am going to change my ways, that I will not waste time and money in my local watering hole, that I’ll get a real life, I know from the moment I say it, that I won’t stick with it more than a day. I am not a binge drinker, I’ve never had a blackout, I haven’t hit rock bottom (I think), but I simply can’t go more than a few days without alcohol. In all honesty, I haven’t gone more than a week without alcohol in over a decade. I began seeing a doctor for depression this past spring. He’s been prescribing antidepressents for me, and stressed that I should not drink while taking them. It didn’t stop me in the least. I’ve tried to limit myself to one night out a week, told myself I’d give up drinking just for a month to give my liver a break, tried to set myself spending limits (“one twenty dollar bill, and after that’s gone, you go home!”), but I just feel this compulsive urge to get on top of a bar stool and suck 'em down, and I feel that urge almost every day.
Last night, I went out with 60 bucks in my pocket. After three bars, and I don’t know how many Johnny Walkers later, I got 20 bucks more out of the ATM and hit my local saloon just in time for closing time. I did the exact same thing on Thursday night as well. When I got home, I finally had to admit it to myself; I’ve got a major problem. I need help with it.
Any way, I realize this whole spiel is pathetic and depressing, but I just needed to get it out there. Even though I can admit it to myself, I would feel really uncomfortable talking to anyone I know about this, face to face. On the other hand, I didn’t want to just admit it to myself last night and do nothing about it. I thought, maybe if I posted it online, that would sort of make it “real” – that I’ve made a step toward owning up to it. I suppose that sounds silly, but I just had to do it.
Well I’ll be checking the Yellow Pages for AA meetings. Wish me luck. Does this count as day one (provided I make it through the day?)