It's January 25, and I'm 24 days into a sober month. The only alcohol I've had in the last 24 days was a small shot of a Greek liqueur at my friend Katy Mena's mother's funeral. We all toasted to Vicky to help ease her passing into the next world. I don't regret it, and I don't think it counts as cheating.
It's been hard. Harder than I ever imagined it would be. I didn't realize how much I rely on a glass of wine or a beer at the end of long day to help me wind down. Or a whiskey on the rocks to help me have a better time when I'm out with my friends. Or several more to stumble home and have sloppy sex with my boyfriend. It's not like I was wasted all the time, but it started to feel like too much. Like I couldn't just go a night without having a drink, or two maybe, to relax. There is always a happy hour somewhere in New York, and I am usually always available for boozy brunch. No better way to chase a hangover than to wash it out with a Bloody Mary and bottomless Mimosas.
It started as just a casual statement to myself. I think I want to quit drinking for the entire month of January. Then I said it aloud to some people and they said, I think I like that idea. Then more friends agreed, and here we are, almost to the end. There are days that I've wanted to get completely shitfaced in some weird effort to make up for lost time. Yet, the only time I lost is when I was shitfaced. Or hungover. Or in the middle of a seizure the next day because I abused my brain chemistry by drowning it in alcohol.
For years I have watched my Dad struggle to be what people jokingly refer to as a "functional alcoholic," and I try not to let this need overtake me like it has him. Or worse, like it is doing to my friend Molly right now. My Dad is almost 60, and while it scares me to think that he may one day drink himself to death, Molly is already there. She is 33 years-old, and may not make it through the night. As her friend, I have seen her turn from the smartest, loving and loyal woman I know to a shell of herself - a hard-hearted, self-destructive, deceiving person that I am scared of. She has become such a different person that I feared losing her friendship forever if I confronted her about her alcoholism. So I didn't. I let my need for Molly to be alright, and the need to justify my own desire to continue on my own path without judgment, stop me from telling her that I was worried about her. That I thought she needed help. That I didn't want her to die.
It maybe too late now to tell her those things. She is in the ICU on a ventilator struggling to keep her organs working. Her liver failed, and now her kidneys are failing too. She is swollen and yellow, and now I believe she is the one who is scared. I've been talking to a lot of our friends over the last two days, and every conversation we have ends with, "I love you." We are all trying to hope for the best, but I'm not sure what the best is anymore.
I am heartbroken standing in this middle ground, and trying to sort through the twisted clarity my break from alcohol has brought. It has called attention to my need, even in this most inappropriate time and place, to want to drink. I want to drink just to take the edge off feeling so helpless and sad. I want to drink so that the reality of Molly's situation is less, well, real. I want to drink so that I won't be as frustrated with my boyfriend for trying to be helpful. I want to drink just because I do.
I find these confrontations confusing. I hope that I am a person who can control myself, but when it comes to alcohol, maybe it is not that simple. What will it be like when I get back to my normal routine and "allow" myself to drink again? Is it even a wise choice to ever go back? I am struggling to find solace in my old familiar friendly state of mind, and I hope to keep that wary understanding for as long as I can. I don't want to ever depend on alcohol to make me feel like a better version of myself. I want to see drinking as a fun thing I want to do, not a fun thing I have to do.
For now, I'm going to be grateful that I am able to stop for the month of January; I'm going to continue to understand my relationship with alcohol; and I'm going to pray for my friend.