“Sooooo … about last night.”
In my former life as a lush, that was a common phrase I heard from friends, boyfriends … random strangers who were suddenly intimate confidants.
Generally, they were followed by something to this effect:
“You were wandering around the Chick Fil A parking lot in your bathrobe.”
“You told me you hated me, that I was a piece of s*** and you wanted to break up. Then you threw up in my car.”
“You stole an old man’s hat.”
(All true stories.)
“Don’t you remember?!”
Nope, nope I didn’t. And after hearing the rundown of my asinine antics and terrible choices, into the shame spiral I went. Heart pounding, hands quaking, mouth as dry as Karl Pilkington’s wit, I’d plunge headfirst into self-loathing. At least till my next night out.
Back then (which really wasn’t so long ago), the words of Homer Simpson rang so true: “Alcohol, the cause of and solution to all life’s problems.”
Without booze, life is less like a roller coaster, more like a rolling hill. Sometimes I miss those highs — the complete lack of self-consciousness and total loss of inhibitions. Then again, I’m not sure you can miss something you really don’t remember.
Booze was my escape. As a functional melancholic, it was my coping mechanism. A few drinks in and I’d roar past the discomfort and awkwardness and self-loathing that was always tingling just beneath my skin. When I was drunk, I was free to be … well, whatever. Not me so much, because alcohol didn’t bring out the real me. It brought out the worst bits of me — the little corners of my subconscious where horrible thoughts were hiding. It led me to make regrettable choices. So. many. regrettable choices.
A lot of the time, I’d forget all about being me. Hell, sometimes I’d forget I WAS me (you haven’t lived till hotel security has to escort you from the lobby and remind you what your name is).
Despite what people say, alcohol isn’t a truth serum. Sure, it can loosen your lips, but that doesn’t mean it always inspires truth-telling. Every human has dark, hateful corners of our consciousness. Our brains dream up 60,000 thoughts per day and with numbers like that, ugly stuff is bound to creep in. There’s not a soul on planet earth who’d want the inner workings of their errant mind aired like dirty laundry. We’re all capable of the worst kind of thoughts.
It’s the thoughts we choose to hold onto that determine who we are.
Unfortunately, brains on booze sometimes pour out meaningless bits of fleeting cognition. I said a lot of mean, spiteful stuff after a few Fireball shots — most of which wasn’t true. Just because a thought rolled out of my drunken mouth didn’t mean I really believed it. That girl who spoke godawful gibberish and did ridiculous things wasn’t the “real” me. She was part of me, sure, but there are infinite parts of me. What determines who Hannah really is are the choices I make, consciously.
There are lots of benefits to not drinking in excess. No hangovers. No humiliation. No putting myself in potential danger. But the best benefit? I’m always the me I choose to be. I never have to wake up in a cold sweat; drowning in dread, worried that I’ve done or said the unforgivable. I never have to worry that something completely out of character will come lurching out of my mouth.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And without alcohol, I’ve got a much clearer view of the Hannah I choose to create. Who we are and how we live is all about our choices. I can choose to be happy, positive and confident — or insecure, erratic and miserable. Booze always amplified the latter trio, and that’s a choice I’m happy to have opted out of.