Why don’t we make it easier for anyone to have a glass of water without interrogation?by Cathy Rentzenbrink / September 18, 2018 / Leave a comment
“Who do you have to screw to get a glass of water around here?”
I’ve never actually said this in the 16 months since I stopped drinking alcohol but I think it all the time. I expected to have to battle with myself over the booze—it’s ongoing and I’m winning—but the big surprise is how hard it is to navigate the outside world. I keep reading that sobriety is a trend but in my real world I feel like the party pooper who has called time on wine o’clock.
For almost three decades I reached for a drink when I wanted to relax, take the edge off, or celebrate. I drank every day and often to great excess. I liked myself with a glass in my hand; I felt confident and amusing and much less of a worrier. The world looked fuzzy and friendly and everything was easier to tolerate. “I’ve never met a drink I don’t like,” I used to say.
Sumptuous elegance, brutal hangovers
I loved it all, the liquor and the language. I liked benders, chasers, liveners, pushing on until dawn and the hair of the dog. Equally happy downing pints of Guinness at the bar of a scruffy pub or working my way through the cocktail menu in a fancy bar, I liked getting squiffy, trousered, trashed, hammered and slaughtered. In recent years I especially loved the flutes full of fizz handed around on silver trays at literary parties. Sometimes they came with pomegranate seeds, once even gold leaf.
This sumptuous elegance made me feel I’d arrived. Whenever I tried to exercise restraint I heard the voices of my ancestors in my head urging me on: “Go on, love. It’s free. And you don’t know how long it will last. Get stuck in while you can.”
Sadly though, the aftermath got increasingly brutal as I aged, with hangovers that lasted for days and came with an increasing side helping of self-loathing. I tried to moderate but none of my complex strategies worked for long.
My last night on the pop wasn’t especially flamboyant or excessive. Feeling insecure at a literary festival, I coped with being ignored by the posh men opposite me at dinner by guzzling all the wine. The next day, continually on…