Kneeling before the Porcelain Goddess, I purged my last offering three years ago this past January. It felt like I should have known better and I really had suffered enough bar hopping to end up on cold tile with bad knees at my age. Normally I’d sip slowly until my cold drink warmed my skin. At that point I would switch to soda until I felt cold again. Really, there is no need to make excuses for bad behavior when drinking. For most people, that is the only point. For me, drinking in the last decade and a half has been about control and skating the line without crossing it. Before dinner was served, I was praising the goddess for allowing me to purge quietly and alone, holding my own hair back. I slipped back down to the party at some point, and felt so much better slipping into anonymity during the speeches and awards. I am not against drinking. I can sip champagne in celebration and will toast with the crowd, but then I prefer a drink without alcohol. At the end of the day, at the end of the trauma, at the end of disappointment, I’m not a drinker. Not anymore.
There is something about mothering that requires you to be immediately available without being constantly present. Children need the space to be creative and make mistakes and explore boundaries, but they also need you close enough to rescue them. To me, this has meant being sober. I’ve had enough random emergency room trips to expect a need to be able to drive someone to the ER at any given moment. It has usually resulted in me being the designated driver because I refuse to model drinking and driving as ever being an option.
Most of my relationships included a double standard where I was with someone that wanted me to drink, but I could never find the line to not cross. How much is enough to be relaxed and fun without being too drunk and an embarrassment? It was easier to stop trying. If I had a do over it would be my trip to New York. My ex boyfriend had spent a few years there and I wanted to take him back for his birthday. We spent an evening at a wedding where the melon cocktail tasted just like honeydew melon. I couldn’t get enough. It was a great night, except when we tried to go to a club I was drunk and passed out in the back seat of the car and everyone’s night was cut short because of me. He dumped me a couple of weeks later, handing me a small cactus plant and a line about seeing one that was almost as tall as he was (he was not taller than me) and hoping our friendship would see the plant grow to that size. One night I was so drunk on Tanqueray and apple juice that the ground felt like it was moving and I couldn’t find it because it was much lower than it should have been. The next morning I gave the cactus my roundhouse kick and destroyed it before sweeping it into the trash. He didn’t love it when I was drunk until we were no longer a couple and I would call him. Then he loved coming over. I remember drunk writing him a letter and I wrote, “F you and the horse you rode in on . . . you killed my joke because you drive a Mustang.” Clearly, drinking didn’t help my writing. Eventually I asked him if he got off on the emotional damage he left behind and he stopped coming around.
When I wasn’t in a relationship, drinking was always destructive and the bad choices were disguised as fun inebriation. When I was underage, we knew the liquor stores in Echo Park where a store owner would ask for ID, but not actually check it. Or we had a 40 oz. of beer for the homeless person willing to buy our case of long necks. I was going to raves all over Los Angeles where we brought our own bottles of Everclear and Tequila, but could buy beer from a keg and “happy balloons” from a nitrous oxide tank. I got older and my first bar was the 35er in Pasadena. I would later become a regular at the Short Stop. It was a cop bar at the time and I felt there was safety there. More than once I’d pass out in a booth next to the DJ. Once, as I was waking up, he leaned over and asked, “are your tits real? You gotta know they are perfect.” That was the last time I got drunk there. Before that I met a bartender for the Barney’s Beanery in Beverly Hills at the Short Stop. She bought me a shooter of Coralejo tequila to sip with my beer and then she disappeared on me when I passed out, but I had her number written on my body. I would later meet her at work where she plied me with free drink after free drink, trying to recreate the melon cocktail I’d had in New York. I don’t know how I drove home through rush hour traffic. One Christmas I drove from Covina to Hollywood on vodka shots and ended up at the Good Luck Bar at Sunset and Hollywood. Another time, I remember waking up one morning and seeing how badly I had parked my car. I didn’t remember getting home.
A friend’s big brother liked to give me special attention whenever we hung out. My friend would leave the room and his brother would steal moments to see how far we could go before we had an audience. I didn’t mind when we were sober and I was willing but it was always his initiation. It was a game and I was still into much older men. At these times we never went too far. One night he surprised me by stopping by with way too much Long Island Iced Tea. The room was spinning out of control and I couldn’t stand up on my own. That was the night he took things further than I wanted to go. I was too drunk to consent and this was before the campaigns that would have called it date rape. He stopped after it was clear my “no” wasn’t going to become a “yes.” I never drank around him again. Truthfully, he wasn’t interested in being around me after that either.
Being a wife and mother squeezed out the alcohol. I’m a cheap date and can’t handle my liquor now but that’s okay. I can still get into all kinds of shenanigans while completely sober. All I need’s a dash of anger and a cheering section. Or a partner in crime. Tomorrow night I’m meeting friends at a bar and I have every intention of sipping Shirley Temples. Or if drinks are had, there will be dinner because I want to be able to safely drive myself home. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t kill anyone in the couple of years that I was spiraling and binge drinking on weekends. It’s a miracle that I didn’t get in any accidents while intoxicated. So, I’m not a drinker, but I don’t mind when others drink.