Several years ago, as an avid reader/comment-section dweller of the now sadly soulless Awl offshoot ladies space, the Hairpin, I discovered the trend of washing off the excessive holiday reverie and sodden lushness of November and December with an austere, sober 31 days. This annual pilgrimage to a healthy mentality of clarity and control was dubbed Drynuary, and its partakers regularly checked in and updated their arid progress.
Two years ago, (was it two?), realizing that I probably hadn’t gone a month without drinking once since I was eighteen years old, I thought it might be a good idea to take part in myself. That dalliance lasted about 18 days, when my housemate bought a bottle of Eagle Rare in a snowstorm and pulled me off the wagon into a Britney Spears dance party. That brief alcohol free tryst also probably brought me far more quickly away from a very strange and short lived relationship I’d stumbled into with a South African gentleman named Patrick, who was quite fun to sleep with but with whom I had to struggle quite profoundly for conversation. After our first booze fueled date, in which we conducted a cocaine deal on a bar patio, shmoozed a bouncer into free entry to a soul night dance party in a basement, took a cab about twenty blocks (a wild luxury for the frugal and walk-obsessed Portlander), purchased concert tickets for a ridiculous circus band, and blasted funk music at a preposterous volume while fornicating in his duplex at 3 am, the year turned around, and I went off the liquor for the next month. Our next dates were, unsurprisingly, less inspired. I did, in my deceptively lucid, dry state, partake in some illegal substances while playing pool with him on a Tuesday. After I covertly palmed the wee plastic bag he handed me and side-stepped into the bar’s one room bathroom, while dipping my pinky finger I accidentally blew a frantically billowing dust cloud out of the bag and onto the grimy floor. Not my finest moment. After a few more strange encounters, I ghosted him rather abruptly and we carried on with our lives. If I’d been drinking during our few weeks together, who know what kind of long term trouble I might have invested in? It was for the best. But I tired of eschewing alcohol rather quickly and gave in.
Since then, I haven’t even considered trying it out. I hate limitations and I think unilateral bans are always too blunt, too sad, too authoritarian, too imprecise. But at the moment, I think it’s time again.
Although I’ve got a lot of positive and lovely attributes to my life at the moment – a thoughtful, cozy boyfriend who’s snoring beside me in a warm bed, the ability to get a burrito within five blocks of my house, hilarious and supportive friends, a very soft psychotic dog, loving, generous parents who help me take care of the soft, psychotic dog, access to a with-holding, elderly cat, christmas lights, new progress in my writing career – I’m pretty unhappy about some bigger issues. I’m currently struggling to be a writer while working a draining, non-skill-specific, manual-labor focused job 40 hours a week. I have a master’s degree, but no community college job, no PhD program yet, no editing job full time, and the creeping physical ailments of a 30 year old whose been working unendingly and abusing my body for the past ten years. I live in a community and town I love with fierce, interconnected loyalty, and yet I’m rather often confronted with fears of inadequacy regarding living in my own podunk home town. I don’t have any money, and I don’t really ever expect to.
And so, I live the lifestyle of the cyclically impoverished and I make my choices in favor of immediate satisfaction – I don’t buy anything but gas and booze, to get me to work, and then to shut my brain down when I’m out of it before I begin again. I love drinking, I love drinking with friends, I love whisky and cold, interesting beers and cheap red wine. But I also love myself. And so, instead of submerging my troubles with elixirs of invisibility, I’m afraid it’s time to confront my dissatisfaction instead of dulling it, to address my mental health problems, and save my money to buy a weird livable cargo van for when I become a perennial artist in residence at national parks. But god doesn’t it sound nice to be drinking a glass of wine while sitting next to my make-shift pop-up camp, prodding the campfire, swatting mosquitoes, grabbing Sophie’s collar when she leaps into action to attack and destroy the ill-advised fellow camper on his way to a late night outhouse?
I think it’ll be helpful and good to not only journal about this experience, but to push for my own accountability by writing about it publicly. It’s a performative action for myself, but I’m happy to have you on this journey. and so, Day one!
After a New Year’s eve party more attended by teenagers than their parents which somehow turned into a situation where I got rather fantastically wasted, I came down with a sickness I’m calling moonshine fever. Was it abetted by the homebrewed liquor I sipped gingerly from a Jameson bottle late into the night that inspired this feverish, achey, coughing, feeble state? Or did I just happen to come down with a terrible cold with impeccable timing. Whichever way, it made getting through the day no problem at all.
It also made it easy to fall asleep mid-sentence. And so now, inthe cough-syrup drenched dregs of day two, I sit wrapped in blankets in bed watching Cary Grant slap women heroically in the South of France, cough rhythmically, research whether I should just go to a journalism program for a year, and brainstorm with my editors about the land privatization movement. I probably should go into j-school for a year, shouldn’t I? And should I take the 10 hour a week job teaching English to portugese immigrants? Do I need tissues? It’s a blur . But I’m definitely not drinking.