I’m a habitual drinker.
I’m drinking while I write this. As with most nights, I’m at my desk, a class of whiskey to my left, this keyboard and monitor in front of me. I will probably spend most of my time blogging when I should really be working on the bajillion books and short stories I have in various stages of completion. But blogging is infinitely easier and I don’t have to convince anyone other than myself to publish it.
For what it’s worth, I’m drinking Redemption Rye on the rocks from a Jameson’s Irish Whskey glass.
I’m not an alcoholic. I would imagine that would be where most people’s minds would go after reading that first line. I’ve had that discussion with a trained professional. I’ve never gotten black out drunk. I’ve never had a drink in the morning to get right. I’ve never shirked my responsibilities so I could drink.
In fact, I usually don’t have a drink until around 9 o’clock at night because that’s when my son has fallen asleep and even then that’s only if my wife is home, as every once in a while she’ll have to work late. I don’t drink a drop unless the day is done. I am an unbelievably responsible drinker given how often I do it.
Drinking for me is a habit, one that has me around its finger.
I associate drinking with a lot of positive things, which is saying a lot given that my uncle drank himself to death.
I fully admit that whiskey has been a way for me to cope with the things that I don’t want to cope with.
But through the various ups and downs of drinking, in the end it has always been my way of relaxing, my way to shut myself off so that I can enjoy myself.
I am constantly at war with myself and alcohol creates peace.
A secondary problem is the fact that I’ve been drinking for about an hour now and the above line just came to me and I really, really like it and legitimately wonder if I could have come up with it stone cold sober. I think I could have. But I don’t know.
I have always used alcohol to relax, to escape the part of my brain that prevents me from doing any number of things that I want to do. It is easier for me to write when I’ve been drinking because my mind doesn’t wander as much, I have an easier time accessing the part of my brain that feels complete when I write, and I become less concerned with the world around me.
That last point is crucial. I think too much. I think way, way too much. I don’t sleep, although at this point that’s less to do with how much I think and more to do with the fact that my body has become accustomed to going to bed under the influence.
My habit has become more pronounced since I became a parent. That time once my son has gone to sleep and before I do is precious. It’s when I am free to do what I want and what I want is to be able to relax, either for the sake of doing nothing or to write. And so I have a drink.
But I am well aware that this is a habit and it has become a point of contention for me. Aside from the obvious health issues (although I generally don’t have more than a single drink each night [although I should point out that my drinks are roughly twice the size of a regular drink]), there’s the simple fact that I hate that anything has any kind of control over me. I hate that at a certain point during the night I want to have a drink and I have to fight with myself about it.
I recently got sick yet again, so I went weeks without drinking, although I was still using relaxing agents in the form of cough medicine. At a certain point it was no longer necessary for my cough, so I stopped, and actually started going to bed chemical free. I had troubles falling asleep, but I was so tired from being sick that it wasn’t as bad as it usually was. I was also going to bed earlier, which meant I could still get a decent night’s sleep even if it took me a while to doze off.
At the tail end of my illness, I told Nicole that, if I started drinking every night and staying up late, to remind me of how good I felt now that I was getting some sleep. It’s true; I felt great. It wasn’t just that I no longer felt drowsy at various points throughout the day, it’s that I felt happier.
It wasn’t just the extra sleep that had changed me. Because I was sick, it gave me an excuse to not put pressure on myself to accomplish anything at night. It gave me permission to sit in front of the TV watching old episodes of shows I loved while reading comics and YA books.
I was finally able to relax.
But now I’m more or less better and I’ve returned to normal life and I find myself facing the same issues as before: I want to have a drink at night. I want to be able to relax and enjoy myself. I want to be able to write without thinking it’s pointless.
The funny thing is that I’m actually great at rationalizing most things in my life, yet those few hours at night mess with my head.
It’s Friday night as I finish writing this. My son is asleep. Nicole is asleep. Tomorrow is my morning to sleep in. I’m having a glass of Jack Daniels and I’m writing. This is only the second time I’ve had a drink this week, so I feel good about that.
I’m struggling with acceptance. There’s hasn’t been a night when I haven’t thought that I should just have a drink and hide out in my office like I used to do. There hasn’t been a night when I haven’t felt bad about not doing anything, not using my time constructively, and there hasn’t been a night where I haven’t felt bad about feeling bad.
But tonight is the one night where I’m able to have a drink with no regrets. Tomorrow night I will endeavor to relax without one. Hopefully, slowly but surely, I can finally break this habit, and be all the happier for it.
I know that I don’t need a drink to be happy; I just don’t know if I need one to be content.