It occurred to me the other night as I left Italian class and looked up at the Beaver moon: moving to New York would have been a completely different animal if I was still drinking. Like the movie Sliding Doors, in which the main character’s life splits into two parallel scenarios depending on whether or not she catches the train, I imagine what life in New York would have been like (if I’d managed to organize myself to move at all) had I not stopped drinking almost 4 years ago.
Since I work from home, sometimes not getting showered and dressed until the afternoon, I would probably organize my day around going out for post-work cocktails or drinks and dinner with friends. While I was out, I’d convince myself I was having a good time. Living it up. Living! I’d sense the camaraderie among the others in the bar, members of an elite group that was sucking the marrow out of life in this city. I’d order one more after most others had switched to seltzer, never wanting the party to end, wishing I could freeze time in that cozy spot between sobriety and total obliteration. I’d be thankful when I spied that girl wobbling cautiously to the ladies room, choosing her steps very carefully so as not to appear as drunk as she was. Drunker than me.
If I planned to stay in for the evening, the question would arise at what point I should go out and procure a bottle of wine. Should I get dressed and made up as if I’d just come from the office (ie, earned my liquor). Or should I go in yoga pants, my version of work clothes, and imagine the knowing look of the person ringing up my purchase and then slink back to my apartment to drink alone. A cliché. If I already had a bottle of wine in house – the rare leftovers – could I resist taking a half a glass with lunch, chasing it with a rationalization of “they do it in Europe?”
Mornings would begin with a sense of guilt. I’d wake up sluggish, remorseful for the calories I’d drunk, my uncontrolled excess, the lost opportunities of a night spent not tying one on. At the same time, there would be a sense of expectation: what am I going to drink today? How much? When, where, and with whom? And what can I do to keep it in check? I’d feel squeezed between my drive to drink and my repulsion for it, leaving me with no space to breathe.
Clearly drinking occupied a lot of real estate for me – in my calendar and in my brain. Quitting lightened my mental load and clarified many aspects of what I want to do with my life. During the time I would have spent drinking, I take classes, go to movies, go for walks, spend time with my boyfriend or friends, read, or write these posts. Or I do nothing, and I get bored, anxious, and restless. But I don’t drink.
In return, I experience my life without a buffer. And, for what it’s worth, this would never have been written if I hadn’t gotten on that train, ahem, wagon.