Contemplating Sobriety

TW: Mention of self-harm

As I’m writing this, I’m planted at the kitchen table with a massive head ache. It’s 1:55 pm and I finally decided to get out of bed an hour ago. Seeing as I’m not yet emotionally prepared to tackle the mess that is last night’s dishes, discarded bottles and strewn gift wrap, I have simply shovelled out a 12×9 inch clearing for my laptop. All I’ve been able to think about since I woke up hungover at 8 am to the cat biting my toes, is my mom.

I went back to bed after feeding the cat to subside my pounding headache and potentially avoid this thought, but achieved neither. Instead I rolled in contemplations of last night’s liquor fuelled behaviour until 1 pm, and only then decided I had to get on with the day.

My mom hasn’t had a drink since January first of this year and I think she’ll be content if she never does again. To my knowledge, she first experimented with sobriety a couple of years prior when she became aware of a lack of presence on her part. She used to tell my sister and I that she didn’t like the way she acted when she drank, or that she didn’t like the way it made it possible for her to say things she wouldn’t say sober.

I was excited to drink last night, because my boyfriend was coming over. I was excited to drink because I’m fun when I drink. Because I feel confident when I drink. These are things I like to think he sees in me.

So I drank a handful of Moscow mules, and became a little more obnoxious, slightly more pushy, and likely a bit louder. In actuality I’m sure these were subtle progressions undetected by my roommates and boyfriend, except for the one instance that I jokingly threatened to burst a Tide detergent pod near his face, and then actually did.

At one point I noticed my roommate’s red swiss army knife on the table where it had been used to open gifts, and felt compelled to pick it up and switch the knife back and forth. As I did this, an urge crept up on me to drag the knife across the far right exterior of my left hand, just below my thumb. If you look very closely I have a couple of barely visible scars here, though not on my wrists or anywhere else in the vicinity of my arms or hands.

I walked into the kitchen to contemplate this action alone, experiencing a sickening echo of past emotional states and a familiar instinct that I can only identify as destructive.

When my high school boyfriend broke up with me in the twelfth grade, I was convinced that he’d begun flirting with my best friend in front of me. It had seemed so obvious on one afternoon in the computer lab, that instead of crying in front of them I excused myself to the washroom and short turned to one of the outdoor foyers. I was desperate to experience his concern for me again; to have him notice how much pain he was causing me— so I punched the brick wall until blood sprung from my knuckles, and returned wordlessly to the computer lab. He never noticed or else didn’t say anything, but something about the act had been relieving, akin to screaming out loud. It was physical proof of my pain.

I’ve felt compelled to perform a variation of this action several times in the years since, whenever my emotions feel too large to contain internally. I’d thought that I had gained control over it when I stopped doing it for attention, and used it exclusively as my own coping mechanism. I’ve been told by a social worker that holding an ice cube in one’s hand can provide a similar relief.

But arguably the motive for this urge last night was my boyfriend’s attention. For no reason really because he’s a very present person, but some combination of the alcohol, his presence and maybe even Christmas, reminded me of having felt this before; of needing someone’s attention. My roommate walked into the kitchen where I had wandered off to to contemplate dragging a knife across the far right exterior of my left hand, just below the thumb, and asked if I was coming back. I nodded, shut the cutlery drawer and followed her out of the room.

After that I felt that part of me was drinking to hide from that instinct. Not to say that I wasn’t having fun, but that I wanted to be drunk for other reasons. I wanted to be blissfully unaware of myself. I achieved these things. I was told that I was fun.

That word “fun” scared me this morning because I don’t want to be someone who only feels that way when they’re drunk, or relies on alcohol to bring them to that place. I was with people whom I love and in whose presence I am comfortable enough to have fun with sober— though it may require a practice that I haven’t allowed myself yet in life. It’s funny that alcohol is such a staple of my age demographic that it often takes multiple negative experiences for a person in their twenties to realize they don’t like the way it makes them feel. It’s a downer— we know this, but don’t seem to inhabit any real understanding of that fact. It shouldn’t be mixed with drugs, or medications—we know this too, but most people I know shrug that off as well. As if to prove that fact I downed my daily dosage of anti-anxiety medication at 10 pm last night, with vodka.

My boyfriend said something beautiful to me last night, and when I woke up it became a memory that I will hold onto for a long time, but I couldn’t help but wishing I’d had a clearer mind when he said it. I wish that I had been more present.

I often do.

So I’d like to make a change. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the significance of actions over words, especially as they pertain to romantic relationships. Sometimes I feel the need to tell my partner that I will do something before I ever try doing it, and those promises become increasingly empty. In fact, I wanted to text him these thoughts this morning, but then I thought that I better just go about doing it for myself instead. It’s just an inherency of my process that a part of the action for me, is writing it down. It feels more concrete that way.

So I’ve decided that I will give a serious consideration to sobriety. I’ll start with a month, but the real test will be inserting my sober self into a larger social situation when that is permitted again; dancing like nobody is watching as they say. I think that presence is a skill I’d like to give more effort to, and I’m quite sure that the only way to give a proper go about it is sober.

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