Every alcoholic everywhere should ask themselves, “Am I merely a dildo soaked in vinegar, or a pickle?”
A couple weeks ago, a sober buddy told me a metaphor for alcoholism I thought clever. He said, “Dan, you’re either a cucumber or a pickle. And after you’ve drunk for a while, you find out which.”
The metaphor is this: Everyone starts out a cucumber, but some of us, after being drowned in vinegar for a while, turn into something you chop up and dress a burger with. In the metaphor, the vinegar represents alcohol. The cucumber doesn’t represent your penis, which succumbs to alcohol-related erectile dysfunction, but the alcoholic, who can’t go back to being a pickle once he’s soaked in the proverbial vinegar for a while.
He’s gone through a metamorphosis, and can’t go back to being a caterpillar who drinks the occasional gin and tonic with friends. He’s now a butterfly flying around like he’s just learned how to do it, hell-bent on drinking the bar dry, whether his friends are still there or not.
My buddy’s metaphor is sound, but it has one fatal flaw: All cucumbers turn into pickles when soaked in vinegar, which implies all of us have the potential to become alcoholics, if we just soaked for long enough. That might have been his point, but the context of the conversation didn’t support that.
With one minor tweak, the metaphor becomes one rigorous to examination of its logic. I’ll take it for a spin now, with you as my test subject: “Reader, you’re either a cucumber or a dildo. And after getting shitfaced for a while, you’ll find out which.”
Hear me out.
In the history of cuisine, a dildo has never been transformed into a pickle. Dildos are made of rubber, and no matter how many bottles of gin you force them to drink, they’ll always remain a phallic object impervious to the effects of alcohol. Sure, they’ll get drunk, and depending on the temperature of the alcohol in which they’re soaked, they might get a little floppier. But take them out, and they’ll dry off, go back to living their normal life as a dildo, and definitely shouldn’t be chopped up and smeared in ketchup for consumption.
The dildo, unlike the cucumber, hasn’t gone through a metamorphosis. He’s still a caterpillar, and is content with crawling, taking the occasional drink. He doesn’t want to fly, as the wings he’d get look shit anyway. Like a DUI waiting to happen.
So which one are you? A dildo or a cucumber?
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One AA session in, Dan is battling old demons: He’s still trying to convince himself he’s an alcoholic.
Last week I made a commitment to go to a strange place every Saturday, talk about my feelings with strangers, and hold hands with other dudes as we say a prayer I don’t yet know the words to, all in the name of staying sober.
I haven’t joined a cult; I’m a bona fide member of AA. I even already have a buddy I can phone with whom to shoot the shit. What I’ve learned about AA so far is that relationships between people in that environment move at breakneck speed. I, usually the overfamiliar one when it comes to getting to know people, feel like a highschool junior who’s being driven out to a make-out spot by a senior who’s got his hand on my knee.
As positive as I am about building up a network of other sober people to strengthen my resolve and accountability, I’m a little bit weirded out by the intensity of it all—this is my failing, not theirs: they’ve been nothing but welcoming. I thought the members there would ease me into it, allowing me to at least get my seat warm before I opened my mouth, but AA members don’t do shit by halves. They wouldn’t, as that’s why they’re sitting there in the first place.
I think it’s natural to go to your first AA meeting, hear stories from the members there, and feel like a phony, like you haven’t earned the right to be there as much as everyone else. Think of it like a dick-measuring contest, but for fuck-ups.
But as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts—or at least I think I have—labels don’t mean shit. To qualify as an alcoholic, you only have to possess the need or want to quit drinking. It doesn’t matter if your drinking habits are restricted to getting shitfaced every Christmas and birthday. All that matters is that you think you’d be a lot better off without booze in your life.
And don’t let someone tell you shouldn’t quit, just because you don’t meet the definition of an alcoholic in their mind. You certainly shouldn’t not quit drinking just because it’ll make them feel better about drinking a bottle of White Zin every Friday night.
Which brings us to the topic of this week’s blog post:
You don’t have to jump through hoops to convince other people of your alcoholism—even if that shit only exists in your mind, which in my case it most definitely does. In the world of sobriety, you can be shit at throwing a shot put and still compete at the Olympics.
After the meeting, while I small talked with other members, I felt like that’s what I was doing at times—again, that shit’s on me. They’d say something I thought implied I was still discovering my relationship to alcohol. That I had to say something that would convince them of my genuineness, because I was new to AA. And I am; I’m just not new to wrestling with the temptations of alcohol. The experience was a test of humility—the ability to nod, smile, and bite my tongue.
I guess that’s the message of this blog post. If you’re contemplating quitting drinking, that the hangovers aren’t worth the fun the night before, the only person you have to convince that you need to quit is yourself.
Besides, taking the step meet your own definition, to define yourself as an alcoholic, is big enough without having to meet other people’s criteria for membership.
You’re an alcoholic if you want to be… as long as you want to quit drinking. And when you go to your first AA meeting, you’ll do well to keep that shit in mind, because you might come away feeling like you have a sobriety micro penis.
Thanks for reading! You’ve probably guessed I didn’t bring my A-game this week, but I’ll give you the usual spiel anyway: If you enjoyed this post, no matter how unlikely, don’t forget to follow Hilariously Sober. And if it made you laugh out at least three times, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share this post with your friends on social media.
This week, Dan tells you you’re not a beautiful snowflake, talks about cancer, and invites you to become a member of The Fisty Cuffs Club.
On some sobriety podcast I heard a statistic that scared the shit out of me. I can’t remember the exact figures, but it was something close to this: of alcoholics that get sober, only 10 percent of them are sober after one year, and after five years only ten percent of that ten percent remain sober.
Let’s run some numbers. Take a hundred drunks, get them in clinics doing hot yoga and talking about their feelings with strangers, and drill into them that they can never drink again, because if there’s one thing they can’t do, they can’t moderate how much they drink. Of those hundred people that hiked up a mountain for the first time, ten of those will still be sober after a year. The other ninety are excusing themselves from the dinner table to sneak off to the bathroom to take a sip of vodka they’ve hidden in a mouthwash bottle, or they’re sitting at a bar drinking their “just one more,” hoping beyond hope that the glass doesn’t get empty.
But we’re not concerned with those people. At least for the purpose of this blog post. We’re looking at the guys and gals who—Jesus, I just realized I hate when people say guys and gals—who carry on going to AA, trade off booze for other healthy or healthier addictions, and collect their chips. Of those ten, only one of them stays the course for five years.
That’s one out of a hundred who’s still sober.
If you got cancer and were given an option of treatment that would make you sick as a circus clown during off season, and you knew that there’s only a one-percent chance the treatment would work, that your cancer in its particular stage only had a one-percent five-year survival rate, the first thing you’d do is start thinking up dumb things to do for your bucket list and thinking about what song you want played at your funeral to make your loved ones tear up and think about what a great guy—or gal—you were.
If you’re interested, mine would totally be ‘Leaving, On A Jet Plant’ by John Denver. It has a shitload of saccharin subtext in a funeral setting, and with its heavy dose of melancholy it would make the guests at my funeral so upset they’d probably forget to get shitfaced afterwards, which in some poetic but backwards way would be this blogger’s greatest achievement.
As a sobriety advocate, I’ve got tell you you’re a beautiful snowflake and that you shouldn’t be focussed on those other ninety-nine deadbeats, all the while knowing I’ve never made it to five years myself, but you can, God dammit.
And as someone who’s determined to stay sober today, and tomorrow—and, dare I say it, for the rest of my life—I’ve got to have Kanye West-level narcissism in the face of those statistics if I’m to remain convinced I’m going to achieve my goal.
But that’s the thing about lifelong sobriety. It’s never achieved, not really. Here’s a happy thought: The only time that you’ve achieved it is after the moment you breathe your last breath, and then your consciousness isn’t even around to acknowledge your achievement, and it’s your life’s work! It’s left on a jet plane, and it’s impossible for it to know for sure whether it’ll be back again.
Jeez, I’m a ray of sunshine this morning.
Luckily for us, that statistic is just a statistic. And luckily for us, I have a pertinent cliché to quote: it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.
In writing this blog, I haven’t hidden my disdain for AA clichés, but in writing this particular blog post, it’s making me think about one in a different light: One day at a time…
One day at a time, I’m not looking forward to the future in a bad way.
One day at a time, I’m enjoying being sober.
One day at a time, I’m achieving my goal.
Fuck it, John can keep his jet plane, and the Dan that wrote the start of this blog post can shove back his opening in his ass where he pulled it from. Here’s a new one:
On some sobriety podcast, I heard a statistic that inspired the shit out of me…
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Dan had to buy booze for someone else’s consumption this week, and to do so he had to endure a conversation with the devil.
This week I had to visit an old friend: my local wine monopoly in some shit-splat district of Oslo.
The staff knows me well there. I always interacted with them with a smile, something which seems to be a rarity in Oslo, and I bought gin in quantities that suggested I either hosted a James Bond-themed dinner party most evenings of the week or I was a painter and decorator who stripped paint from walls in an uneconomical manner.
The reason I had to go back there wasn’t because I relapsed. My dad headed to New Zealand this week, and could fit me in for a flying visit. I hosted him and his wife for an evening, and I wanted them to feel comfortable: I wanted them to be able to drink, and for me to at least look cool about it.
I wanted them to have an experience that didn’t resemble what it was: spending an evening with an alcoholic who was white-knuckling his way through their drinking.
I could’ve gone to my local convenience store, picked up some Budvars or cans of the locally produced pilsner, but I hated going to people’s homes and drinking Coors Lite or the like. In Norway, regular store type stores can’t stock drinks with an ABV above 4.7 percent, which means having to go to a government-run liquor store—a wine monopoly—to get Belgian beers.
The type of stuff that’s worthy to serve to a guy I don’t see often enough now that I pay a mortgage away from home.
While selecting beers fit for my dad’s consumption, a voice groaned in my head: Mmm…You remember that one, don’t you, Dan?
It was either the devil or a demon I’ll probably spend the rest of my life with. The one that implores me to get shitfaced. I’m not religious, so I figured it to be the latter. And he spoke in the voice of Bob Hoskins, but with an American accent.
I did remember the one at which he caught me looking too long: Rochefort 11, a Belgian Trappist with a kick like a mule with fresh horse shoes but goes down like room-temperature nectar.
I ignored him and focussed on the task at hand: getting out of there with just enough beer for my dad. But Bob had other plans: How often does he visit, Dan? Once every two years? Three, at a push?
I shook my head, not because I didn’t know, but because I knew where the conversation was going. I would, because Bob was just saying what I’d been thinking about on the train ride there: If there were a time to have a little break from this silly sobriety thing you’re kidding yourself with, now would be the time, buddy, he said.
He’d referred to me as buddy because he wanted to maintain what little rapport he had with me despite belittling my achievement of nearly three months’ sobriety. I’m no dummy, but he made a compelling argument.
Realizing he’d skipped part of his argument he set the scene for the next evening: Jazz music, crisp coldness you get in 0slo this time of the year outside, but you two don’t care, because you’re relaxing inside in a dimly-lit apartment. All that’s cozy enough, as long as you can relax for the first time in three months. He paused, then went for the jugular. You’ve been struggling with that, haven’t you, buddy?
He was right. I wake at five every morning, work up to third gear by six o’clock with tea and nicotine, and then hit the ground running by hammering out between a thousand and one-thousand five-hundred words of fiction before going to my day gig, which requires tapping into fifth gear for seven and a half hours. And then I can relax, or at least attempt to.
I hadn’t responded to him, so, desperate, he relied on a cliché to further his argument: If there’s a guy who deserves to sit and drink a Rochefort 11 after a long day’s work, then it’s you, pal. It’s a no-brainer now that your pops’ll be there. Unwind, laugh, reminisce about old times, and sobriety’ll be there just where you left it. Admit it. You’ve missed it; you’ve missed me. You can pick up sobriety again just as easily as you can pick two, not one, bottles of that beer you’ve been staring at too long.
Before I got sober, I thought of sobriety as a sacrifice. But now that I’m into the swing of it, I realize it’s the opposite. By getting shitfaced every night, I was missing out on something that eclipses the feeling of drunkenness: the crispness of sobriety. Everything else—the increase in productivity, the slow climb upwards of my bank balance, and erections of a seventeen-year-old—is just a bonus.
And that shitty argument about being able to just get back on the wagon again? Even Bob knew that was weak.
He noticed I hadn’t taken anything off the shelf yet, so, taking that as sign his argument was gaining traction, he carried on. Worse, he worked the diplomatic angle before mining for a bundle of nerves: Look, forget that stuff I said about sobriety being silly. We both know it’s done you the world of good. But we’re heading out into unchartered waters. He paused. I’ll spell it out for you. You haven’t been funny since you quit drinking. That blog post you’ll write about this experience, I bet there’s not a single laugh in it up to this point, apart from some cheap smutty joke about your erections being better now that you’ve shit on our relationship. You haven’t been funny since you’ve been doing this shit sober.
I’d heard enough, so I got four or five beers, hastily selected, and not one that I’d earmarked for my consumption.
As I was paying, Bob showed his true colors. Gone was the diplomacy: You know what you are, Dan? A real pussy. I thought more of you. I really did.
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Two months later Dan returns to the scene of the crime, his favorite bar in Oslo, and comes to the realization that one-year-olds shouldn’t eat burgers.
There’s no better place to convince yourself your drinking’s not a problem than at a bar. It turns out the opposite of that is also true.
My place, when I celebrated birthdays, couldn’t find a decent movie to download from a totally reputable website on a Saturday night, or wanted to find a place that serves alcohol on Sundays, was The Amundsen, downtown Oslo.
It was also the place I went to pretend I had friends, even if the drunken-idiot version of myself knew deep down the people with whom I tried to talk thought the shit I was choosing at random to say to them a chore to listen to.
The last couple months, hopefully the first couple months at the start of the rest of my life of sobriety, I haven’t exactly been dying to go back there. I had a few bad experiences where drinking buddies ratted me out for being too wasted, and standing around pouring shit down my throat (now non-alcoholic shit) for the few hours it’d take to justify the metro travel time to get there, doesn’t seem as appealing as binge watching HBO TV series and drinking cola now that I’m sober.
But last weekend I went for the first time without the intention of getting shitfaced.
I didn’t go there by design. I had decided to eat in town before I went to the movie theater, and had planned on going to McDonalds for the first time in around ten years. When we arrived at Ronald McDonald’s Type 2 Diabetes Shack, my girlfriend and I, you’d think they were giving away burgers for free by the length of the queue. Sure, I wanted to eat a McSausage or some shit ironically—to reminisce or feel silly or both—but I didn’t want to wait twenty minutes to get it.
Plus, it wasn’t just my quantitative analysis of the queue that was the issue; when I glanced at it, I also did some of the qualitative variety, and came to this conclusion: The diners at that particular McDonald’s would make a solar-eclipse-looking venn diagram with the type of Snapchatting, OMG-saying douchebag that goes to a Miley Cyrus concert.
I’m lazy by nature, so I decided for the both of us that we should just go around the corner to The Amundsen. I suggested it nonchalantly, like it was no big deal. I told her that we could go in there, order non-alcoholic drinks, eat a classy burger, and make it out in the time it would take before we could even barely see the menu at McD’s, having to do so over six-feet-seven fifteen-year-olds.
To top the argument off, I shrugged, and shot her a look that said, What’s the worst than can occur? avoiding any Dr Pepper intellectual property theft.
It’s worth noting at this point that The Amundsen isn’t the type of place that has a whole row of beer taps consisting of the same brand of domestic, but the type of watering hole that has a microbrewery housed in a glass-walled alcove for all to see. It’s the Mecca in Oslo for beer snobbery, the type of place that groups beers in refrigerators by style and sets the temperature accordingly.
I’ve gotten used to going to my local convenience store and avoiding looking at the selection of beer they have there, but going here and achieving that was like stepping up from boxing a beer-bellied slob at some local darts hall’s amateur boxing event to surviving the championship rounds with Mike Tyson… or some other ubiquitously feared boxer who’s relevant in 2017.
I couldn’t run past the beers, make it to the cheese refrigerator, and breathe a sigh of relief. Beers were everywhere. I felt like I was in Vietnam and had ignored LSD and dye-tie flares in favor of drill sergeants and five-o’clock starts. They were everywhere, and they were staring at me like I was the uniform who’d raped the wives and daughters of their bamboo-shack village. They wanted to fuck me up, in a bad way.
We survived the beer-selection firing squad, got our non-alcoholic beers, ordered a couple burgers that read great on the menu, was seated by a Swedish waiter making bank in Oslo before he would go back to Sweden to study, and tried to relax.
It was like the good old days. Like we’d earned it.
It was then that I knew that I’m an alcoholic.
The couple weeks before, I’d been questioning whether I have a lifelong problem with boozing. As the number of days you’ve been sober become weeks, and then months, it’s only natural. Hell, if I were a serial killer, and for two months I’d managed to not lure a naïve twenty-something to my LGV in the parking lot of some bar, abduct her, and keep her locked up in my dungeon before killing her and wearing her skin, I’d start to convince myself I wasn’t still a criminally insane lunatic with mommy issues.
But it wouldn’t make it so.
I might have refrained from killing someone for a relatively decent length of time, but by God I still bought lotion in bulk from Costco.
To cut a long story short, during the time I spent in that bar, I felt like a one-year-old who wasn’t allowed his bottle. I was whiny, on edge, and I was one customer talking too loudly away from knocking my burger off my highchair.
Relaxing at a bar is no longer a thing I can do. But that’s fine. I didn’t like the motherfuckers that went there anyway.
There’s no better place to convince yourself your drinking’s not a problem than surrounding yourself with alcoholics, and it turns out the opposite of that is also true.
Thanks for reading, but don’t stop here! I’ve got some shit to plug first.
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Staying sober is like that Chris Nolan movie when the dude has to tattoo shit all over his body to find out it was he who killed his wife anyway.
One of the hardest things about quitting booze is our short memories. That, and we’re suckers for destructive relationships.
We get shitfaced, we wake up hungover and realize what a mistake it was, and then we get back on the wagon. We feel the sweet relief of being free from the exhaustion of drinking and get back to our hobbies; we start to enjoy the simplicity of watching TV with a glass of carbonated water, and wonder why the fuck we hadn’t done it more often.
That first week is easy. It’s like taking candy from a baby with carpal tunnel syndrome.
And then we start to forget how shitty drinking is and all the bullshit that comes along with it: the depression, the expense, the trips to the liquor store and the thinly veiled raised eyebrows when we put our two bottles of cheap gin on the conveyor belt, and madness of handing over money for bags of ice from the store when that shit can be made in a home appliance everyone has, if only we were organized enough to have made them. Who knew?
Not only do we start to forget that shit, but we start romanticizing the times when we drank. We filter out all the bad experiences and remember all the fun times. When I think back to my childhood summers, I remember them being exclusively like the plot of Stand by Me, when a lot of it was staring through the patio window, willing the rain to stop so I could go out and play.
Alcohol cravings are like that shitty ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who desperately wants you back. When they’re advocating you two should get back together, they’re not going to give a balanced, fair of assessment of how well you worked together. They’re going to remind you of that time you had a blast watching SpongeBob SquarePants while shitfaced on mojitos, and hope you don’t remember the time they slapped you about the face for buying still instead of sparkling White Zin.
I’m on the wagon again, and I think it’s for good this time. And this is why: I’m shit angry at booze, and this time I’m holding a grudge.
If ever there were ever a time that it’s healthy to hang on to negative emotions, quitting drinking is that time.
Don’t forgive that motherfucker. Because she or he hasn’t changed. It’s still the same lying piece of shit it was when you left it. And for all those good times it gave you, it came with a shitload of baggage that some other sap can deal with. You’re too good for that shit.
Stay angry at alcohol. That motherfucker deserves it.
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After being sober awhile, you may question whether you’re an alcoholic. I did, and nearly ended up ordering three blue chimneys.
One of the first blog posts I wrote was an off-the-wall quasi-alcoholism-self-diagnosis guide that I partially used to recognize I was an alcoholic. It was only semi-serious, meaning that while it was true, it wasn’t exactly a heart-to-heart with myself, looking deep into my soul or some shit, but centered on more flippant, humorous signs of alcoholism.
Today, I’m three months sober, which I consider to be a milestone. More so than ten weeks, or two months, and, weirdly, probably more so than five months, when I eventually get to that. Maybe it’s because three months is the length of a season; maybe it’s because good things come in threes (that’s a saying, right?); or maybe it’s because in my sobriety I’ve reached a Zen-like state where the past and future seem irrelevant, and I only think of the present, which gives this milestone sole significance over the sobriety milestones of the future and past.
The last couple weeks, the question of whether I’m an alcoholic has been on my mind. For the sake of thematic coherence, I definitely think it’s related to the three-month milestone.
At times during the last couple weeks, I’ve felt indifferent about drinking. I’m over it, and that my life as an alcoholic is like one of those night terrors I get from time to time, when I run around my apartment naked, dreaming that I can’t breathe while still being kind of awake. But it’s over now, and I can return to bed and go to sleep after I’ve checked underneath it for the boogeyman.
I’ve even thought about changing the title of this blog to Hilariously Indifferent about Alcohol, so that it has a more sincere title, even if it has a ring to it like a rusty bell.
But other times, like when I was buying supplies for my girlfriend’s birthday, I’ve felt like giving moderated alcohol drinking another shot. I flirted with the idea a second, as the booze aisle caught my eye. Maybe I could just set a limit and stick to it this time, keeping my disastrous experience of alcoholism at the forefront of my mind as motivation for not fucking it up.
Deciding whether I’m an alcoholic or not the last couple weeks has been like tossing a coin in the air: heads I am, tails I’m not, and both answers would seem valid. That is until yesterday, when I was listening to a podcast. The hosts of the show just so happened to talk about their five favorite beers.
One of the host’s list was comprised mostly of Belgian beers—my tipple, my overly long and destructive love affair. Upon hearing the name Chimay Blue, I was transported back to the summer holiday, when I would buy in my favorite beers every day and get shitfaced watching movies. My mind started racing. I compiled a list of my favorite five, and I thought about going out and getting them.
It would just be one last hurrah. One more gunfight before I rode off into the sunset to buy a ranch and have six or seven kids. Before I knew my legs had extended, I was looking at my DVD shelves, searching for the perfect one or two movies to provide entertainment for the last time I sat and enjoyed my favorite five. That’s allowed, right? I have the rest of my life to be sober. How will one measly afternoon and evening getting shitfaced on my five favorite beers ruin that? It can’t.
I thought, Why haven’t I thought about my favorite five before? Five’s the perfect number: one better than four, and six is just weird and not round.
Then I remembered this was exactly my mindset during that summer. I’d planned on getting sober the couple weeks preceding it. My plan was to get my favorite beers in, enjoy one last sweet evening, and then spend four weeks in a self-imposed rehab.
That didn’t happen. Not only that, but I spent a fortune getting in my favorite beers for most of the days of the holiday. My five favorite? Shit, I’d compiled that list a fuckload of times before. Every time it was different, but the results were always the same. It wasn’t a last hurrah. The day after I’d write a new list, one that dicks all over the previous one.
I did what any reasonable alcoholic would do in that situation. I yanked my earphones out of my ears and threw my iPhone across the room, blaming my near relapse on that particular podcast.
(Just kidding, my iPhone is safe and sound in its nerdy leather case.)
I try to make each blog post useful to you, the reader. I don’t just want to ramble on about myself, even if I can provide the odd photo with a caption to make you laugh. You’re here for that, sure, or you’d be reading some other blog called There’s Not a Single Funny Thing about Sobriety. As well as having laughed, I want you to step away from your iPad or iPhone or desktop computer and feel awesome about being sober or to have a learnt a little more about sobriety.
With that said, here’s your tidbit for this week. Your favorite drink, or more accurately your memory of your favorite drink, will never go away. It will shrink as you cross off your sober days, weeks, and months. It will lay dormant, like a hibernating bear, but one little prod, and that fucker will stand up and be as big, bad, and scary as it was in the summer.
So tread carefully, my friend, because every podcast that mentions your favorite drink, every Facebook post you read about someone enjoying a glass of chardonnay or merlot on a Friday night, and every blog post you read about the blogger’s favorite drink or drinks, is potentially one big kick in that bear’s nutsack.
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