I failed to stay sober at Christmas. One Saturday afternoon in December I floated the idea about getting drunk one last time to my girlfriend. I’d been thinking about drinking again, I told her.
It would just be the one time, to experience that rich feeling of being merry—in both meanings of the word: slightly drunk, and feeling good about Christmas—with a tree in the living room and decorations that don’t blend well with color palette selected for the room as we watched a Christmas movie.
Of course, as soon as I mentioned it to her, we didn’t sit down and have a rational conversation about if it would be successful, if it was worth it to throw away five months’ sobriety for one evening of merriness, or even if we would like Krampus on our fifth or sixth viewing. Instead, we slunk off to different corners of the apartment and quietly obsessed about it.
Half an hour later we returned to each other’s company and by the look on her face I knew we’d come to the same decision: We would do it, and sobriety would be just where we left it when we would wake up the next day.
We could pick it up again with ease, like a convict picks up a sharpened spoon and stabs the leader of a rival gang, in some sort of power play, or just because he was bored that day in the yard.
That shit would come natural to us, because we’d already rode that bucking bronco for five months, so getting back on it wouldn’t be alien to us.
We promised each other multiple times it would only be a slip, and not a full-on relapse (I’d recently read the difference between the two on a sobriety blog.) I think me may have even high-fived each other.
Jesus, when I think about it, we were happy as a rapist in a whorehouse about falling off the wagon for one evening.
But long hikes start with the small acts of putting on your boots and jacket and making a couple PB and J sandwiches, and relapses in sobriety start off with little conversations like the one above, whether or not you’re determined to restrict them just to a slip.
Turns out Krampus is nowhere near as good as we remembered it, and that cinemas are open on Christmas Day in Norway and that bottles of wine bought from there cost around four times as much as they do in a store. I also learned that I’m willing to pay that much to sip wine as I fucked up yet another Christmas Day turkey.
The couple weeks after that ‘one evening’ were a blur of cheap wine, Robin Williams-strength gin and tonics, and saccharin Christmas movies and music, until I reached a low low enough to inspire me to start collecting chips again. On the plus side, I finally managed to experience my first New Year’s Eve without drunkenly mumbling the lyrics to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to my family in FaceTime conversations.
Here are a couple of takeaways from this experience:
- Not one evening have I gone to bed having regretted not drinking—including New Year’s Eve. Conversely, every morning I wake up with a hangover I’ve regretted drinking the night before. It might sound like an AA cliché, but it’s true.
- A great way to spend your New Year’s Eve sober is outside of your home, wandering the streets, watching other people’s fireworks and thinking about how shitty the drunk people you come across are going to feel when their bottle of champagne comes back to bite them in the ass. We chose to go sledging instead of viewing them from our balcony—the fireworks, that is. We looked like lunatics—both adult, neither drunk—partaking in an activity traditionally thought as enjoyment solely for families, but we had a hell of a time.
Another one big plus from this experience is that I’ve got one hell of a sobriety date, instead of some obscure date in August no one gives a fuck about. Next New Year’s Eve, I’ll be celebrating both the end of a calendar year and a year drinking cola through a straw on Saturday evenings instead of playing air guitar to eighties hair metal. But I’m getting ahead of myself—I’m only six days in.
There’s a shitload of bullets to dodge before I get there.
This shit’s going to be like Nam, but I’m getting looking forward to it nonetheless. Happy New Year.
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