Handing Out Medals to Everyone Like a Circus Clown

Dan tells the story of when he pissed in the face of real achievement.


Around four years ago I involuntarily volunteered at the Oslo Marathon. That isn’t an oxymoron. It was a non-obligatory work obligation that I and my colleagues could volunteer for if we were to continue to be recognized as employees who were enthusiastic and had value. That and we were given a pair of running shoes for dragging our ostensibly enthusiastic asses down there early that Saturday morning.

My gig was to hand out medals to all the kids who competed in what I called the Kiddie Run, which by my estimation was the curious length of around 175 meters. Around a hundred kids competed in each ‘race,’ and my responsibility—along with seven or eight other volunteers, two of which were circus clowns—was to put a medal around their necks after they’d gone over the finish line and to congratulate them.

“Do you think she’s noticed we haven’t built anything yet?”

These races were scheduled around five minutes apart, which means I handed a shit ton of medals out to a shit ton of kids, all of whom had competed, none of which had been recognized as the winner or a winner.

That kid who half-assed it, sauntering over the finish line as though he were a stoned college student ironically jogging towards an ice cream van, he got the same medal as the kid that ran like he was being chased by a serial killer through dense forestry.

“Just look where I’m pointing.”

What does this have to do with sobriety?

As with all things pretentious, it’s a metaphor, for how we’re not supposed to judge alcoholics who relapse often, and how it’s okay if we relapse.

A couple days ago, I asked a work buddy what his plans are for this weekend. It was an attempt to be nosey about his drinking habits, and that attempt was successful. I suspect he’s a budding alcoholic, not yet in full bloom, but bulging with potential, and we have conversations like this from time to time, where I whisper to him about how my sobriety’s going and he whispers back about how well he’s doing at moderating his drinking.

He talked about a having couple beers with dinner and then stopping, and how he’d done this a couple times over the last week and that it’s his new groove. His new set of rules.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that day we spoke, I was a hundred days sober. A round number, unlike 175 or whatever my estimation of the length the Kiddie Run was. A number that’s a landmark in sobriety—my sobriety, at least—even though there’s no hundred-day chip doled out at AA to mark it.

Two lengths of the pool. Fuck Yeah!

Even if I had realized it, I think the result would’ve been the same. In hearing about his new rule set—a couple beers with dinner, at 2.5 percent ABV, his new limit—my mind started wandering, thinking about if I could go back drinking, and if I could stick to this.

The answer is of course no. That would be like a migratory bird going for a short southbound fly during winter just to see what the fuss was all about.

My instinct would kick in, and there’s no way I could turn around and fly back to brave the winter. I’d find myself drunk on cervezas in Mexico, standing outside a bar and sharing a cigarette with and talking to a young male prostitute about my dreams and accomplishments as he stared at me, eyebrow raised, wondering whether I was going to pay him to receive a blowie, or at the very least hand back his cigarette I was hogging.

Or I could have taken LSD and witnessed this, so to speak, instead.

When these times occur, when you think about getting off the wagon, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to be the kid who knew he was going to get a medal and a pat on the back no matter how fast he ran? Or do I want to be kid who’d carry on running like a potential murder victim in a forest even if he shat himself halfway through the race?”

But do so in your head or when you’re alone, so you don’t look like a crazy person.

I’m sitting here a hundred and two days sober, and I didn’t decide I could go back to drinking under new rules, knowing deep down in my liver I’d fail, and that sobriety was something I could achieve at a different place and time.

I’m that kid who’s going to earn his medal, even if we all get one, no matter how much we achieve in our sobriety, and I’m going to run away from the threat of relapse like I’m running away from a serial killer.

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You’re an Alcoholic if…

Here at Hilariously Sober, we don’t like to be all Judgy McJudgy-Judgerson, but we do like to contemplate what it means to be an alcoholic.

Last night I went to my first party since getting back on the wagon. I had hoped that I’d get a metric shit-ton of material out of the experience for this blog or, failing that, at least a blog post.

But it went without a hitch. It only took me around an hour to not feel self-conscious about being one of the few people who weren’t drinking, I had a good time, and none of my male colleagues slapped any female colleagues on the ass or insisted that our boss do the tango with them to the beat of the ‘Macarena’.

So what am I supposed to do, write about how swimmingly and to-plan everything went? Any comedy writer worth his or her salt knows nothing funny ever comes out of good stuff happening. Take Schindler’s List, for example; that’s got to be worst comedy I’ve ever seen.

So in lieu of another super-funny blog post about surviving a party sober or a wildlife-study style blog post about drunk people at parties, I’m pulling this blog post directly out of my ass and onto the screen of your tablet, phone, or, if you’re slacking off at work, desktop computer.

You’re not fooling anyone, buddy.

Part of my routine for motivating myself to stay sober is to beam sobriety culture into my ears in the form of a podcast. It’s my way of avoiding filling up my time with AA meetings, so I can do a load of fun shit instead.

One of my weekly listens is The Recovery Elevator. The format of the show consists of the host interviewing a recovering alcoholic about their sobriety story. Terms like “journey,” “higher power,” and “spiritual growth” get thrown around like bubbles at a Hilary Clinton rally, but I enjoy it, nonetheless.

Her manifesto might be shitty, but God damn if she can’t throw a bubble party.

At the end of the interview, the host asks the interviewee to complete the sentence “You’re an Alcoholic if….” I’ll likely never be interviewed on that podcast while I subtly plug my books and social media shit, but if I did, here are my four or five ways to finish that sentence.

You’re an alcoholic if…

  1. You plan your drinking sessions like a military operation

If you’re like me, liberating a people from their tyrannous dictator isn’t enough for you. You want to get their oil and besmirch their religion and way of life, too. And that shit takes some grade-A planning, and coordination with far-right-wing-leaning news organizations. When I got drunk, I planned my drinking sessions like a forty-day trip around the world. I’d eat a light lunch so I got shitfaced faster and to a greater degree, I had the schedule of liquor-based drinks and craft beers mapped out well in advance, and the day’s and evening’s entertainment would be all planned out before I even filled up my glass with ice to leave little room for the tonic. Clearly, this isn’t the behavior of a casual drinker. It’s the behavior of a lunatic hell-bent on ruining alcohol for himself for the rest of his life.

“The dog’s great and everything, but can you do one in the shape of a beaker minus a couple centimeters… This beaker here?”
  1. You don’t get that one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner shit

If you look around carefully when you’re at a restaurant, you’ll spot someone who’s wholly engaged in conversation with the person or people they’re dining with and who rarely, if ever, glances down at their glass or scans the room for where their waiter is. If this person’s level of detachment from their alcoholic drink situation seems strange to you or, if you’re like me, it outright scares the shit out of you, you might have a problem.

When I got my drink on in restaurants, I got a little panicky. My level of shitfacedness depended on someone who might not care about receiving a tip at the end of the evening, and the people I was dining with might frown upon my waving over the waiter for a refill every half hour like I was helping a jumbo jet land. I could never relax in those places as a drinker. Baby needed his bottle, and he’d be dammed if Mommy or the babysitter controlled how often he got it. If this sounds anything like your dining experiences, drinking might not be for you. Oh, and here’s another link to my books.

Here he comes… finally.
  1. The only friends you have are drinking buddies

I don’t have many friends now, and not just because I’m an insufferable jerk. After quitting drinking, I realized that most of the friends I have back in my home country* are just pub buddies, like spotters are to gym rats, only without the duty of care and offers of cut-rate anabolic steroids. All we ever did was get drunk together. Now that I’m sober, my criteria for friends have somewhat changed from just sharing alcohol dependence: I need friends who are slightly shittier than I am at squash, who think a café is a worthwhile place to spend their time, and who think that one high-five per evening is more than enough.

*This isn’t a euphemism; I live in Norway and come from England. The reason I don’t have friends here is that I’m thirty-two and enjoy wearing pajamas way too much. Speaking of pajamas and the opposite of what I said…

Two imposters at a Jason Statham lookalike competition.
  1. You’re debating with yourself whether you’re an alcoholic

At my last workplace, I asked a colleague about her drinking habits. I was interested in getting the perspective of a seemingly balanced young Swedish lady. Her response was, she didn’t get drunk every weekend, never during weekdays, and she couldn’t remember, when pressed, the last time she got drunk. It might’ve been at some party around eight weeks ago. Or not. Chances are, if you’re making an effort to moderate your drinking and failing, or if you regularly talk to yourself in the mirror about whether you have a problem, as the heading phrasing implies, or if you’re the lunatic asking your colleagues about how often they get drunk, then Grandpa’s old cough medicine might be best kept as a medication for the sniffles.

Stupid science with its facts and whatnot.

So there you have them. Turns out it was only four, and five would’ve been a much rounder number. Shoot.

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Five Types of Alcoholic (and How to Spot Them)

Alcoholics come in all shapes and sizes. As do drinking vessels.

A few blog posts ago, in my Five Signs You Might Be an Alcoholic post, I touched upon defining what is an alcoholic. I enjoyed writing that blog post so much—I had to dry my tears of laughter with the dollar bills I’d made from my comedic mystery series while writing it—that writing the spinoff seemed like a no-brainer.


“Can you pass me one of those hundred-dollar bills?”

Part of my discovery of realizing I was an alcoholic was having to reevaluate my definition of alcoholism. During that time I came up with some definitions. While sitting on my sofa this morning, poking at my iPad and deciding whether I would wish an old school buddy I hadn’t seen for fifteen years happy Birthday, my brain collated that data so that it fit the “five things” classic blog post format, which you’re about to read.


Having not being wished happy Birthday by her Facebook pals, this woman was unable to enjoy her birthday this year.

So here goes. Five types of alcoholic (and how to spot them).

  1. The Classic

The Classic grew up with one or both of his or her parents being alcoholic. His normalization of alcoholism continued when he went to college and got shitfaced at dorm parties. But while everyone else moved on from their college drinking days, he decided that every Friday and Saturday night, even if he’s just sitting watching a shit film on Netflix, should be enjoyed with six or seven beers. Now married and with two-point-three children, the Classic struggles to hold down a job, has progressed to drinking hard liquor straight out of the bottle, and only occasionally shaves.

“Do you think he’ll notice if we take his car keys?”

The High-Functioning Alcoholic

The high-functioning alcoholic is so adept at functioning drunk he can net the brokerage firm he works for millions without breaking a sweat, all the while fueled by lunchtime cocktails. He’s a smooth-talking, well-oiled machine who sees no reason to stop drinking. And why would he? He’s got a penthouse apartment in a trendy part of the city and dates successful middle-management types. He rarely throws up from drinking, and knows his limits, to a point, and seldom falls over while drunk, scuffing his three-piece suit.


“I’m shit drunk right now.”

  1. The Stealth

The Stealth is ashamed of his drinking. He doesn’t drink socially and is ostensibly a functioning family member. The Stealth doesn’t drink at classy cocktail bars, but in the bathroom, where he keeps his whisky, which has been decanted into an empty bleach bottle. He thinks his family doesn’t notice when he rejoins them at the dinner table, fucked out of his mind on cheap whisky, though they’ve been aware for quite some time that his frequent bathroom breaks aren’t because he’s got a weak bladder. He may occasionally get sober, dragged kicking and screaming by his wife to a rehab clinic, but afterwards he just finds better places to hide his booze and better ways to cover up his whisky breath, at least in his mind.


Something from the top shelf.

  1. The Professional Drunk

The Professional has decided, “Fuck it! I’m going to get shitfaced all the time.” He may be homeless or live in social housing, and getting a gig or making sure he’s in good health is’t even on the radar because of his hardwired desire to drink. Having a can of super-strength lager with his bowl of cornflakes on a morning is a daily routine, and continuing drinking throughout the day is a given. If he’s to venture to the store for supplies, he does so at midday, when he can drink a can of cider on the subway without having to sit next to someone who might notice he smells slightly of his own urine.


“Livin’ the dream, baby.”

  1. The Party Girl

Much like the high-functioning alcoholic, the Party Girl is both socially and professionally successful, but the difference between the two is she would never, ever contemplate drinking at lunch time or at breakfast. In her mind, she’s not an alcoholic, just someone who wants to have fun. And she deserves a glass of wine after a hard day’s work being the team manager at a call center. The only times she drinks before six P.M. is at one of her girlfriend’s weddings, and then, of course, she’ll get shitfaced on champagne, because, you know, that’s what everyone else is doing.


“It’s not alcoholism if it’s classy.”

Which one was I? Over the five or six years I had a drinking problem, I fit one or more of those definitions at one time or another, apart from I don’t have 2.3 children, can’t trade stocks for shit, am not female, and I’ve always managed to pay my own rent.

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Days sober: 55

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