I remember a time when I was active but trying to cut down. I was having a few drinks at a bar in Soho before attending a film screening with some friends. I thought I would be perfectly fine putting down a couple. In my head, I approached the situation with the expectations of a normal drinker which is absolutely insane because I should have known better but I was always trying to live in the skin of my peers who had completely functional relationships with booze. If Sally can do it, so can I goddamnit. Forgetting the monster that lived inside, I took those few drinks. At first, the burning vodka went down smooth and warmed my belly. My blood suddenly became hot and calming like I was standing under the stream of a steaming shower on a freezing cold winter day. It wrapped its arms around me and made me feel safe, euphoric, and grateful for life, friends, and good times. Perfection. But not for long. The initial glow soon wore off and I could feel the beast stirring from his slumber. I remember thinking OH FUCK. As the others finished their second (my second was already gone) and the film start time drew closer, IT started. The veins in my neck began bulging and throbbing as the searing, hot, alcohol saturated blood coursed through my body like a freight train looking for a way to relieve the building pressure but finding no escape. Extra salty sweat begin pouring from every pore and in an instant, I was completely drenched. My eyes went from perfectly white to bright crimson red and seemed to protrude from my face to get a better view of everything in the room. Looks of panic flashed briefly on the faces of my company. Hair began growing from every follicle on my body converting my already moderately furry exterior to the coat of an animal that would surely be coveted by wealthy Upper West Side ladies who lunch. The alcoholic blood flooded every muscle in my body and the muscles began to grow larger and larger until finally my shirt completely ripped open. Buttons flew off and one hit the bartender in the eye and immediately blinded him and sent him running and screaming down 6th Avenue. I roared like the hungry lion I was and began throwing tables and chairs at innocent and unsuspecting real estate brokers just looking for a calm place to unwind. My friends screamed bloody murder and pointed with shaking fingers as they backed towards the door of the bar desperately searching for an escape.
“WHAT HAPPENED?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! WHERE DID OUR FRIEND GO?!” they screamed
In a voice that sounded like a deranged Cookie Monster on steroids, I screamed back, “MUST DRINK MORE VODKA! TWO NOT ENOUGH VODKA FOR ME, STUPID!!! NEED FOUR VODKA OR FIVE VODKA. SIX VODKA IS GOOD FOR ME BUT NOT TWO VODKA!!!!!!!!! I DIE IF ONLY HAVE TWO VODKA!!!!!!!!”
At this point, I was directly in their faces and roaring so loudly that their hair blew in the wind tunnel created by the noise I was making and pictures began falling from the walls and people ran screaming in all directions not even bothering to grab their purses and briefcases and coats. Finally the bar was entirely empty and I was alone. I grabbed a bottle of Grey Goose, lumbered to a stool, poured another drink, and stared at myself in the mirror behind the rows of bottles. I truly was an animal. A handsome animal, but an animal nonetheless.
In reality, we actually paid the check and left the bar without incident. I did spend the better half of our second drink trying to figure out a way I could order a third without making us late and also without drawing attention to myself or giving any indication that a third was actually NECESSARY for me and not just desired. I resisted the temptation and instead just sat there stewing and anxiously dreading the next few hours in the dark without the luxury of more alcohol. Incidents like these quickly taught me the importance of securing a drink or two before the actual drinks at the bar. And possibly even bringing a little bit of something in my bag if necessary. But in this situation, I had done neither. About halfway through the movie, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and actually LEFT THE MOVIE THEATER and walked swiftly next door to another bar, ordered a whisky shot and PBR, downed both, and returned to the theater and showed my ticket stub to get back into the film. And believe it or not, about 15 minutes later, I actually considered leaving again and doing the same thing once more. I didn’t. But as soon as that film was over, I peace’d out and went back to my neighborhood where I stopped for three 24 ounce beers at the grocery store since the liquor shop was closed. I spent the rest of the evening drinking properly and reading about the movie we had just watched in case it ever came up in conversation since I didn’t really pay attention to a second of it. And now I can’t even remember what movie it was.
THIS is the story of a single attempt at moderation. THIS is the story that I could retell hundreds of times over and all that would change are the settings, the people involved, and how creative I got in making sure my beast was fed. I think back and I would say that I am ashamed but in all honesty, it’s so crazy to me now that shame doesn’t even begin to cover it. I am ASTOUNDED. I am DUMBFOUNDED. I am AMAZED. How did I possibly have the energy to go through this over and over again for so many years?
I haven’t been sober for very long this time around. 38 days so far. But I’ve already learned so much. And I’ve already come in contact with some people who have asked about moderation as an alternative to abstinence. And all I can really say in response to them and to those occasional small nagging urges I get to pick up a beer (JUST ONE, I SWEAR. JUST ONE) is this: REMEMBER YOUR BEAST. He never goes away. He’s always in there. He’s always ready to kill everyone, EVEN YOU, to get what he needs.