Oct 2018 05

“Could I get two shotskis of Jaeger, please?”

My friend, M, always calls our shots ‘shotskis’. This was a normal kind of get-together for us as we watched some baseball on Tuesday night at a local sports bar. It was the first day of the playoffs, and since I gave up baseball full-time this year (another long story), I hadn’t seen much of M. The pastimes where our interests overlap? Baseball, and drinking.

This would be my first test.

It was Day 2 of my month without alcohol.

So you’re probably thinking, ‘Big deal, Andrew. A month without alcohol? People do it all the time. Pfft.’ And you’re right. They do. This is not some innovative thing I’ve conjured up and I’m like Latka the Russian dog, first being in space.

Over the years, friends have told me they’ve given up booze for periods of time for lots of reasons. Training for something. Detoxing. Weight loss. Lent. Probation officers. And just to know they can. Maybe you reading this, you’ve done this, consciously, as well.

So here’s the thing…

Recently, someone asked me what my longest relationship, that’s still in my life regularly, is. Not counting family. Do I keep in contact with or see anyone from childhood, or high school, or University? Do I regularly correspond or email with people who I considered very close? How many people are in my life regularly, that I can say I’ve maintained a relationship with?

And I had to think. I had to really think about it. No one immediately came to mind. I ran through some names in my head and did some math, counting back the orbits of the earth to think about when that person entered my life and when I last saw them.

I thought about people who I used to see a lot, and are now gone from my life other than the predictable ‘Let’s see each other soon, it’s been too long!’ texts around New Years, or their Birthdays or mine. My mind became a strange map of connection lines, broken, and elongated.

I managed to come up with one person. One. My friend, C, who was my first partner in advertising 20 years ago. Whew, I have a 2 decade one. I’m okay, right? Hmmm, one. It was revealing. And I wondered – why don’t I see these people anymore? I know most of them made an effort, or continue to sporadically make the effort, but why don’t I return it?

Sure, so and so got married and had kids, or moved to Hamilton, or I lost that friend in basically what was a divorce over a decade ago.

But what is it about my current friendships that is so different from those distant and broken friendships? What is the common thread that holds together my tapestry of ‘today’ relationships.

And I realized what it was.

I drink with people in my life.

All the people in my current sphere that I interact with regularly are people I hang out and drink with. All of my non-family, non-work, social interactions are around drinking. ALL OF THEM.

We get together for a drink. We have dinner and drink. We go to an event and drink. We congregate at your house or my house, and drink. We stand on the front porch of a neighbour and drink. We go for one more somewhere. We joke about it tomorrow.

I am most comfortable when I have a drink in my hand, and I’m consuming it. Decent amounts of it, too. And worse, I don’t remember a time in my adult life when this wasn’t the case. I’ve been an ‘adult’ a long time now.

It occurred to me – I don’t know who I am when I’m not drinking. What do I like to do? What interests do I have? Who do I like to spend time with? What would I talk about or find interesting? How would I spend my time?

Just because I don’t wake up with a hangover and it hasn’t affected my professional life as a writer in advertising, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. The above questions are all bigger problems than just meeting a deadline for a bunch of ads to sell a product that won’t change the world.

Alcohol is my longest relationship.

And so, Sober October. I need to find out. And as a writer, I don’t mind being public about it.

“Not for me, M. I’m not drinking this month.”

“What?”

“Yah, I’m not going to drink all of October. This is a non-alcohol Budweiser.”

They’re terrible by the way. They make you want to drink.

“Not even one shotski. One.”

“Nope. It’s only Day 2. I have to at least get through Day fucking 2, man.”

So M, turned to our server at the bar who looked unsure about what to do with the two shot glasses she had put in front of us.

“Can I buy you a Jaeger?”, M offered to her.

“No, but thank you.”

“Okay, how about Jameson. Whatever you want.”

“No thanks.”

“Oh, cause you’re working?”

“Actually… I don’t drink.”

M looked around as if everyone in the world had lost their fucking minds, downed a Jaeger on his own and popped out for a cigarette.

“Have you always been a non-drinker?” I asked her. Before M arrived earlier, I had divulged that I was spending the month completely without alcohol and she suggested the mirthless Budweiser impostor.

“No, I used to drink a lot. And then I did what you’re doing. One month, just to see.”

“And how did you feel after that month?”

“I felt fantastic, so I just kept going. And haven’t gone back.”

I ordered another faux Budweiser. The second shot glass, unused, went back behind the bar.

Day Fucking 2.