It's January 6th, my soberversary, but please don't sing. It'll just remind me of the mild awkwardness I feel when the waitstaff at the restaurant assumes it's my birthday because I'm out celebrating with friends and there are cards. If they bring cake and sing, I feel like I'm engaged in deliberate subterfuge like the time in high-school we pretended it was one of our birthdays at Hooters to get that weird shimmy chair dance.
It's a special, non-birthday day that marks the third anniversary since the last time I ingested a mood-altering substance stronger than Folgers.
Last night three years ago, I was in an 8-hour blackout that had started with after-work shots, stumbling around somehow lost within city blocks of where I was trying to go. I guess it was really a brownout, because I do have little flashes of trying to ask strangers for directions and falling on them, or onto my hands and knees on the street.
I don't know where I went or what I did, or how I got home, or what happened to my phone or my wallet, and apparently I couldn't even stand up when I got in the door around 5 am.
It was a Tuesday.
This wasn't even the worst night. It was just the night before I quit drinking. It's also the day my life started over, in a way. I'm a 28-year-old who's also 3, and I feel like a 3-year-old often, although they say your emotional growth gets stunted around the age you started drinking, so probably I am more like 13.
For me, the definition of alcoholism is essentially that I can't stop once I have the first drink. But since I know people love checklists, and the official ones always seemed a little whatever to me (drinking in the morning is called "brunch" and drinking alone is what you do when you live alone, right?), I am celebrating my special day by sharing my personal alcoholism checklist.
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you’re an alcoholic. Maybe you already know this and you’ve decided you don’t care. In that case, feel free to skip this.
But maybe you’ve spent some time wondering whether or not you are an alcoholic. For you, I’ve created a list of questions based on my years of experience with having a drinking problem.
1. Do you have a lot of friends whose last names and professions you don’t know?
1a. Do they have nicknames like PB Arnie, Mattallica and “the coke guy”?
2. Do you drink with people you would be embarrassed to walk down the street with or introduce to your real friends?
3. Have you ever drank other people’s half-empty beers because the party ran out of booze?
3a. If so, did you ever get a mouthful of cigarette butts?
4. Are you so worried about getting enough alcohol at parties that you hide alcohol in the back of the fridge, the couch cushions, or under your skirt?
5. Do you have trouble concentrating on the conversation at a table where alcohol is being shared because you are mentally dividing up the portions to make sure you will have enough?
6. Do you consistently bring alcohol into situations where there wouldn’t otherwise be any, like a movie theater or your office?
7. Have you attended an after-hours club or found yourself wishing the party could continue past 5 a.m.?
8. Have you lost your cell phone/wallet/keys more than once in the past year?
9. Do you consistently keep drinking until you pass out, throw up, or black out?
10. Would you trade a year of your life for a consequence-free year of partying?
11. Do you repeatedly drink a specific kind of alcohol or use a substance like marijuana even though you know you don’t like the effects?
12. Have you ever cried because you couldn’t have an alcoholic beverage?
13. Do you own a T-shirt that says something like “I have a drinking problem…two hands and only one mouth” or “One tequila two tequila three tequila floor”? (This one doesn’t make you an alcoholic; I just want to know who you people are.)
14. Do you use the phrase “road beer”?
15. Does your local bartender have your phone number?
16. Do you drink when you are sick, because vodka totally “kills the germs”?
17. Do you ever pretend to go home but go to another bar instead, where you can focus on drinking without all those pesky friends around?
18. Do you harass people who aren’t drinking, or who go home before 2 am, by saying things like “What? Does your vagina hurt?”
19. Is being a big drinker part of your identity, such that everybody around you know you love to P-A-R-T-Y?
20. Have you ever wet the bed after a night of drinking?
That last one's a biggie I think. Once you're peeing yourself on the regular as an adult, you're probably not doing that great with alcohol. The real version is located here. Don't drink and drive, kids! Happy anniversary to me!