I was never a big drinker; certainly, drinking was never a problem for me.
I started drinking beer with my older brothers and hating it. It was not until I’d consumed it for a couple of years that I began to love it. We’d drink beer down by the river, standing around a huge bonfire, our fronts toasty and our backs cool in the fall air.
I then moved into a tequila stage. I loved the mechanics, the drama of tequila — licking the salt, biting the lime and throwing back the shot. I drank shots with my first boyfriend, my childhood sweetheart.
At Oberlin, I drank 3.2 beer because that’s all there was.
I continued to drink throughout grad school, but at this point, I was drinking wine, primarily Merlot. My best friend, Jessica, and I tossed back a lot of red wine while we consumed a great deal of pasta and red sauce.
Soon, it was 1991, the year I was diagnosed with bipolar illness, and all drinking stopped.
I was put on some heavy meds that didn’t mix with alcohol. Since 1991, I’ve only been able to consume an occasional drink — a beer here, and glass of Chardonnay there.
There was only one time that I really “tied one on” while on a hefty bipolar med cocktail. It was at the wedding of my husband’s best friend, Paul. I was in my early 30s.
The wedding was in the backyard of Paul’s childhood home. Everything was beautiful. Pink rosebuds floated on their small swimming pool. They’d set up a tent and in it put stark white, wooden, folding chairs. At the front of the tent were gorgeous bouquets of more pink roses and baby’s breath.
I drank highballs; I drank watery beer from kegs; I had a shot of whiskey and two glasses of wine, and I nearly killed myself. The alcohol did not mix well with the meds. The next morning, I woke up feeling terrible, in a zombie-like state. It took me three days to recover.
Obviously, I can’t tie one on any more, and I miss this.
I miss the sociability of drinking, sitting around eating chips and dip and guzzling alcohol.
The other night, Christmas Eve, I had a glass of wine because my current psychiatrist said I could have one drink on my current medication cocktail. (Funny how we call groups of meds “cocktails.”)
I chose to imbibe in a glass of cold, white wine. I wanted to drink it in a beautiful wine glass, but all the host had were clear, plastic cups. So I drank the wine, enjoying every drop. And I felt good — warm, comfy and relaxed. In a word, I was “chilled.”
Everything was fine until I went to bed that night. Then, after I fell asleep, I began to have strange, psychedelic dreams. Most of the night, I dreamed that I was trapped in the trunk of our 1968 childhood station wagon. The dreams weren’t pleasant. At one point in my sleep, I thought to myself, this is what happens when you drink and take psych meds. You just can’t do it. Can’t you accept that?
So on New Year’s Eve, I didn’t have a drop. I drank Diet Coke all night. And I felt half as festive. I was not relaxed enough to kiss a stranger, to dance provocatively on the dance floor, to talk too much telling boring stories. I was completely sober and completely proper.
I just can’t drink any more.
But boy, do I miss booze. With all my heart, I miss that sweet stuff called alcohol. I probably always will until I’m able to live without psych meds.
If such a day ever comes.