Sober on New Year’s Eve

I quit drinking in May 2013, and while I'm happy not to be dependent on alcohol to sleep at night anymore (fun!) I still miss it sometimes.

Now, relax. Don't panic or misinterpret what I'm going to say or start manically texting my friends and family linking to this article (or do — maybe they like essays): I'm not pining for wine, or sneaking sips of whatever-it-is-someone-ordered, but I don't think it's a secret that I liked drinking. It was something I enjoyed and took comfort in. And while I'm sitting here happily chugging an eggnog latte (like a total asshole — because: spoiler alert, I am one), I see those fancy Christmas-themed martinis and think, "Ahhh shit, those were so good."

Because they WERE good. And I don't think that "I'll Be Missing You" mindset is rare. I didn't spend years drinking thinking, "Oh wow this tastes bad but I guess I'll do it anyway." I quit drinking because I couldn't drink anymore in a responsible way, and not being able to drink at all anymore is the consequence of those many years. It would be hella easier if one day I took a sip and thought, "GROSS ew oh my GOD, this tastes like poison" and vowed there and then to stop. That wasn't the case. And while 90% of the time I don't really think about it, 10% of the time I do, and I think, "Goddamn mulled wine was delicious."

But one night a year I'm actually grateful I've taken a vow of oh-just-ginger-ale-for-me-thanks. And that night is New Year's Eve, the holiday of forced intoxication.

Now I get that "anything goes" and we're adults and make our own choices, but we know what NYE is all about: drinking too much and spending January 1 vowing never to drink again. My first booze-filled NYE was when I was 16, and after waking up in the early hours chugging warm Diet Coke because I was so dehydrated from my buffet of vodka coolers (guys, why did we do that to ourselves), I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. So that's why the next year, when I was trying to piece together what exactly I said to that one guy and why everyone was mad at me and my best friend for "ruining the party" (and for the record, we didn't: the guy who's house we were at TOLD us we could smoke pot on his front lawn), I did the same thing: I spent January 1 questioning what the fuuuuck I was thinking, and why I thought Loaded Sodas were a thing I should consume.

The year after, I was sober (the first time I took a step back from drinking was after a summer night where I found myself passing out in an alley next to a dive bar — my pal Mike found me and drove me home before it became a Story instead of a story, so yay) and worked; the year after that I was still (pretty) sober, but spent the night a party dodging drunk weirdo guys who thought they had a free pass to say and do whatever they wanted because I knew them and they were hammered. (I hurt the feelings of one; pushed off the kiss of another — it ended okay.) But then in 2006, I tried drunk New Year's again and it ended with me basically crawling to work two days later, still sick and eating crackers. NEVER AGAIN, I vowed. January 1st should be a day free of dry heaving and Immodium. So even when the rest of my life saw an increase of drinking, December 31 stayed dry (minus a glass or two of wine) from 2007 onward.

Since — a whopping seven years later — it's the one day a year I 100% know I won't miss drinking. Despite feeling like I needed to drink, I grew to resent New Year's for the pressure to do it. (I drank on my terms only, damn it! I was in control!) I hated that I was expected to get loaded with a bunch of strangers and risk ringing in the first of the month with some dude who was too drunk or high to even know we were making out. (Because TBH, it usually results in a pretty sloppy situation, with no laughter or jokes involved.) I hated worrying about how I acted the next day, and spending the first day of the year freaking out over how much I told that one dude about how much I liked him, or if so-and-so was mad because I made out with her boyfriend. (Spoiler alert: she was.) I hated feeling sick, I hated feeling guilty for being too drunk, and I hated it. I hated getting drunk on New Year's. And even now, around a bunch of drunk people is the last thing I'd like to be when the clock strikes midnight. It's just too much. 

I never liked who I turned into when I'd been drinking generally, but New Year's I always managed to trump that version of myself tenfold. Where I drank as a means of control or to take the pressure off normally (and eventually), New Year's was always the night where the opposite went down: I was overly loud, affectionate, needy, insecure, and the worst. Frankly, if I'd drank the way I did on New Year's when I started drinking regularly, I probably would've quit a long time ago.

So now New Year's only reminds me of those feelings. Or more specifically, the idea of drinking on New Year's reminds me of a time in my life where things were a lot worse; where I was a flailing person who was making it obvious. Now, I will settle for Red Lobster dinners or ginger ale or coffee. And if you want to drink on New Year's, go wild, my friends. Just please avoid vodka coolers and/or Loaded Sodas at all costs.

Tags: alcoholism, Anne T. Donahue, drinking, Holiday, New Year's, NYE, sober

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