Confessions of an Alcoholic Part 3: Don’t Throw Glasses in Brick Buildings
“I feel sorry for people that don’t drink because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they’re going to feel all day.” — Frank Sinatra
8 weeks sober.
This story is an ugly one — I was admittedly hesitant to share it. I still wince in shame when it comes back to my mind, an involuntary recollection that makes itself known from time to time. It doesn’t paint me in a good light, it makes me look like Mr. Hyde. Regardless, I feel like it’s an important story to share, lest others make the same mistakes I have.
But first, Dr. Jekyll.
I stared at a bottle of beer for almost a minute last night. It was sitting on the top shelf of my fridge, Brooklyn Brewery. I imagined how good it would taste on my tongue. The chill of the first gulp, the buzz that would shoot up to my brain, make the world slow down for a moment. It was a seasonal beer, Oktoberfest. German style.
I’m a mutt — Irish, Italian, German, English, Spanish, Welsh (and likely many more).
Is there any potential combination of nationalities more predisposed to drinking than that?
I’ve tried two non-alcoholic beers so far, I was surprised how much I liked them. They tasted like the real thing, a placebo. Did you know the placebo effect still works even if the subject is aware that it’s a placebo?
The brain is a terrifying thing. Mine made me stare at a bottle of beer for a minute.
My intent is not to demean the act of drinking, nor people who drink. Billions of people are able to drink responsibly and in moderation. Vices are necessary to maintain sanity, I still drink soda like a fiend. Addiction is another beast, a beast that puts others, and yourself, at risk.
Addiction is slavery to vice.
I was on a date with a friend of mine from school. I brought her to an Irish pub on the east side, somewhere south of Grand Central. Standard fare and decor, another friend told me that all Irish pubs apparently source their furniture and decor from a single provider. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s true.
This was familiar turf for me, my hometown is majority Irish and I was raised on the chip-on-your-shoulder-mentality that still persists in the diaspora. I’m a 4th generation American, at least on the Italian side. I assume the Irish part of my family arrived sometime during the Potato Famine.
The Potato Famine lasted from 1845 to 1852. Potatoes had become the main crop of Ireland a few centuries after its introduction to Europe post-Columbian Exchange. The crop failed — a million died, 2.5 million more fled. The English, the colonizers and rulers of Ireland at the time, allowed the famine to ravage the impoverished population of the Irish.
The English guarded food export shipments from the hungry masses. They were selling food to buyers outside of the country even as the Irish people starved.
My date was Indian, her country suffered a famine when it was under British rule as well.
This did not come up during the date.
I was drinking Guinness, she got a cosmopolitan. She was refined, I was a bum from Long Island in a suit.
We had a small dinner, talked about our classes, flirted. The booze got to work fast, the flirting continued. The other side effect of drinking for me is an overwhelming desire to spend money I don’t have. I started talking about a fancy bar I had been meaning to go to, “Campbell’s Apartment.”
It’s located within Grand Central Station, it belonged to a businessman, Campbell, who used the space as an office in the 1920s. The interior remained as it was in the 20s, glorious art deco, unmolested by the modernist tendencies that followed the Second World War. Financial savants, proper ladies, and the moderate elites of New York haunted the space, drinking cocktails instead of maintaining ledgers as Campbell had done.
I’m sure Campbell had his fair share of cocktails in the office as well though.
She was intrigued and suggested we head over to it, the night was still young. I made it clear that my mouth likely couldn’t cash the check it had written, I barely had enough money to warrant the dinner. She persisted, offering to split the bill with me.
How could I say no?
We blended in well. Confidence is key for the aspiring social climber, camouflage. I mute my accent when I’m not among peers, the Long Island accent tends to be a bit grating for those unfamiliar with it.
“Wadah, dawg, cawfee.”
We were well dressed, it likely wasn’t difficult to believe we belonged there. I any case, she did — I was the imposter.
I got an old fashioned, my favorite cocktail. She ordered another cosmopolitan. It’s a dimly lit space, a few tables line the lower level’s wall, the majority of patrons stand near or at the bar. Our bill eventually landed somewhere in the range of $80–120, we split it as agreed upon.
The booze continued to work its magic, we kissed and chatted for a while at the bar. I absentmindedly mentioned another bar I had always wanted to go to, The Russian Tea Room. I explained that it was a staple of “Ol’ New York,” a restaurant frequented by the upper echelon of the city’s aristocracy. It was situated right next to Carnegie Hall, another landmark of the storied town. She was enamored with the idea and insisted we go, I resisted once again. I had managed to fight off my most hedonistic urges that would’ve convinced me to land myself even further in the red for the night, but she said she’d be willing to cover the bill in full.
How could I say no?
We took our seats at the bar, a Russian of stature stood across the way. We scanned the drink menu, the cheapest drink was in the double digits. We were both completely sauced at this point, 7 or 8 sheets to the wind. We opted for vodka, it felt fitting. I’ve previously stated my distaste for vodka, but i can make an exception for expensive vodka.
Vodka is crafted out of fermented potatoes, it seems I can’t escape my familial past.
We got cocktails — an additional $60.We had succumb to the inevitable excess and cyclical need for more and more booze that defines a “bender.” This was a proper bender at that, we bar hopped to 3 separate locations, each one fancier than the other.
My date ended up falling off her stool, our act was exposed — we were young adults posing as aristocrats. The bartender didn’t mind much, he actually laughed a bit. I helped her up, planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Looks like you’ve received the Rasputin treatment.”
The bill was north of $150, she covered it. She was my patron in the art of boozing for the night. She said this was a proper way to cap off the night, we bid the Russians “do svidaniya” and made our way back to the sidewalks of New York.
Everything seemed crooked, I could feel the Earth spinning.
I walked her to the subway station, we kissed goodbye. She asked if I was heading home, I said I had to meet up with a friend. In reality, I was still craving a drink. I ended up at another Irish dive — full circle. I sat by myself at the bar, downing pint after pint. Friends were gathered, weary workers lamented their graveyard shifts over a few drinks.
I looked at the empty glass in front of me. The bartender asked if I’d care for another.
How could I say no?
Another hour passed. I paid my tab and struggled to get off my stool, though I was able to stay upright in contrast to my date.
I stumbled out to the street, the subway station was only a few feet away. Panic set in, I realized I was intoxicated to the point that I wasn’t sure how to get home. I called another friend of mine from school, she had an apartment nearby. She told me I was welcome to come over and crash, her roommates and some friends were having a small get together.
I made my way across town, barely able to stay on two feet. I’m sure I was singing something, I always tend to when I’m hammered. Here’s something I might’ve sung:
“Give me a kiss to build a dream on
And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this
A kiss to build a dream on…”
I got to the apartment, she met me in the lobby. We reached her place, her roommates and friends greeted me. I knew them all, they were my friends as well. They could tell I was in bad shape but teased me innocently. Getting drunk was part of the college experience after all, right?
I was playing the fool as I tended to in that state. I got a few laughs by claiming to have a liver forged from iron, joking that Irish blood allows the children of Erin to turn alcohol into water the minute it enters our bodies.
Then, I asked for another drink.
The friend who was my host looked nervous, she suggested I take it easy. I laughed this off, then proceeded to the kitchen after I spotted a bottle of wine. As my hands reached the bottle, her hands reached mine. She tried to pull the bottle away, I resisted.
“Dylan, maybe you should have some water?”
I used to tell a story about my drunken escapades. A friend and I got hammered when we were visiting another friend at their college. We had to knock back a bottle of scotch because the campus security checked bags when entering the dorms. When we got to her room, her roommates were immediately concerned — we could barely stand up. One of her roommates walked over to me.
“Do you want some water?”
I managed to face her while using the wall as a support. Gravity was working against me.
“Does it have alcohol in it?”
“Then why the fuck would I want it?”
She managed to get the bottle of wine out of my hands. I asked why I couldn’t have another drink.
“You’ve had too many, Dylan.”
“Bullshit, give me the fucking bottle.”
She refused and walked out of the kitchen with the bottle. I was holding a glass, I arched my arm back involuntarily — I was about to smash it against the wall.
They looked at me in fear. Well, it wasn’t me at that point. Not really.
Mr. Hyde had made himself known.
And here’s that wince. Here’s that guilt. Here’s that self-loathing.
I didn’t throw the glass — I had hit rock bottom and I knew it.
I’m a gentle man, soft spoken for the most part. Flawed as we all are, susceptible to anger and follies the same. But I have never struck someone in aggression, nor acted so barbarously as I had in that moment. In that moment where people I cared about feared I might hurt them.
I had become a slave to vice.
At some point I ended up on a couch, I passed out shortly after. I woke up to a glass of water and aspirin, I had to go to work.
This was my lowest point.
And it wasn’t even the moment I decided to stop drinking.
This was more than 4 years ago.
I’m still friends with those involved, they had witnessed me in similar states before so I suppose it wasn’t too shocking at the time. But this was undoubtedly my lowest point, the moment any question of autonomy had been thrown out the window.
And here I am, craving a glass of wine.
My name is Dylan and I’m an alcoholic.