Towards the end there was series of shame spiral barbecues. See, in the beginning I could drink all day and maintain for several hours but as the jig was closer to being up, as it were, I could barely keep it together. Many of my messiest moments took place at my best friend’s weekly summer barbecues. What was intended to be as sunshiny good time with grilled chicken and side dishes usually wound up being a scene from The Days of Wine & Roses & Macaroni Salad. I always intended just to have enough cocktails to have fun and enjoy the afternoon but somehow the day would end with me falling downstairs or getting in a fight with someone. I know. I sound awesome. You’re wondering to yourself, “Gee! Why did he ever stop drinking? He sounds like the ideal party guest!” All of these backyard blunders aside and all of the other mountains of evidence that pointed directly toward the flashing, neon “Hot Drunken Mess” sign didn’t matter though. I always thought, “Well. I’m not that bad. There are people who are worse than me.”
Of course being an addict or an alcoholic isn’t a competition. (Because if it was I really think I could win or at least get Miss Congeniality.) There’s not some “messy meter” that accurately measures one’s drinking problem. That being said there are some who can’t hold together as well as others. And towards the end I was one of those. But as I relapsed and couldn’t stay sober I conveniently forgot how out of control I was. Memories of falling down disappeared and drinks flowed as if they never wreaked havoc. I am waxing poetically or pathetically about this topic today because I recently read an article where actress Tara Reid notes that her well-documented partying “wasn’t that bad.” She of the drunken boob slips, the televised body shots and documented trips to rehab is now saying “At the end of the day, I really [just] had fun. I wasn’t doing crimes. I wasn’t getting in trouble like that.” Let me just say, I’m not Tara Reid nor have I ever drank with her nor do I pretend to know her habits with alcohol. So maybe she’s right. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system and now she says she can party “discreetly.” Good for her!
What reading this did remind me is for me it really was that bad. Like Leaving Las Vegas bad. Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf bad. Like blacking out at a barbecue bad. Yet I never got arrested or wrecked a car or spent time in rehab or a loony bin. So I guess by those standards, I could be convinced it wasn’t that bad. But thankfully it was bad enough. By 36, I had achieved some all time personal lows and my insides felt like a burnt out shell. I battled my own delusion for so long that now I’m okay saying, “Yeah. It was fucking horrible and I was a disaster.” Unlike Tara, I can’t party discreetly or just have a few drinks. And that’s okay. I own my hot messiness of yesteryear and know that today I’m 100% safe to invite to a backyard barbecue. So if you feel so compelled, I’m likely to show up. I’ll even bring the macaroni salad.