I was out having a nosh with my friend Niamh last weekend. Niamh is another one of those non-drinking types I hang out with…one of those people who drank maybe a tiny bit more than she should have. We decided that we probably would have drank together. What we couldn’t entirely agree upon was whether or not we would have had “a good time” doing so.
“A good time” is such a loaded phrase for me. It meant a great many things when I was still drinking. It always started out so promising, you know? Eyeliner and mascara down to my chin the next morning? Calling in sick with the 12th case of “food poisoning” in four weeks? Checking the utility and phone bills around the apartment I woke up in to find out where the hell I was and how the hell I was going to get home? Good times!
So as we were trying to figure out whether or not we would have had this “good time,” my friend Alex said, “Oh God, the two of you would’ve been in front of the pub screaming profanities at each other at 2 o’clock in the morning.” She paused for a second, pensive. “And there would have been hair-pulling, too, probably.”
“Yeah, but that’s just taking the piss, innit?” Niamh replied. “That’s all done with LOVE, baby.”
“Right,” I nodded. “We’d totally be okay with each other the next day, probably because we wouldn’t even have remembered why we were fighting.”
It’s a jokey sort of compliment when I say: “Oh, I TOTALLY would’ve drank with you.” But the fact is that I never really drank WITH anyone (apologies to anybody I actually DID drink with): I drank alone, even in a room full of people. Only another alcoholic understands this. It’s the Great Paradox of the Problem Drinker: we initially pick up to feel more comfortable and “social,” and we wind up totally isolating ourselves.
I drank to forget that I was shy, that I’d had a bad day, that I’d had my heart broken.
In hindsight, I was always drinking to leave something in the dust. I just always ended up stuck in the mud of my own making.
But I kept calling it “a good time.” And I looked for people to have that “good time” with me. The problem, if you’re an alcoholic, is that as you get older, your friends are not as interested in having a “good time” with you, because they’re starting to get, like, RESPONSIBLE and stuff. So you find younger friends. And when THOSE friends start in on that whole responsibility thing, you start looking for the next generation of friends with which to have a “good time,” and that’s when you’re just plain creepy. Sorry, but you are.
When I was a teenager, I was vehemently, adamantly anti-drinking. “I don’t have to drink to have a good time,” I’d sniff, and I’d make sure that any of my friends who drank were aware of how DISAPPOINTED I was. When I got to college, I started drinking like it was my job. Then drinking became my life. Now, when I say that I don’t have to drink to have a good time, it’s with a sense of wonder.