Closing time.

I’m in a band. I’m in a band that pays tribute to the music of another band, and as such we get asked to play out a lot. Last week we played a show that ran quite a bit past my bedtime. We were loading our equipment into the car at, I’d say, pretty close to 2 o’clock in the morning. If you don’t live in Massachusetts, this is what’s known as closing time. You are summarily scooted out the door and left to fend for yourselves.

As we heaved instruments and amplifiers from the sidewalk into the trunk and back seat, I watched people in various stages of intoxication spill out of the surrounding bars. Most of these people dispersed fairly quickly, heading off to their apartments or cars (presumably with designated drivers), but a few lingered. Couples. From the looks of it, couples who perhaps didn’t start the night out as such. Unlike me and Coombsie, they weren’t going to go home and remember that the dishwasher needed to be emptied, and argue about who was going to empty it.

But as I watched them (while trying not to make that too obvious), I remembered all too well what it was like to be a part of one those closing time couples, even though I’ve been part of a married couple for almost 15 years, and have spent over 10 of those 15 years as a non-drinker. But, yeah. Swaying on the sidewalk, god knows how many drinks braying through my bloodstream, staring moonily at some guy, oblivious to time and temperature. If I close my eyes I can remember it perfectly. That’s the romance of it.

But as I was told very early on in my recovery, I’m only watching the trailer. I’m only seeing the best parts of those nights. The next morning awkwardness, the smeared eye makeup, the sense that I wasn’t going to be taken out for breakfast (and in fact I was usually given some not-so-subtle hints that it would be better if I got my things and left as quickly as possible). And the shame. Boy howdy, the shame. That’s the tragedy of it.

I was worth so much more than that. But I didn’t believe it. I had to drink to feel special, beautiful, desirable, because of things that happened to me. Because I was bullied. Because I was taken advantage of. Because my heart was broken. And I lacked the proper tools to rebuild that crumbling foundation, so I poured alcohol all over it and hoped it would set.

I remember going home one night with a fellow graduate student with whom I’d been aggressively flirting. This guy was so sweet, so perceptive, and he totally had my number. We sat on his couch and he fixed me a drink, and when I gulped that down and sought another, he looked at me and said, “I feel like you have to be somewhere else just to be here with me.” I stammered my denials, and eventually fell into his bed, but I knew deep down he was right. But it would take me another 8 years of drinking before I admitted it.

We drink because it lowers inhibitions. It creates “bravery” where there was reticence. Somewhere along the line, though, some of us lose our ability to differentiate between our true selves – our wants and our needs – and the selves we create through drinking.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that those couples woke up on Saturday morning feeling just as starry-eyed and infatuated as they were on the sidewalk in front of the bar. I hope so. But I hope, too, that for the women who woke up the way I did so many times, they’ll come to understand their worth.

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