Giving up the drink or: why I had to give up on booze


I have written about my relationship with addiction in the past, but that was about pills and not the drink. I really—really—love booze. Having perhaps loved it too much for about a decade or so, we are going to be taking a break.

Similar to relationships I have had in the past, where the love—unbeknownst to us both—had transformed into something complicated and dark, I have come to see that things haven’t been good for a while. And as with those relationships, the complication and darkness became a routine in which I subconsciously chased—and repeatedly failed to obtain—those initial highs. Routine became co-dependence, and while sparks of what drew us together at the beginning would make themselves evident here and there, banality had long ago become the norm.

I will go into my foray into drink at another time, but I will say that I loved it in my early 20s and have loved a great deal about it since. There really was love there, even when things got rocky, and I don’t say so facetiously. I love great booze and well crafted drinks. I am a huge fan of the beer movement here in Maine, and I am excited to watch that market grow and evolve. Some of my favorite people work within that industry. Some of my favorite memories include drinking, and while the good times presented themselves fewer and further between—the honeymoon phase faded long ago—they were there through the end. The first few drinks were always an exquisite catalyst for wonderful exchanges and conversations, but the next few tend to take things to a reliably rockier place.

Moderation is not my specialty, which is ultimately the problem. A lot of people are, and I envy these bastards, but I am a too the bottom guy. One drink inevitably becomes 3, 3 becomes 7, and 7 becomes more. I get loud and bossy and argumentative. In the past, my commitment to fidelity would become loose, and while I would not pursue trouble, I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay out of its way. There are definitely a number of people who want nothing to do with me, and my love for the drink and everything at the core of that love is partially responsible. I am lucky that nobody got more hurt than they did. I am lucky to have never gotten arrested for driving or fighting or just being a fucking asshole. I am lucky that nobody died.

I decided 16 days back that it’s time I get in front of this before one of those things happens.

I have been thinking about it for a while—a long while—but I kept finding those occasional tastes of the fun that I used to find at the bottom of the glass so damn convincing. In fact, appreciation for the drink–and commitment to it–had become so ingrained in my life that when this blog launched in 2012, the word “Bourbon” was incorporated into its title. A few years ago, I saw an old friend at a party, and the next morning he stopped by my house to tell me, “I’m glad you got yourself back here alright; next time you should be a little more careful.” That he was the first person to hand me a beer nearly a decade and a half before caught my attention and got the ball rolling on what would be a multi-year wakeup call.

The stories of my sloppy selfishness, driving when I shouldn’t have, ending up in the wrong beds, treating the people I love like shit, and everything else that began to overshadow the occasional good times are for another time, but I have been heartened and inspired by the progress of others. I have seen a handful of lovely hot, hot messes get it together by sorting out and settling their relationships with booze, and this has been my inspiration. And I am a regular listener to the podcasts of Marc Maron and Chris Hardwick, each of whom has lived sober for over a decade respectively, and each of whom has talked at great length about their pasts and related troubles. I have been moved by their progress and relative peace of mind.

Most importantly, though, I love my wife too much to put our time together in the hands of the drink, and I love my daughter too much to settle into the banality of this weakness. She, by the way, has been my saving grace to this point in that I have made it my policy to avoid pursuing the bottom while she is in our care. I want to preserve and maintain these relationships, to nourish them, to grow them, to stop putting them at risk. To do so, I need to be able to give myself the same love that I want to give to them. I love myself, but not as much as I could. I have long confused pride for self esteem, particularly in the months and years that not a day went by without lubrication.

I had my last drink on August 25th. I know that two and a half weeks is a little early to talk about this as if I am on the road to forever—one day at a time and all that. But I feel like I am seeing in HD and I am an exponentially more pleasant person. It had been years since I randomly felt filled with love and wonder—or since I felt any emotion but anger and frustration with great intensity—and it has already happened a handful of times just this week. I feel lighter, and not simply because I have lost a pound for every day I haven’t had a drink, but because I feel less ensnared by darkness. While I try to project the opposite, I am manic and daunted by darkness, and those elements of me don’t need any aid in their war on my contentment, my health, and my life. For the first time in a while, I feel like I have a chance in that fight.

And with regard to well being, this is the lowest indicator, but the amount money I have saved is obscene.

To this point, luck has been on my side—for this I am grateful—but I have taken advantage and am living on borrowed time. The universe has given me more than it has had to and I owe it for that. It’s time for me to take the wheel for a while, which means seeing the world through sober eyes. That was always the scariest thing about taking control—vision unaided by impairment—but I am pleasantly excited by what I have seen of that world thus far.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.