I live in a community that has roots in a bar. I exist in a community that is drowning. In a greater society where alcohol is a generally acceptable substance of choice, the queer community is sure to not be left out. Many important historical and social events of our people have happened in bars, over pitchers and martinis. I would like to attempt to re-write my future.
Being sober is an exception to the norm. Something that is often called into question, challenged and misunderstood. Not unlike my gender, sexual orientation and associated politics, many people that I meet for the first time (and some who I have known for years) cannot understand a conscious decision to not participate in the consumption of alcohol. People ask me daily, why the limp, why the cane, why the dress, why the stache, why the ginger ale? These are questions that depending on the day, the mood, the amount that have already been asked may or may not get answers. But for the sake of clarity, let me answer the last one.
I have "quit drinking" a few times in my life. When I hear other people talk about addiction, talk about the first time they experienced that certain substance and what it did to them, it makes me think of my early experiences drinking. The first time I was drunk was at a cast + crew after show party. A house full of actors, dancers and fellow stage tech nerds. A 4 pack of mike's hard. My pupils dilating with each breath. My parents picking me up too early. Sitting awake, and drunk, in bed weighing out if I could climb out the window, down the roof, and walk across town before the party was dry. 15. My parents made wine, and I found my way into the boxes of it. I created a fictitious club with a friend so we could have bake sales to raise vodka money in the halls at school. I couldn't get enough. About 8 years of my life (save for those points that I recognized the problem at hand and tried cold turkey sobriety for a couple months at a time) can be tracked as a somewhat blurry line from weekend to weekend. Party becomes party until they hardly distinguish themselves. Regular every day things became about drinking- I got so into drinking a cold beer in a hot shower that I would make a trip to the beer store before bathing. I would drink alone. I would encourage , nay pressure, others to keep up.
This wasn't hard. Being a freak in high school provided enough opportunity, although it hardly seemed so at the time. Being an exchange student in Denmark was a 12 month binge. Returning to Canada, coming out as queer, finding my way into the queer community, I found a whole world of people who drank as much as I did. Finding people to share breakfast Caesars with was never hard. Finding people who would play sports as long as there was beer involved: a breeze. All night dancing, late night pizza, stumbling home, with whoever became a lifestyle. Even as I started to pull back from that, party less, I noticed that every element of my life tasted a bit fermented.
In the fall I was started on heart medication. I was told that I couldn't drink much on the meds, or they wouldn't be able to do their job, keep me alive. I tried moderation. I tried having "A drink". I tried to only drink on the weekends. It wasn't working. As soon as I had "A drink", the line disappeared. It became not such a bad idea to have "just one more". So I had my last beer on my birthday. My date took me to the Pumpjack and I drank one last winter ale. I suppose the choice to quit could've been hard. Acting on it and sticking to it could've been tough. It sure hasn't been easy. But knowing that I was on a medication, intended to keep my heart going, which ran my body through the wringer, and couldn't give me any benefits when mixed with booze made it easier. After about 3 months I was taken of the meds. I seem to be doing ok, and don't need them as much as originally thought. Time is said to offer perspective. Sober time in a alcohol obsessed community sure does. I was able to see my patterns, recognize my relationship to booze. See it spill through my friends, my homes, my neighborhood. I could start again. My doctors haven't advised me against it. I have. I can see what that pattern looks like for me. I have broken up with alcohol. I even wrote a harsh break-up letter. And I know that even with time, hooking up with ex's can too easily be a quick trip into old patterns. The patterns that emerged out of my relationship to alcohol are not those which I wish to get back into.
But like the queer community, small and insular as it is, I know I cannot escape my ex's. We live in a small bubble. I must learn to live with alcohol while living without it.