Today is one of those days which give me hope that I might yet make something worthwhile out of myself. I have no clue why, but I’m hopelessly prone to chasing – dreams, goals, people, you name it, I’ve chased it. Not saying I always won, just chased. Anyhow, having been worried about my own somewhat excessive drinking for a while, I chased (and this time, won) the 100 Days of Club Soda Challenge, which is roughly what it sounds like – one hundred consecutive days where alcohol and I have had nothing to do with each other. And yes, Shameek, that includes beer.
Having been off the booze for a hundred days today, I’m wondering – why did I need to do this? What did I get out of it? After all, for many years now, I’ve enjoyed a stiff drink (or seven) on a hard week’s Friday night just as much as the next person (see exhibit #1 below). Unusually for my otherwise meandering and slightly messed-up brain, it didn’t take too much thinking at all before I realized that a single word explained my sudden need to stop drinking – “boundaries”.
As I cross my mid-thirties and head towards the big four-oh, I’m becoming acutely aware of the importance of setting clear boundaries, both with oneself and with others. As with all of the best lessons I’ve learnt, this has mostly been through making mistakes. I’ve failed to define and protect boundaries in too many of my own relationships, and watched them go into autodestruct mode more often than I care to acknowledge here. And it’s not even always about two people – I’m guilty of having let third parties infiltrate boundaries that I should have kept sacrosanct and paid a horrible price for it (and no, I’m not talking about extramarital affairs here). Damn, come to think of it, given my own personality, I’ve probably invaded far more than my fair share of others’ boundaries over the years too (never with malicious intent, though – just didn’t realize I was overstepping). I’ve watched with admiration as people confidently walked out of bad marriages with their small children and very little financial security because their boundaries were trampled upon once too often. Sadly, in extreme cases, I’ve watched people literally begging for their personal boundaries to be invaded, which always makes me almost as mad at that person as at the creeps that invariably end up taking over their lives and destroying them.
Within the walls of my own little kaleidoscopic world, at multiple points in my eventful thirty-seven years, I’ve failed to set boundaries with substances (and then had to say Hard Goodbyes that I could have done without). Cigarettes were a bitch, I should have had more sense. Sleep meds were the older sister that taught cigarettes all there was to learn about being a bitch. I say this because nothing, absolutely nothing, I’ve ever gone through is as bad as years of severe chronic insomnia. About the only thing I still miss sometimes is high-quality weed, and to be frank, if you’re sharing, I’ll still take a drag or two. But to me, alcohol was always a gentler, sweeter sin, a beautiful but slightly twisted woman with a heart of gold and fuzzy morals just like mine, if you will. And so, like the cherished ex-girlfriend who I never had the balls to completely banish from my life, it would break my fragile heart to say another Hard Goodbye to my weekly Friday night rendezvous with a crystal tumbler of golden, barrel-aged rum. And so, around 3am on a drunken Saturday morning, I had the following memorable conversation:
“Excuse me, my lovely Ron Zacapa Aniversario, and thank you, Mr. Baccarat Decanter but you don’t define me, see, it’s the other way around – I define you. Now, please get back to your places on my bar shelf, or else I’m going to have to pour you down the sink and break you into little pieces, respectively, and we wouldn’t like that, would we? There, such sweethearts the two of you are. Don’t worry, we’ll be seeing each other again in just a few days – but this time on my terms, dahlings.”
And so, one little red check mark at a time (exhibit #2), I went about my little quest to redeem some measure of confidence in my own ability to set healthy boundaries. I won’t even dwell on the minor rewards I got out of doing the whole Club Soda challenge thing, such as the approximately $600 not spent at my friendly neighborhood liquor store (enough for sixty slices of richly marbled otoro sashimi at Tachibana, talk about serious addictions). Or the ten pounds I lost, which have me back at my college weight for the first time in fifteen years. At the end of the day, those are merely numbers. All things considered, my big winner’s prize is the kick I got out of firmly removing Alcohol from that precious little zone that no one gets to share except me, myself and a person masquerading as Shurjo. I’m sure I’ll pour myself another drink at some point, but as for today, I’m not even craving one. And that, my friend, is a sweet, sweet feeling.