Booze and Me

Sherry McGuinn

A relationship on the rocks.

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It’s hard to know where to begin a story about a relationship you’ve been a part of nearly your whole life. Like the one, I’ve had with alcohol.

Booze is my best friend and my worst enemy. By turns, she loves me and detests me. And I have the battle scars to prove it.

I can’t remember my first drink. But I do know that I was underage. I know that because my parents drank with gusto and a vigor of which I have come to emulate. And I’m certain that I “sampled” their cocktails whenever I could get away with it.

And they, too, had battle scars. Ugly remnants of their frequent and frequently vicious, arguments. No. I’ll call it what they were: Fights.

I saw — and heard — way too much as a kid.

But to blame my parents for my long-standing love/hate affair with booze would be a cop-out of the highest order.

Yes, I have the gene, but the fact that it’s burned so hot and so bright for so long is on me.

I suffer from OCD and anxiety. And even though I prefer to lie to myself…to let myself believe that booze helps to tamp down my racing and often disturbing, thoughts, I know in my gut and my heart that this is bullshit.

I’m hurting myself. And I have hurt myself for far too long. In fact, I sometimes think my drinking is a form of self-punishment. For what, I’m not certain.

Or is that just another lie?

When it comes to me and booze, I’ve become hard-core and I know it. I’m not a “social drinker,” by any means. Oh, if only. Rather, I’m an “every night or bust” drinker. And, since I’ve been home even more than before, the bar opens earlier every day.

In my 20s and 30s, my “every night at the bar” days, I could pound ’em down with the best of them. And we’re not talking pansy-ass wine, but rot-gut like 151 Rum, which I randomly swilled to the amazement of one of the bartenders, the guy who later became my husband.

Truth be told, back then, most of the other women were heavy drinkers, as well. And even now, according to Health.Com, more women are drinking and women are drinking more.

And now, in the face of a pandemic, all of us, men and women alike are under more stress than ever before. And it’s killing us, just like the virus.

I could have gotten in a lot of trouble back in the day, but someone or something must have been looking out for me. I had my share of “mornings after” and whole snatches of time that were nothing more than a cosmic blur.

“What did I do?” “How did I get home?”

Please don’t get the impression that I was a falling-down, rumdum. Quite the opposite. I’ve always had a ton on energy and even now, I function at an extremely high level.

But that’s concerning in and of itself. Has my body gotten used to the booze? Does it need alcohol like it needs food and water to survive?

Ifyou were to ask me, “So Sherry, given that you know what you know, why do you drink?”

I’d probably say, I drink to forget my parents died of Stage 4 lung cancer within two weeks of one another and that cancer is rampant in my family.

I’d probably say, I drink to forget my own diagnosis of breast cancer, which followed less than two months after my parents’ death knell.

But I am here and they are not.

I’d probably say, I drink to forget that the world is a shitty place with shitty people and we’re on a Highway to Hell.

I’d probably say, I drink to forget some of what I saw — and heard — as a kid.

But that would be BS. I drink because I like it. There it is. Out in the open. I freakin' like it. It feels good. For a while, anyway.

My drink of choice is vodka, but I gave that up months ago due to the realization that I was going through the large bottles at an alarming rate.

“I’ll just drink wine,” I figured. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But wine is still booze. There’s no getting around it. And, in the last couple of months, I’ve had at least three debilitating hangovers where a good chunk of the previous evenings were lost to me. And what did I do? How did I cope?

I forced myself to work out, as I normally do every day. Forced myself to work out until I thought I would pass out. That was my punishment. My self-flagellation. Sick as a dog on the treadmill.

Sometimes I amaze even myself.

My husband drinks but he, unlike me, knows when to quit. I reach that point of no return where I’m unaware of how much I’ve already imbibed, and don’t give a damn.

He is tolerant of my transgressions and, as he is a kind soul, cautions me not to “beat myself up,” as he realizes that I am a stress bomb. But getting loaded and consequently nasty isn’t fair to him. Not by a longshot.

Why am I telling you this? Why am I portraying myself in such a negative light? I’m not sure. For accountability perhaps? Or just to let people know how easy it is to slide into a sinkhole and never emerge.

I know that’s why I told my sister, recently. She worries about me and made me promise that I would quit.

Normally, when I “quit,” it’s for two or three days, and then it’s, “Hey, I’m feeling really good. I got this!” And then, well…you know.

I’m a strong person. And if I put my mind to it…really put my mind to it, I’m almost certain that I could change. But —

If I were to be brutally honest with you, and I’ve already come this far, so I see no reason to hold back — I can’t imagine the prospect of never having another drink. Never enjoying a perfect Dirty Martini or a full-bodied Cabernet.

If I had my druthers, I’d be a “social drinker” only. If ever we become “social,” again. This is what I tell myself.

Can I do it? I don’t know. And that, too, is the truth.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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