I'm Going to Miss Waking Up in a Booze Sweat But I Hear AA is Pretty Great

By Kayla MacKenzie

As an expert procrastinator, I’ve always claimed age 30 would be the milestone I got my shit together. You know, regular exercise, self care, maybe start receiving haircuts in salons instead of hacking at my mane with an old Bic razor in my bathroom.

If my life had kept trudging on as it has the last 29 years, I don’t think I could have motivated myself to change much once I hit my new decade. Luckily, about a month before my birthday, I hit absolute rock bottom.

I don’t do well with contentment. I find something to pick at, like healed emotional scabs, whether they’re my family’s or my partner’s or my friends’. I want to improve everything and everyone around me. I find myself unable to relax, because relaxing feels a bit like giving up to someone like me. Where I’m from—a harsh, opportunity-less Midwestern town—to give up is to stop fighting. You won’t get anywhere if you lose your spunk; only now, in my Brooklyn apartment and my non-profit job and my supportive relationship, that urge to fight hasn’t got an outlet.

It was so easy to look outward for my fights when I had all these demons growling inside of me all along. How delusional, how self unaware, how—normal. I suffer from anxiety, and alcohol exacerbated that, giving me not an outlet, but twisting my thoughts and feelings and words until they resembled someone else’s. A stranger I didn’t want to spend time with, let alone be.

What I’ve been missing, though, and realized once I woke up at 4 AM in the sludge of a disastrous night spent drinking, is that the things that need improvement are my own. If I can focus on myself, my own healing and growth and improvement, I could stop aggressively poking at everyone around me, escalating mild situations. I needed to realize the fight I was craving was within me all along. Right under my nose—I didn’t even have to go looking for it: I had a drinking problem.

It took me so long to realize this because disasters didn’t occur every time I drank; it was a series of weird coincidences that I couldn’t connect together. It’s just stress, I would think when I lashed out, over and over. The common denominator was a mystery to me for so long, and I’m still not sure if that was willful ignorance or simple denial.   

There isn’t one type of alcohol abuse—you don’t need to shake when you don’t have it and wake in puddles of vomit when you do have it to need help. You don’t even need to drink every day. But you do need, in my non-expert opinion, to have both of the following: you need to be a lesser version of yourself when you drink, and you need to fucking love it.

I love all of the aspects of drinking. The socializing, the bars—the filthier the better, I swear— the taste, the confidence, the laughter. I even have a soft spot for a good hangover; an excuse to eat terrible food in the bathtub while your insides feel like they’ve been tossed down four flights of stairs.

You can’t expect someone to accept you for who you are when you don’t even know what you are. I didn’t know what I was, or that I had a problem. I didn’t look inward, and that’s no one’s fault but mine. And I’m not preaching against the culture of alcohol consumption in our society, but stumbling along in my own discovery of the occasional damages that it causes me, outweighing the good times. I fear that I’ll lose friends over getting sober, that I’ll be considered boring, that I won’t get to cheers with champagne at my wedding, should I ever have one.

But I need to ask myself: who do I want to be? Do I want to give up drinking forever, or simply get it under control, practice it in a celebratory fashion only, not as a daily balm? Who am I without alcohol? It’s been my social lubricant since I was 19 years old. At the very least, I owe it to myself to see who I am without mainlining cocktails, and the ultra supportive atmosphere at AA seems like as good a place as any to share war stories and reach out for connection.

Maybe it seems like I’m blaming my shitty behavior on alcohol, and hoping that giving it up will be some magic solution. I wish. I know I’m responsible for my actions, and there’s no excusing them. But I can fight so that they don’t happen again. I can fight the existence of that person, that other me, with therapy, self care, AA, and that constant fire I have raging inside. She might take a while to go down, because in all honesty, she can’t feel shit when she’s drunk, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic.