Alcohol without the holidays or holidays without the alcohol. It didn’t set in that this was an ultimatum until I discovered the latter. I’ll ruin the day and erase the memories if I drink. Not even one glass of champagne or wine with dinner, not anymore. Lucky ‘ole me is hitting the two month mark of sobriety on Black Friday, how charming. I’m playing it safe this year and spending tomorrow and Friday alone.
There’s no need to drink, no booze in the house anyways, and no immediate threat to my anxiety or anger. There are memories though. I’m not sure I remember a sober Thanksgiving. Let me correct that: I don’t recall a sober Thanksgiving-eve. I don’t remember a Thanksgiving when I didn’t wake up hungover. It was okay drinking as soon as I got down to the kitchen in the morning because it was a holiday where people did that. Macy’s Day Parade and Mimosas! But there’s no champagne in the fridge for me tomorrow. No extra bottle of vodka in the cabinet since the corner stores won’t open until late, if at all. There’s no bourbon in my hand to start the night. I’m not sure what waking up tomorrow will bring, and there’s no reason be thinking about it. But to be here alone and sober on a day where I’d usually drink for 18 hours straight doesn’t feel like a safe harbor.
There was a Thanksgiving in Malibu that was nice. I can’t believe that was six years ago. My girlfriend at the time was calm, happy, in her element. I have a photograph of her standing on a boulder looking out over the Pacific as the fog rolls in. A photograph of her genuinely smiling while wrapped in a blanket and lost in a book. Her hair was still long, a mess of knots and curls down to her back and out to her sides. In a photograph of the food we cooked our oversized wine glasses are three quarters full. My vodka glass was beside me while I took the picture. I’ve always celebrated big meals with a glass of wine and a glass of liquor at the same time. There’s only one photograph of me. It was after a few drinks at a bar down the beach. I was already putting on the weight from drinking so much the last few years. The only photos she ever managed to get of me almost always include a drink in my hand.
The last Thanksgiving I had at my parents place I was wrecked. This was maybe nine or ten years ago, to be honest I’m not sure. I had drunk so much vodka the night before I was throwing up the next morning. The nausea was so bad I couldn’t eat anything for dinner and sat quietly stalling, poking at the turkey, stuffing and green beans, waiting to clear the table. Waiting for the kitchen to be empty so I could get more vodka into me without anyone noticing. My mother never directly asked why I looked like shit and didn’t eat, but ensured I knew she was aware of the hangover with a dismissive look and comment. I’d end up getting my appetite back and eating my dinner near midnight alone in a drunken debacle, the kitchen lit only by the microwave hood lamp.
Only one other Thanksgiving I can remember. It was during a time in my life when my jaw would lock shut during stressful periods. I was casually diagnosed with TMJ and this seemed absolutely reasonable to me; I’d had issues with my mouth since I was six, what was one more?
We had driven the three hours south to visit my grandparents in their retirement village. There were some issues going on between my grandparents and my sister, my parents and my sister, and my grandparents and my parents, the usual gamut. As dinner approached my jaw inevitably did its thing. I went to my mother nearly in tears and told her I didn’t know how I could eat. She looked at me with exhaustion and said, “Don’t tell your grandmother, it would hurt her feelings.” And so I sat at the table and picked apart my food into the smallest bites I could, keeping quiet, my head down. I snuck into the kitchen much later that night after my jaw had unlocked and ate leftovers, in their dimly lit kitchen, alone.
Sixty days. Most of which I’ve spent alone, this isn’t anything new. I have gotten this far, I just have to treat tomorrow the same as I’ve done the last 58.