Thirteen months sober, twelve since returning from inpatient rehab…hope everyone rang in 2014 with style, class & safe celebrations! Did you make a Resolution? Have you broken it yet?
Two or three years ago, I made the last New Year’s Resolution I’ll ever make – and accordingly it has been one I’ve been able to keep. My Final Resolution was…to never make another New Year’s Resolution. I did it! Well, so far I’ve done it. I just have to remember to not forget I resolved not to resolve. Now, why would I go and do such a thing? Surely I can’t seriously believe that cleverness excuses laziness…but I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.
My fascination with the abstract nature of “time” (i.e. human conceptualization of it) is partly responsible for my outright refusal to make an annual half-assed life-betterment hoo-rah promise to myself. To me, “January 1” is just another day on the calendar, a day where we continue living as time invisibly morphs and marches on around us. Why do I, as an independent, functioning member of society, need to be reminded by a specific date to check my motives and get busy on the one’s and two’s? I mean sure, I understand the symbology behind the tick of the clock – turning over a new leaf, wiping the slate clean, squashing the beef, so on and so forth. But if that matters so much, why are resolutions so seemingly easy to break?
Because goals set under flimsy/superficial pretenses rarely if ever carry weighty consequences for not following through on them. “Working out” or “dieting,” for example – two popular resolutions concerning forward-thinking lifestyle choices that require consistency and frequency for effective implementation…and as we alcoholics and addicts well know, “habit” is not typically a personal trait you pick up at the drop of a hat. The development of your aspirations takes time, energy, and hard work – none of which you get credit for just by showing up on the first of the year.
So the bottom line here is: cumulatively, proactively work on self-betterment because you want to, not because a failed societal norm dictates that you must try and try again each time you switch out your calendar (do people really do much of that anymore even though? #digitalfreedom). My own regimens and menus have been respectively less regular and more fatty over the past couple of holiday weeks, but with less epic dinners & desserts on tap I have much less temptation/access to unhealthy dietary options…which reminds me I still really need to hone my cooking skills, while I don’t have to rely on them for survival. Game plan is to become ace at prepping & serving one really delicious, really healthy, really simple meal. Probably some sort of chicken/pasta combo; every man ought to have such a meal locked & loaded in his arsenal, ready to flex at a moment’s notice.
In fact, basic chicken and pasta was pretty much the only “meal” I regularly made for myself, as an undergrad student. Between lacking nutritional values, vodka dietary supplements, a propensity toward insomniac tendencies, and an overactive thyroid gland…I probably should have declared a double-major and picked up a degree in Casual Napping, while I was at it. College was very much like that for me: take it or leave it, fuck it or fight it, it’s all the same anyway. My dismissive attitude was far too cavalier for my own good, and I was *just* immature enough to think that brash disregard for square bullshit was a pretty hip way of conducting business. Not that this is a major revelation about the nature of my personality, but I did experience a moment of clarity on the subject a couple of months ago.
“Nobody really knows; I was leaving, it was late, and the rent’s due /
But it seems he don’t mind he’s got a pocketful of something in his cigarettes.
Nobody really knows; I was leaving, it was late, and the rent’s due but it seems he don’t mind /
You know he probably fell asleep at the bar.”
When I last caught UM live in Buffalo at the end of October we got a “Last Man Swerving” in the first set, and though I’ve heard the song dozens of times before, for some reason standing in the middle of the packed ballroom it occurred to me just how college those lyrics are. You can even hear it in the way they’re sung – those words were written by a young malt liquor-swilling good-time dude just trying to get by; they were decidedly not penned by a successful rock star who is hard at work on tour for 2/3 of the year. And if I’m honest, I do still have a bit of a soft spot for that lifestyle. Just a very small one, though, and not for the sake of my demeanor and mannerisms back then, but moreso because I was able to get away with playing as fast and loose as I did.
There is no doubt that I was that guy (or “that guy”), through and through. Cash flow tight as it is these days I had pretty limited options as far as plans for New Year’s Eve 2013, so I decided that would make a neat opportunity to pop out to Rochester and visit the old stomping grounds, and mix it up with a few different circles I used to run in (i.e. mostly old friends from college I never said a proper goodbye to when I left town to get my house in order). I was particularly looking forward to catching up with the lot of my fraternity alumni that live out that way, one of whom had gotten married to his long-time girlfriend over the summer. After regaling me with tales of the bachelor party (which were every bit as debaucherous and regal as I’d imaged they might be), my newlywed-brother and host for the night plied me with hors d’eouvres of various cheeses and a homemade chili and we all gathered together for a champagne toast before they headed out to their $50/head open bar & buffet bar seating (cheers to a full wallet amirite?).
I had mentioned to him some weeks prior that I would probably be stopping through, but it just goes to show the level of consideration and care that he also made sure to have a non-alcoholic bubbly on hand. Though booze flowed freely (heartily, even; NYE and so it goes) amongst the rest of the guests for the 90 or so minutes I spent there, never once was I uncomfortable or tempted or even offered a drink, really (save for from the host, who was more than happy to serve up a cappuccino from his newly gifted machine). As the evening wore on conversation did eventually turn to the topic of my sobriety and how I was handling it all. I don’t know if it’s because actively seeking personal praise makes me uncomfortable, but I tend to forget how good it makes me feel. Totally reaffirming, to hear how far ahead in the game I am from these guys who all own houses, cars, and some of whom even have families.
Anyway the reason I bring all that up is because during this conversation they pointed out to me, from objective and elder places at the table, that the alcoholic part of my personality while dangerous and destructive was also empowering and a centralizing force to be reckoned with. As the years progressed that particular niche in the social tree was carved deeper and deeper in…and I was pretty damn good at playing the part. I knew how to take it to the next level; I knew how to get reactions; I knew how to orchestrate the behind-the-scenes and grease the doors properly (the latter of which also made me such a good promoter…while the former of which got me into hot water on the job on more than one occasion). So eventually it was just sort of expected of me. And in a college setting a large majority of people (the ones I surrounded myself with, anyway) are in it to some degree right along with you, so it’s hard for even the closest of peers to peel the layers back.
Thankfully the lid has now been sealed on that rebel era, and I’m not held hostage as a shell of the man I am capable of being. Which in turn allows me to hold my head up high and re-enter the world anew, and safely enjoy a still thoroughly decadent New Year’s Eve celebration with the homies. I had a completely random, chance encounter later in the night when we had braved the cold to post up at a stately little bar downtown, with an acquaintance from Geneseo I had nearly forgotten lived in the area. Tipsy as she was at 2 a.m. on New Year’s I think she was a bit more forthright than she meant to come off as, but I didn’t mind one bit her gushing over how fresh and healthy I looked.
You forget what a toll it takes on you physically, too, when you relentlessly poison your body with dirty grain alcohol. It was no compliment just for the sake of a compliment though – I feel like thrice the man I did a year ago, and I was dressed the part that night too. Intended to grab a good collection of photos from various angles because it’s rare that I have an occasion to suit up to the nines, but my head was more in the moment than in my phone. Which I’m fine with. You either get busy livin’, or you get busy dyin’, right? I’ve got a feeling that 2014 is gonna be bigger than Barry Manilow’s brass. Let’s get live and stay grateful, shall we? “I’ve seen the hard times, when the pressures fell on me / Life is so strange, when it’s changin’, yes it is…”