So a couple weeks ago, I celebrated thirty (count 'em!) years of sobriety.
I sobered up the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. The year IBM rolled out its first personal computer with a price tag of $5,000. The year MTV debuted as the first around-the-clock music video station.
I took my last drink just 32 days after the New York Times reported on a rare cancer that had been diagnosed in 41 gay men.
In short, it was lifetimes ago.
I drank for just seven years, but I drank daily from the beginning. Mostly, I drank wine. Lots and lots and lots of it, mostly Gallo and Carlo Rossi, my subsistence ration for the times when I was broke, which - surprise! - was most of the time. But when I could, I liked the harder stuff. Serially monogamous, I would order the same thing night after night until I was seduced by some new concoction. Stingers. Kahlua and cream. 151 Rum and Tab.
I can still feel the warmth of the first drink, that delicious bloom, that surge through my arms and down into my fingers as the alcohol hits. I can still taste the stuff, still feel what it did for me.
Throughout my sobriety, I have struggled with the first step -- accepting that I'm powerless over alcohol. Some people say it's the one step you have to work perfectly. Not me! Truth is, part of me still doesn't believe I'm an alcoholic. It's one of the hazards of having a "high bottom." It's also one more thing I don't need to drink over today. And I'm guessing that social drinkers don't wax all nostalgic about the buzz they copped 30 years ago.
Besides, there are those other memories: Pawning the ten-dollar gold coin my mom gave me so I could buy alcohol. Getting drunk nearly every day, even while I was trying to get pregnant; and then spending interminable nights anguishing about fetal alcohol syndrome. Pulling the covers over my face at night, leaving just one small breathing hole, so I wouldn't see or feel something in the dark that shouldn't be there. Sleeping countless nights with one foot on the floor in a vain attempt to make the room stop spinning. My last drunk, throwing up in front of a bowling alley and riding home miserable, my long hair wet and still dripping with vomit.
I quit drinking about the time I started getting the shakes in the morning. I've had them, occasionally, ever since.
It's small stuff compared to what others went through. I know this. But I hold fast to one of the first things I heard in the rooms: "I'd rather spend the rest of my life sober, thinking I'm an alcoholic, than to spend the rest of my life drunk, thinking I'm not."
Which seems like reason enough to stay away from the first drink for another day. At least until I get this all figured out.