43. James Stops Drinking

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I have mastered the art of bamboozling other twenty-somethings living in New York; I gave up alcohol. Just ‘cuz.

“Wait, did something really bad happen? Did someone, like, die?”

No. Nopey nopes. Nobody died. I just don’t really like drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of it is DELICIOUS: Jack & Ginger, Pinot Noir, Captain & Coke, ANYTHING WITH MALIBU. But I hate everything else that comes with it.

I don’t like feeling altered. When I drink, I don’t feel completely myself anymore. I understand that some people really enjoy that feeling of escapism, but I don’t. I want to be me. I don’t want to drink to make myself more tolerable to other or myself, and I don’t want to drink to escape my life. I’d rather deal with it head-on, because all my bullshit will still be here when I come down. People used to tell me, “You’re so funny when you’re drunk.” And I would think, ‘Bitch, I’m a spitfire when I’m sober, too! But when I’m sober, I’m making intentional humor with my wit and my story-telling instead of when I’m drunk and you’re just laughing at my googly-eye.’ Drinking makes me feel slightly less aware, and I don’t want that. I want to feel my life. I don’t even like taking medicine when I have a cold or ibuprofen when I have a headache. All of that weirds me out and makes me feel like I’m not getting the full experience of every day. I want to be here.

I also felt like I was drinking to satisfy other people my age. Because twenty-somethings LOVE to drink. What do twenty-somethings do for fun: DRAAAAAAANK. What do twenty-somethings do after work: get a cocktail. What do twenty-somethings do on the weekend: go out drinking, go to bed, wake up for brunch and then DRINK SOME MORE. I realize that this is a generalization, but this is what I’m finding to be true for a majority of the people I see in NYC. But when I would go out with my friends, I ended up drinking to make them feel less self-conscious. You know how if you and a friend go to a diner but only they are hungry, they won’t want to eat because they’ll feel self-conscious? Drinking is like that but times a MILLION. I would go out with friends, and I wouldn’t intend on drinking. But if I’m sitting there not drinking while they are, they feel judged. As if I’m judging them. Then they start questioning themselves, which is NOT my intention; I just came out so I don’t have to be alone; I did not want to make all these people second-guess their life choices. So then they’ll say, “Come on, James. Just have one drink.” And being the people-pleaser that I am, I’ll have a drink. And then on the train ride home I’ll feel something similar to self-loathing as I realize that once again I’ve done something I didn’t want to do to please the people around me. So I realized my solution: don’t go to bars. Now, as a 24-year old gay actor living in New York City who doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, I have significantly decreased the amount of social gatherings I am likely to be invited to and, ultimately, attend. In layman’s terms, I am fucked when it comes to making friends.

(As a sidenote: I do not judge people who like drinking or smoking or do drugs. It’s just not for me.)

This is an example of a conversation I’ve had:

Potential Friend: Hey, do you want to go out for drinks later?
Me: I don’t drink.
PF: …Why?
Me: I don’t like it.
PF: Oh, but you, like, smoke, right?
Me: Nope. I don’t really do anything.
PF: Oh, but, if you were at a club you would do Molly, right?
Me: Nah.
PF: So what do you do when you go to bars then?
Me: I don’t really go to bars.
PF: Oh, that’s…cool…

But a typical day-to-day conversation goes like this:

Potential Friend: Hey.
Me: Hey, what’s up?
PF: Damn, you’re tall.
Me: I know.
PF: Wanna get a drink?
Me: I don’t drink.
PF:………why?!!??!

As if I’ve just told them that I like to chew the gum from under the seats in the movie theater. I realize that I’ve added limits to my social life. And when I talk about how it’s difficult for me to make friends, people say, “Well, can’t you go out to a bar and not drink?” And I say, “Is it fun to go out to dinner with your friends and watch them eat?” But having this conversation on the daily makes me feel like an aberration. And maybe I am.

After writing my last blog about saying goodbye to some of my besties, the loneliness really started to settle in. Not only do I have fewer friends in the city, but I also am struggling with how to make friends with people my age. So I really hunkered down on furthering myself in my career. I started going to ballet class about three times a week. I’m practicing songs in my book, and I’m adding new songs to my book. I’m auditioning. I’m looking into getting into modeling. But even though my career won’t wake up one morning and tell me it doesn’t love me anymore, it won’t hang out with me at the end of a long day, make me giggle, pick stray boogers out of my nose and tell me it loves me. And I’ve found the fundamental source of my suffering: I don’t respect myself.

My lack of self-respect has consequences that have really hurt me. I did things to appease other people who I realized wouldn’t do the same for me. I’ve engaged in emotionally abusive relationships, and I’ve let myself be used physically. And I let those things permeate my being. And I’ve said, “ENOUGH, GOD DAMNIT. I WANT MY LIFE BACK.”

I’m starting therapy tomorrow. I was nervous I wasn’t going to be fucked up enough to qualify for sliding-scale therapy. She asked me if I started fires and I thought to myself, ‘If I say yes, am I more likely to receive care?’ But I told the truth, and she accepted me and called me “high-functioning”. I blushed and took her evaluation of my mental health as a compliment.

This is my life, god damnit, and I’m done living it for other people.

Seize this day, Jesus,
James

(As a sidenote: I am trying to strengthen my relationships with the friends that I do have in the city, so please don’t feel marginalized if you are one of those lovely people.)

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2 responses »

  1. Hi James, I just wanted to tell you how awesome this story was. I dont drink very often myself for similar reasons and I wanted to tell you how nice to hear your thoughts on the matter. You are not alone in the world of 20-somethings that dont drink. So just keep going out there in New York, and know that you are awesome.

  2. Love it! If the potential friends can’t get past the fact that you don’t drink, I say it’s okay if they don’t become your friends.

    When I studied abroad in college, one of my good friends in our program was Muslim — so he didn’t drink alcohol. He would still go out (sometimes stay out later than I could!), he just wouldn’t drink alcohol. He almost always got a glass of coke or pepsi at the bar to have something to drink. He enjoyed spending time with his friends, even if it was out at an alcohol-serving establishment. He didn’t care if we were drinking (we knew there was no judgement), and we didn’t care that he didn’t drink. Just sharing the story so you know that no matter which route you end up taking — never going to bars, or going to bars and not drinking alcohol — it will work.

    Way to do what YOU want to do!

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