The Take-Out

Drinking habits can be a tough thing to swallow

The Take-Out

One of the hardest truths I had to learn in adulthood was that pleasure isn't always good. It's not even pleasurable sometimes, at least not in a way that has any resonance beyond those few seconds spent laughing before the inevitable realization that that laughter is too loud. That kind of pleasure, stirred in a chemical slush, only lasts in bleats and blurts before self-consciousness reappears. That kind of pleasure exists outside of happiness.

But of late, I have been conflating the two. I have suffered from anxiety as long as I can remember. I spent nights in grade school praying repetitively that the apocalypse wouldn't come and days in a cubicle praying repetitively for companionship. Sometimes I have been medicated and sometimes I have gotten by on the adrenaline of the new. I spent one summer in college shut away in my attic bedroom, unable to even order pizza.

Around then, I learned how to avoid. If I avoided opening envelopes, I didn't have to confront student loans. I could avoid answering phone calls or going anywhere an ex might be. I could let prescriptions expire because even the imagined scolding from a doctor made me break out in a sweat. I could avoid until something became a crisis, and after a cinematically tearful confession, someone would always jump in.

But even though by then I had freebased and smoked out and drank myself stupid, I never really learned that those were things I could use to avoid, too. Drinking, at least as a workaday ritual, is still a relatively new thing for me. When I started at the Chronicle a few years back, I would rarely even have an after-work beer. I had just got out of dating a rash of alcoholics. None of them were particularly good to me, and none were good for me, but inserting myself into their fuck-ups was an easy way to avoid. Soap opera dramatics was what I knew. It never occurred to me that avoidal could be a party.

But it turns out that the food and beverage industry is an exceedingly good place to dodge life. And I took to it like gangbusters, especially after my heart attack that made anxiety feel more life and death. If I had a fixation I couldn't shake, a restaurant was waiting with a cocktail and a small plate, a capsule of pleasure promising instant amnesia. I never had to eat alone. I never had to question whether or not I was happy.

Don't get me wrong. I don't slump on barstools wasted every night, or even most nights. The amount I drink hasn't so far given my doctor cause for alarm. It's just the reason I drink has started to alarm me. And maybe that's just another thing to worry about, borrowed trouble to fixate on instead of tackling the root cause. But it still has me scared, because the reason I drink now isn't to be sociable or because I like the taste. And I know this industry only nurtures sobriety in fits.

Maybe that's the way it starts. Maybe all of those sloppy boyfriends had the same moment where they had the same aha about why they keep taking to the bottle. Maybe they kept drinking anyway. And if I am being honest, I will too. But I am also asking for help.

For decades, depression and anxiety have set in my stomach like an undigested meal. Maybe that's because life is something I never learned to swallow.

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