#11 Q: Do You Miss Drinking?
A: Yes and No
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I listen to your book on the way home from work (veterinarian, fucking stressful) to arm me for the triggers I face when I get home (two kids, husband, etc.) I've tried stopping. I took 27 days off and felt amazing. I feel like shit now. I don't want to miss out on the celebrations—vacations, birthdays, etc. I just want to know: Do you get to a point where that doesn't even matter? As in…you don't even consider or think about taking a sip?
Yours, Can't Imagine
As you were writing me this message, I was sitting down to a late lunch in Italy. The weather was warm, it was a Sunday afternoon and there were hundreds of people sitting outside of ten different restaurants all lined up along an old Campanian road. Kids ran around and waiters doted and every single table was bursting with food and wine.
An extremely attractive waiter came up to me and asked if I spoke French or Italian or English and I presumed he spoke all three which made him even more attractive; I said parlo inglese. He pulled out my chair and came back with two sips worth of pale yellow wine in a large stemmed glass and he made the kind of eyes at me that definitely indicated he wanted to talk to me about wine and probably wanted to get me lit. If you would in your mind, please: freeze time here, because that's what I did.
He’s there, he’s making the eyes, he’s got the glass of white and he wants to tell you about it; you’re lonely; this is a trap. Next month it will be nine years since my last drink and yesterday was the 3,255th day in a row I've spent not drunk or even tipsy or even experiencing that warm tight feeling you get at the back of your neck when you've had one little sip. I had the passing thought that it didn't matter, that I could just take that wine and drink it and be in this moment and live a little. Like: I actually considered it, and in this extremely short period of time—barely seconds—I had the very real thought that I could get away with it, that I could probably just have those two sips and never have them again in my life that this would be it. Maybe I was being so ridiculous with this whole forever abstinence thing especially since WW3 is upon us and we're still in an endless pandemic and there are now such things as fire tornadoes. I could just so easily do it.
I don't know why I didn't yield in that moment, why I said no bevo alcol and ordered a soda instead. But I do know what it cost me; I drank my diet coke alone while he moved to another table where the women wanted to talk about wine and try the wine and have all the wine and probably him after. I inhaled my beef and truffles and I read my book in the sun and then I went back to my hotel, alone and completely sober, where I read my book s'more.
I've been mostly single these past 9 sober years, and every time I come to Italy I get horny and achingly, desperately lonely. Without fail I treat this feeling as total truth, and almost without fail I act on it. I could tell you all the small embarrassing ways I've scratched this specific itch with someone else's heart or corporeality, but I'll spare you. The absolute worst thing I've ever done was In 2019, when I broke up with someone because I didn't want him to come here with me and then got back together with him on the phone only five days into my trip. I assured him it was a genuine desire, not the careless impulse of a woman who gets sad and delusional when she travels. I didn't mean to lie, but I lied, and we broke up for good not long after.
The last few days I've missed that same ex again, acting in the strange ways we act when all the sudden a person we rationally understand we are over becomes appealing, or even the best thing we ever had. I skimmed through his Instagram, I looked at old pictures of us, I found his now deleted phone number buried in an email. I could just so easily do it.
Last night talking on the phone to one of my friends I tell her I miss him, am thinking about him, fantasizing about him. He’d probably come here. She reminds me that I called her and said (word-for-word!) the exact same thing last May when I was here. I don't remember that at all so I ask her if she's sure and she's sure. "You want him when you're in Italy. It's a thing." Indeed.
It's a thing. A thing I do because I'm alone in a beautiful location and there are families everywhere and it makes me ache for something; want for something. And instead of sitting with that longing—that terrible but totally wonderful ache that also happens to make me love being alive (to feel so much!!)—I reach for my phone and scroll through his socials and miss a relationship that never actually existed. (What did exist: we left each other totally empty; we hurt each other badly; we could not make it work for an entire week let alone a lifetime.)
I thought about this thing I've done for nearly a decade, this whole coming to Italy and getting all love-obsessed and thinking my life would be better if I had my person. How much time have I wasted here wanting what I don't have instead of being obsessed and delighted with what's in front of me? And how many seriously bad, rash decisions have I made that I later regret because of this totally false belief?
I suppose the point I'm making is this: let's pretend you're one of my closest friends. Let's pretend I call you and I say I want to have kids and I am thinking about Troy (let’s call him Troy) or whoever again who you know is like the worst thing for me. What do you say?