It’s been brought to my attention that I never really wrapped this up. So, yeah, basically what happened was: I finished my meds and started drinking again, with a little more presence of mind. That’s the short version.
Want the aphoristic version? Want to know what I learned? I learned that life is hard and — if it works for you — booze can help.
The longer version: A week before my meds ended, I wrote my infection diseases doctor. I asked her how long I had to wait to resume drinking normally and she said just a couple of days. I asked if I had to get a TB test once I was done. She said no. My liver tests had been fine all the way through; the meds were reliable.
Five days after my last dose of Rifampin, I drove up to the Russian River, to a sprawling double house — two houses next to each other, connected by a porch — in the tiny town of Monte Rio. We were there to celebrate a dear friend’s bachelorette party, and celebrate we did. I woke up Saturday in a horrible state: There had been champagne before dinner, wine with dinner, whiskey at the karaoke bar (which had the single most impressive song list I have ever seen, thus allowing myself and a pal to grisly-murderize a song we both love), then more wine at home. The first part of Saturday was spent in a slippery throb of headache, acidic nausea, and quiet self-recriminations. I mean, I’d learned this lesson many times in my 20s, and quite a few more times in my 30s. But apparently three months of near-complete-sobriety had hit “reset” on my understanding of how various alcohols dance with one another, particularly when unchaperoned by water. So the wine hooked up with the whiskey, and my body did the walk of shame for most of Saturday.
Thank heavens for ibuprofen and Sonoma County air — plus the holy trinity of water, coffee, and greasy food. By Saturday evening I was ready and raring to go. Unsurprisingly I drank less that evening, and more sensibly. It can learn! I mean, I drank margarita after margarita, punctuated with generous water courses. I danced and laughed and herded a few cats and maintained quite nicely. And Sunday I felt pretty OK.
So now: full disclosure. We stayed until Monday morning. Monday night, back home in Oakland, I celebrated another dear friend’s birthday at a bar in town. I didn’t drink a lot, but I drank. And the next night, after a day at the office, I celebrated with a happy hour drink. Wednesday night and Thursday night I had wine at home while cooking and eating — there was a bottle in the fridge that had been waiting for me for months. Friday night I had planned to meet friends at a bar for a Planned Parenthood benefit: I’d created an event on Facebook, inviting people to a “Farewell to Rifampin” party; proceeds from drinks and snacks went to PP; and it was the night of tr*mp’s inauguration. So, yeah. I drank. I drank at the benefit and I drank at a second bar, where another friend was celebrating her birthday. By the time we got there, I had gone from giddily celebratory to dumb as fuck. I tried to tell stories; failing that, I tried to tell jokes. Didn’t fly. How could it? I couldn’t even walk straight at that point.
After that, I took a break. My skin was dry and rashed over, my eyes were red, my sleep was shot, and I had the sinking feeling I’d been an ass out in public — my liver was in revolt and my endorphins were joining in. I swore to take it easy for a little while, and take it easy I did. I kept my drinking on the mellow, intermittent side. By the time I arrived at the Tahoe-area wedding weekend of the above-mentioned friend whose bachelorette party had set me off, shot glasses blazing, I was drinking positively RESPONSIBLY. It’s true! I’d passed through the looking glass, folks. I helped run the show for the event, solved problems, and kept it together, usually with a glass of wine in my hand but often the same one for hours. My jokes and stories stayed upright, as did I.
On the way home from the wedding, we celebrated my 45th birthday, stopping in small towns for thrift shopping and food and, yes, some day drinking. But when I reentered real life for real, I found that something had truly changed: I no longer went to the bar first thing after entering an event. I no longer went for the wine immediately upon returning home after work. I didn’t accept every happy hour and bar meet-up invitation that came my way. I sometimes stuck to a single drink in a social situation, preferring to maintain my humor and presence of mind to mindlessly keeping my hands busy.
Now it’s spring in Oakland — sunny 60s and 70s are back, barbecues and camping trips are on the horizon, and the back patios of all the bars are beckoning me (and my dog). And I’ll certainly say yes to some of them. But now that I’ve had some time to examine my motivations for drinking — social awkwardness, boredom, habit, celebration, demarcation — I have a better idea of which ones are truly worth the trouble. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes again… oh, who am I kidding? I’ve made mistakes since that wedding weekend. I’ve woken up shitty on a Sunday. But not, so far, on a Wednesday. When my skin or my sleep revolts, when my mood drops for no reason, I know that I need to take a break from drinking, even casually. And when my stories start to meander, I switch to water.
That said, have you MET our president? I guess I should be grateful that I had those three months of sobriety; otherwise I might be so far down in a bottle by now I wouldn’t be able to type. This guy ceased to be entertainment the minute it stopped being fun to make him a drinking game. So yeah… life is hard, and drinking can help. But I now know a little bit more about where it hinders, for me, anyway. And I need to save myself, at least somewhat, for my little forms of resistance. So I guess I have Rifampin and tr*mp to thank for that. But I think I’ll just keep my gratitude to the former. Gratitude, like drinking, can exist on a spectrum, provided you keep clear-eyed enough to see it.