I’m going to be honest about something: being 23 has been bittersweet.
I remember, on my 23rd birthday, when people kept playing Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again.” I remember thinking my 23rd trip around the sun would be one of happiness, fun, memories, and prosperity.
Although this age, so far, has been an adventure, I notice myself changing and I’m loving it. I spent my birthday at a bar on a college campus, drinking anything my friends handed to me, and ending the night at a Denny’s that I barely remember. I spent the next few months in a cycle, where I attended events and went to bars solely for the intention of drinking. After losing my job in July, I fell into a helpless mindset that alcohol seemed to soothe. Unfortunately, in my generation, a lot of my peers glamorize “being an alcoholic,” binge drinking whenever and wherever they can with no regard for how it may affect them long-term.
I didn’t notice a problem until New Year’s Eve, when a group of friends and I bought tickets to an event in our area. The ticket included access to the free buffet, both stages for the bands performing, and open bar all night. Usually, I’m paying for drinks and I pace myself so I don’t blow all of my money at the bar. However, with a designated driver and an open bar, I took things too far. I drank more than I ever had, and ended the night praying to the “Porcelain God,” miserable and nauseous. Until that moment, I justified my excessive drinking as “just having fun.” I had a lot of occasions where I justified why I was drinking. It was then that I realized I needed to take a step back.
I don’t frequent the same bar anymore. I have started looking at bars that are more for relaxation and good conversation, instead of bars that are known for dancing and hooking up. Going to bars that perpetuate the “party lifestyle” can get very dangerous, and quickly. You fall into what seems like a black hole, losing perception of time and having your inhibitions dwindle away. I’ve noticed that the bars I go to now are more for a calmer crowd, interested mostly in classic rock, pool tables, and knocking back a couple (literally meaning 2) beers. I don’t drink as quickly or as much when I go to what others call “dive bars.” I also find myself going to the bar less, because there’s no withdrawal from anything, just a yearning to relax again.
A lot of my “friends” from the bar I used to frequent don’t call me anymore. They don’t ask me if I want to go out for “Two Dollar Thursdays,” and they don’t text me asking what time they’ll see me at the bar. They live the lives they were living before, and I’m just a shadow of the bar’s dim lights that doesn’t exist there anymore. I’m sure I could guarantee that I could go back to that bar in 3 years, and the same people will be singing the same songs, with the same friends and alcohol dependency they have now. I am confident that my not going to the bar with these “friends” I once spent most of my nights with will only help me grow as a person, because it already has.
I am noticing that my attempt at weight loss is getting easier, because I’m no longer drinking the sugar and syrups from the many Vanilla Vodka/Diet Coke mixes I would otherwise be drinking. My taste for water is starting to grow, and I have a more regular sleep schedule. My skin is softer and has less blemishes, and I have found out who my true friends have been. I have more energy in my day-to-day life, and I’m exploring the world around me more. There isn’t a single thing I can think of that would show I made a bad decision in cutting back on drinking and going out.
Don’t get me wrong: I still go out. I just changed my scenery, the frequency in which I go out, and the type of people I go out with. I’m no longer going to bars with people who have the sole intention of getting “plastered” and “making hilariously horrible decisions.” (Yes, these are things people have told me.) I have no interest in being an alcoholic and making jokes about it before I’ve hit 30. Unfortunately, a lot of the people in my generation could end up in a situation very similar or identical to that. It breaks my heart, but makes me simultaneously overjoyed that I have decided to take control of, at least, what I do.
I don’t know everything. I don’t know anyone’s life story, or what they may have gone through (or may be going through) to lead them to the bars they’re at. I don’t speak for anyone in specific, and I don’t speak on behalf of any of those old “friends” I used to drink with 2-6 nights a week. I don’t feel anyone should be shamed or talked down on for the decisions they make that may differ from mine. I honestly just believe that I was raised in a way that differentiates me from a majority of people my age. I’m not better than anyone, I’m just different.
I think it’s important to know what’s best for you, and to listen to your intuition. This is something I needed to do, and if it means I lose people or miss out on memories, at least I’ll learn more about myself and make memories of my own. I just don’t want all of my stories to begin with, “Well, I was drinking and-”
♥︎ Mama Misfit