On the day after the night I decided to quit drinking, I ugly-cried the whole morning away. Everything set me off into a frenzy of whimpering tears, including when my roommate asked me if I was ok after he walked in on me sobbing into a plate of eggs—at which point I scrunched up my face, started shaking my head frantically, and held my hand against my mouth as if that would quell the new wave of emotion from rising up out of my chest and compromising my dignity. It didn’t, I just cried harder and he was like “awww, baby, it’s ok. Do you want a hug?” I said no.
I had just told everyone—even the small, unimportant people standing at the peripheries of my life—that I am an alcoholic and I was embarking on a journey of sobriety. Tempters and naysayers beware.
At that point, I chalked up my heightened emotionality as a byproduct of the second day of my continued hangover. I’m normally a calm and restrained person…sensitive? Yes, but rarely possessed of crying or tears and on those rare moments, they had better be momentous occasions like comforting my mother after she heard my cancer diagnosis or learning that the police found the body of my dear friend two days after she took her own life in a hotel room. But never because of a hangover!
But let me tell you this: after I ugly cried my face off, I felt on top of the world. I was possessed of a new vitality, a new will, a new purpose even. And on reflection, I know why. This was an expression of bottled up grief and I was finally unblocked after I confronted myself and took responsibility for my life, no longer hiding under the mantle of youth. Tim Krieder says in his insightful essay, “You Can’t Stay Here”:
The young and the drunk are both exempt from that oppressive sense of obligation that ruins so much of our lives, the nagging worry that we really ought to be doing something productive instead. It’s the illicit savor of time stolen, time knowingly and joyfully squandered. There’s more than one reason we call it being “wasted.”
What a superpower it is to grieve and let go. In the past two weeks there have been many other moments of suppressed grief finally kicking through years of accumulated sediment, with overlapping layers sealed tightly in a sticky residue of alcohol. The only thing those emotions needed was just a little wiggle room to begin pounding against the walls—and now it’s time to address what lies beyond the hazy fog of inebriation and brain damage.
Though I do have to say, it’s extremely sad to me that the fun times—as I know them—are over. I wasted my twenties but I became a more interesting, insightful, and braver person because of it. Here is to more ugly crying and the freedom that follows.