It was August 12, 2008.
That was when it happened.
For a year or so before that date I had felt this nagging sense of unhappiness. My 20s were coming to a close. A new decade was on the horizon. I was a believer in the myth that having a 3 in front of my age meant that I needed to have everything figured out.
Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha.
It was a weird time. I felt the need for change, but I didn’t know what it was. My work was starting to change. I had just closed my first solo show, The Silence of Lucky. It was a stand up/theatre hybrid and it had gone “ok.” There were moments that felt like something. There were performances that people enjoyed. The show really wasn’t about anything, though, so it eventually collapsed under its own weight.
My money situation needed to change. Quickly. I had quit my restaurant job eight months earlier to do stand up full time, and that was quickly becoming a disaster. A month earlier I had been at a gig and the headliner didn’t want his free dinner. I asked the waiter to box up the guy’s meal so I could take it home to my wife so she wouldn’t have to have left over pancakes, again.
I was depressed, but this wasn’t Depression. My life felt like it was happening in spite of me.
There was a sameness to everything I was doing. Everything was about spending money and putting things into my body. Consuming. Intaking. Drinking. My whole life revolved around drinking. During work and after work. During shows and after shows. I couldn’t see anyway around it. It’s what my friends did. It’s what my fellow comedians did. It’s what people did.
I thought that’s what life was.
On August 12, 2008, I was supposed to be away. I was supposed to be on the road doing stand up for two weeks. I had gigs in Sioux Falls, SD and Minneapolis, MN on back to back weekends. The week before my Sioux Falls dates, the club closed down. Changing the ticket would have have cost more than I was making for the Minneapolis gig, so I cancelled it. All of a sudden I found myself in town. My wife was turning 30 on August 11, so I scrambled for something for us to do. Plans came together. A friend could no longer use his Radiohead tickets and he gave them to me. We decided to spend the weekend before the concert with a different friend in Virginia. She seemed pleased.
To make up for the Sioux Falls gig I lost, I booked shows in Scranton, PA for the first weekend of August. There was a liquor store across from the hotel, so I got a bottle of vodka for my room. “I’ll drink so I fall asleep,” I reasoned with myself. Nothing weird about that!
So that’s what I did. The weekend before the Radiohead concert I performed and drank myself to sleep at the Clarion Inn in Scranton, PA. The familiar feeling. The depression that wasn’t Depression. I flipped through the cable television with the bucket of ice beside me.
We went to Virginia and hung out with our friends for a few days. Afterwards we headed to the concert, and got there right as Radiohead was going on stage. I realized I didn’t have a drink. That was a problem. How could I watch Radiohead without a drink in my hand? I asked my wife if she wanted one. She said she was fine.
It always amazed me when people said they were fine.
I went to the bar. I could hear the fans cheering in the distance. The concession worker took her time. I was annoyed that she did not share in my urgency.
I took a sip of the beer as I walked back into the arena. I held it carefully in my hand as I excused myself past people dancing. I protected the liquid contents like they were made out of gold.
I found our seats and I listened to the music. I have this tendency to experience things and observe them at the same time. I sipped the beer and smoked a little pot. My brain closed in on itself. Thom Yorke was singing Jigsaw and Subterranean Homesick Blues. I was experiencing the moment, but I was watching it too.
I spend a lot of my life doing that.
I don’t remember if I chugged the beer or sipped it. I don’t remember how it tasted. But I remember finishing it, and setting the plastic cup on the ground.
That's when it happened. The cup got kicked and smashed and took its rightful place on the chaos of the venue’s floor.
That was August 12, 2008.
The next day was my first day sober.
That was ten years ago yesterday.
I have’t picked up another drink since.