sorry, i went on a bender

fourth year ally maddox

 photo by stokes dunavan

photo by stokes dunavan

Looking ahead of me about two weeks ago, I was facing a pretty big self-reliance scare. The kind where you don’t know if you can handle things on your own, the kind where you’re not sure how to love yourself the way you used to. There were things I should be proud of that I felt empty over and there were things I should be disappointed in that I just didn’t care about. This is a big deal to me, I don’t usually fall apart on the inside like that, and I finally just hit a wall on what to do about it.

With that sprinkle of context, it’s time for the full and brutal honesty of the situation. Instead of dealing with this sudden, likely deep-rooted crisis by crying to my roommates or stress eating, I went on a bender. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding. I’m writing this after hitting the 24-hour-alcohol-free mark for the first time in 14 days. I’ve slept barely more than 5 hours a night for the last couple weeks, survived on a strange diet of cheap red wine, Terrapin Hopsecutioner, and Easy Mac, but more than anything else I’ve learned a lot.

Your friends are more likely to laugh at you while you crack open your third beer at 4pm then they are to ask you if you’re okay. It’s fine, they do care, they’re just letting you figure things out on your terms. Something cool about being young with good friends is that they know more than you realize when it’s time to step in, and when it’s time to stand back and let you work it out on your own terms. For me, I got about a ten day grace period before I had a dozen accountability partners ready to tie me down and throw away my stash.

In another vein, a fun pro of being on a bender is that you don’t have to come up with excuses for your actions because the phrase “sorry, I’m on a bender” lets everyone know everything they need to. It’s not an excuse at all, but really is just a big f-you to all short-term responsibility via a five word phrase. Please note that, while I started this paragraph calling this a “fun pro”, in my new found sober state, I have a lot of pieces to pick up solely due to reliance on this sentence.

To end it, both the bender and this article, I want to address the fear without romanticizing or sugar-coating or whatever. I’m not scared of having to clean up and fix a few of the things I’ve broken this week (physical/metaphorical/etc.). I’m not scared of the hangover. Rather, I am terrified of the origin of this problem. About 8 or 9 days in, the bender wasn’t just a crazy college kid’s perfect week anymore, but instead it became a knotted, anxiety-ridden reason excuse hidden in the bottom of a bottle of $8 Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet, a full day of sobriety later, there’s already relief. I’m not sure what’s ahead of me on the road to figuring out who the heck I am again, but I am finally reminded of my own ability to handle it: without liquid courage or dependence on someone else’s love. I went on a bender and all I learned were all the reasons why I never needed to.