My life is infinitely better now in permanent sobriety, but still, sometimes I fantasize about drinking again. If I could choose one drink in one setting and enjoy it without consequences, what would I drink and where would I drink it? My fantasy does not involve an elegant party with fluted champagne glasses or a day on the beach with umbrella drinks and pineapple wedges or a ballgame with the guys and round after round of beers. It does not contain sex or sports or dancing or telling jokes. My fantasy does not even include my drink of choice to the bitter end, India pale ale.
I loved to drink alone, and sometimes I fantasize about the perfect evening – just me and my beloved drink. I find a comfortable chair in a dimly-lit room. There is music – a wide variety of music – to stir my soul. My play list varies from Sinatra to hair bands of the 80s with some grunge from my college years and swing to remind me of dancing at my wedding. The volume is at background level. The music is meant to enhance the situation, not steal the spotlight. Center stage is reserved for the drink.
I open a bottle of Stranahan’s small batch American single malt whiskey. Really, any whiskey would do, but I do like to buy local and the Stranahan’s distillery is a mile from my house. I pour my first drink into a clear glass tumbler with a heavy base and smooth, untapered sides. I swirl the whiskey for a moment to let the ice do its job just slightly, then I take my first sip. The smoky-sweet amber liquid chilled just below room temperature is harsh in my mouth causing me to pucker a little like a movie cowboy after a shot of whiskey following a long day on the dusty trail. My throat burns as I swallow, and the feeling of warmth follows the drink all the way down to my stomach. It is a soothing harshness and a calming burn. The smoky aftertaste only makes me impatient to take the next sip. It tastes exactly like relief from the bleak constraints of my sobriety. My body melts into my chair as I tip my head back and close my eyes in euphoric delight.
My fantasy does not make me sad, and it does not cause me to question my sobriety. It used to have that scary and threatening effect before I was able to untwist my warped mind and come to grips with the fact that for me, an alcoholic, booze is a poison that offers just enough enjoyment to keep me coming back for more punishment and self-loathing. Alcohol is my enemy, and I am very comfortable with that fact. Now my fantasy is no different than when a man dreams of a night with a supermodel or aspires to become a movie star or professional athlete. Fantasy when anchored by reality is purely for dreamy enjoyment. I also fantasize about winning the Indianapolis 500 someday. Just like my fantasy about drinking again, that one is out-of-the-question and never going to happen. When put in that context, fantasizing about my lost love, my drink, is not painful. Rather, it calms me and reminds me of the battle won against my two-faced back-stabbing deadly liquid foe.
As I refill my glass, the whiskey reaches all the way down to my toes. I feel slightly weightless and blissfully content. The nagging pain of the ankle I twisted or muscle I strained dissolves as do the persistent concerns and worries that occupy my brain. I am pain and care free as my body seems to drift along with the rhythm of the music. Janis Joplin howls about color TVs and Mercedes Benzes and I cannot help but think of her untimely death at the hands of her drug of choice. She was so young, so raw and naïve in her quest for the same euphoric state I am currently enjoying. It killed her. Even as I drift along in mind-numbing bliss, I know my drug of choice would love the chance to kill me, too.
While drinking glass after glass of Stranahan’s finest whiskey, I chase the feeling of tranquil rapture all the way to the bottom of the bottle. My whiskey is gone, and so too is my fantasy. In this dream world, my night of drinking alone does not end with a broken plate of nachos scattered across a tile kitchen floor. I don’t pick a fight with my wife or sleep in my clothes in my chair where my kids can find me in the morning. In my fantasy, there is no shame the next day. I drink without limits. I drink without regrets.
In my fantasy, my drinking ends in peaceful enchantment. I know that in reality, that dream almost always gives way to a nightmare.