Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker Read Online (FREE)
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Nearly a decade ago, about a year before I stopped drinking alcohol, a friend of mine showed up at my door. She lived in my neighborhood, the Tendernob of San Francisco, which is another way of saying we lived somewhere between a shithole and a fancy tourist trap. It was early on a Saturday afternoon, and my friend was carrying a Solo cup full of whiskey because some man she’d met on OkCupid had broken her heart. It seemed a reasonable solution to me at the time: to walk around the streets of San Francisco sipping Maker’s Mark to dull the specific pain of being rejected by someone she met on the internets who wasn’t good enough for her in the first place. Only, I would have chosen Jameson.
We called a few friends to come over, and we sat in my little studio apartment smoking pot and drinking even more whiskey and cheap wine from the corner store, when my dear, brokenhearted friend announced to the group that she was pretty sure she was going through an “alcoholic phase.” Alcoholic phase. I looked around the room at the faces of my other friends for a hint of the same reaction I felt, which was relief. I saw not only looks of relief but also ones of deep knowing—we’d all experienced something close enough to that to empathize.
When you’re terrified that maybe your drinking has gone off the rails, nothing will rein in that hysterical, ridiculous thought more tightly than a group of successful, intelligent, attractive, “together” women who normalize your affliction with a new term: Alcoholic phase! This scenario is only one of a few hundred examples of why I couldn’t figure out whether I really had a problem with alcohol, or if maybe I was just going through a little “thing” that would straighten itself out.
Around the time of this particular incident, when I was thirty-three, my drinking was escalating in a way that felt out of control. It was no longer just one or two at home, or a drunk night out with the girls, or hangovers on the weekends, or any of the things I’d done in my twenties that felt moderately in control or normal-ish. I was drinking by myself after going out; I was hungover more days than not; keeping it to a bottle of wine a night felt like a win; five o’clock stopped coming fast enough, and I started to leave work at 4:45, then 4:30, then 4:00 p.m. At some point, it made sense to carry airline shots in my purse—just in case. Sometimes (especially when working on a deadline) I holed up in my apartment for days on end, drinking from morning until I passed out. That kind of thing.
But (and there is always a but when you want to invalidate everything you’ve just said) I didn’t drink every night, and I didn’t drink any more than my friends when we went out. I’d recently made it twelve days without booze, and—perhaps most important to me—I had mastered the art of keeping my shit together when drunk in public. I was never the one being carried home, and I was never the one who got sloppy. I made sure of that.