When I was a young teenager, crafting intricate plots in my head to get my hands onto pornography, I didn’t think a lot about drinking. My schemes – really just variations on “bring it up to the counter and pay for it” – never extended as far as alcohol, yet it played just as big a role in my eventual downfall.
I mentioned in my book that the first time I saw legit pornography, I knew I had discovered something special. The reaction to alcohol was almost exactly the same. It wasn’t until I went to rehab that I was able to realize my drinking was never of a recreational, “normal” manner.
While I had taken a sip here or there, the first time I was able to enjoy any real volume was at a cousin’s wedding. They way overestimated the head count, leaving plenty of empty seats at the reception…seats that had plastic glasses of champagne ready to go.
I was about 14 and I don’t remember how much I had to drink that night, but it was the first time I ever felt tipsy…and it felt good. I had that clichéd sense that I was funnier, smarter and an all-around better person with the liquor in me. It also had that sense of danger I craved and often felt when I looked at porn, too.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I drank with any regularity. During my junior year of high school, I was able to land a radio show at Bates College, which quickly gained a lot of notoriety. I had plenty of college students and guests on the show who would bring me beer whenever I wanted. I also learned about the one place in town that would always sell it to me.
By my senior year of high school, I was drinking weekly, but it was never in an environment with kids my own age. It was either at the college or with adults I worked with at the local newspaper. Truth be told, I never went to a single party in high school. Drinking with my peers sounded painful. I drank to be accepted by older people because I didn’t like who I was.
I think the people I drank with weren’t the kind who drank with kids their age in high school either. It was social, but it almost always felt medicinal and not recreational. Newsrooms, at least in the mid-1990s, were full of unhealthy people still pissed off they were recently forced outside to smoke cigarettes. They didn’t drink for fun. They drank so they could do it all again tomorrow. I understood that even then.
Once I was properly diagnosed and medicated for mental illness issues in my mid-20s, the drinking slowed quite a bit as I built a family and real career.
It wasn’t until I launched a magazine at the publishing company where I was a part-owner that I returned to the medicinal nature of alcohol. I suddenly found myself in situations where networking was necessary…and I’m a painfully shy person in real life. Thankfully, those situations almost always had cash bars.
At the end of the day of work, instead of leaving to go to a nearby Happy Hour, we kept the fridge stocked at work. It’s kind of fucked up now that I think about the fact we bought as much beer and wine as we did pods for the Keurig machine. We wanted to have that young, hip vibe, so a well-stocked fridge with a glass front told everyone we were different and didn’t mind alcohol in the workplace.
There were lots of meetings and dinners with clients where a buzz was almost unavoidable. At the end of long days, I’d drink at home to come down from the hustle and bustle of my day, and when things started going south, the alcohol helped ease my nerves and quell the stress.
Whether I needed liquid courage, a social lubricant, an anxiety-reducer or a sedative, alcohol always knew just how to take care of me. It could read my moods better than any human.
The problem with this belief is that it’s not true. Alcohol just deadened my nerve endings. I was seeking a disassociated numbness that made coping with difficult situations easier. It worked, but like the athlete who fills their body with steroids for short-term gain but who ruin their long-term health, I couldn’t see where things were heading.
My rock bottom was a stew of alcoholism, porn addiction, neglected mental health, failing familial relationships and a crumbling business. I’ve stopped trying to parse out percentages of blame. I don’t know what the formula exactly was, so I avoid all of those things.
Yes, this blog is about porn addiction, but I need to stay just as vigilant toward my alcoholism. At my first rehab, we did an exercise about poor choices. I realized I probably drove drunk 400-600 times in my life. I obtained illegal porn less than 1% of that number. Just because the porn arrest was the catalyst for the needed changes in my life four years ago, it doesn’t make the other aspects that brought me down less important.
There are very people who have one addiction. It’s just easy to point to the one that seems like it’s the biggest problem. I didn’t really wrap my arms around the idea of porn addiction prior to my arrest. But I knew I was drinking too much. I can’t forget or lose sight of that.
Legally, I can’t drink again until August 2019. My probation will be up at that point. I won’t be celebrating with champagne.