The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’

What a doozy of a week.

I’m a teacher for my day job, though my ultimate goal is to get paid to write. Until that pie-in-the-sky dream is met, I spend my days helping kids learn to read, write, and think. Sometimes I love teaching–it’s a job that imbues the doer with an innate sense of purpose and worth. I genuinely get to change the world a little every day, and I take that task very seriously. I work every year to make my curriculum more inclusive, more diverse, more critical, and more interesting.

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It me.

Sometimes teaching eats away at my soul. I don’t think teachers are supposed to or are allowed to admit this to the outside world, kind of like how mothers aren’t supposed to talk about how sometimes they absolutely fucking hate being a parent. That toddlers suck. That infants screaming can bring an ordinary person to the brink of insanity. That teenagers can be so insufferable you want to lock the doors and keep them out forever. Teaching, at least in 2017, is parenting. I spend 8+ hours a day raising 100+ children. I made the conscious and calculated decision not to become a parent, so teaching can be, at times, a living hell for me.

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Thankfully, this is not one of those weeks. However, I am extremely exhausted. This was our second week of school and first week of cross-country practice. Every day I spent ten to eleven hours serving the needs of lots and lots of children. And my children this year are very needy. I have never had so many students with such high needs in my 10+ years in the game. High intellectual needs, high emotional needs, high medical needs. This year will be challenging, to say the least.

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I didn’t have a ton of time this week to do much or plan a big “new thing,” so I did something easy from my list. I drank a martini for the first time.

It’s true. I’d never had a martini before. At least, not a real, straight-up gin and vermouth martini. I’ve had cosmos (thanks, Sex and the City), lemon drop martinis, appletinis, etc., but not your traditional plain martini. So my wife and I bopped down the hill on Saturday night to one of our favorite fancy restaurants known for making stellar cocktails. I figured if I’m going to have a martini for the first time, I want it to be a good one.

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Stellar martini from Wild Sage.

Wild Sage is a beautiful restaurant that makes exquisite food. If you live in Spokane or are ever traveling through, you must go there. The owner is also an acquaintance of mine and he’s an absolute gem of a person. I highly recommend the taquitos–I know that sounds like a strange recommendation for a fine dining restaurant, but trust me, the taquitos are delicious.

Speaking of delicious, my martini was unexpectedly satisfying. I was worried that without any added flavor or depth, I would find a plain martini dull or harsh. We had the bartender use Hendrick’s gin, which is a mid-shelf liquor. My favorite gin is Uncle Val’s, a botanical gin that is so smooth I could drink it by itself. But because I wanted to try a traditional martini for my first one, I asked for a typical gin. I also ordered mine with a twist, not with olives or made dirty. I hate olives with a fiery passion. I hate olives the way other people hate cilantro. Olives can die in a fire. Olives can take their salty asses and gtfo. #NeverOlives #endrant

After I had my martini, I ordered a Spokane 74, a gin-based cocktail similar to a French 75. Then I ordered another. Then we went home and poured ourselves some bourbon on the rock. (Yes, we have special silicone ice cube trays for drinking bourbon.) Then we had another bourbon. And another. If we’d had more ice cubes, we may have had more. As it was, we drank our last bourbon neat.

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Does this sound problematic to you?

My wife and I have been together for almost a decade. We both come from a family riddled with alcoholics. Since the inception of our relationship we’ve drank a lot. It’s customary in her family to drink an almost inhuman amount. Generally, I drink less than my wife does, and I always have. I’ve also been an avid runner for a good portion of our relationship, and training for big races, like half marathons and marathons, requires good nutrition habits. As we all know, alcohol isn’t nutritious. I’ve gone long stretches of time drinking very little. This is not one of them.

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Is anyone else disturbed by the sheer volume of memes about teachers drinking?

For the first time in the nearly ten years we’ve been together, my wife turned to me on Saturday and said she is worried she might have a drinking problem. I think we both do. Once, long ago, I said something similar to a good friend of mine. I was in the midst of doing the arduous and painful work of coming to terms with my sexuality, and I was drinking a lot. My friend said to me, “You don’t have a drinking problem. You have a life problem.”

She was half right. See, I did have a life problem, but I was trying to numb the pain of having that life problem by drinking. And that’s been a pattern for me since I was a teen.

I’m in a lot of pain, and I have been for quite some time. Consequently, for all of 2017 I’ve been drinking…heavily. If I’m honest, I increased my consumption of alcohol pretty intensely while our foster son was living with us, which was well before the 2016 election and the hellfire that has been 2017. Fostering a child unearthed some huge issues that my wife and I thought we had dealt with, both as individuals and as a couple. I didn’t think we would survive it, and we barely did. And then we lost our home. And our business was struggling mightily. We both fell into a deep depression.

 

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Now that the ship has righted itself (mostly),  we are noticing and coming to terms with how much we drink. It’s not only affecting our health, but it’s putting quite the dent in our pocketbook, too. We are overspending every single month on going out to breweries and bars.

So we made a plan. We are going to cut back significantly on drinking. And if we find that we can’t do it, then we will need to seek help. Never drinking again is not an option for us. Our business is rooted in the alcohol industry, so we absolutely must learn how to drink responsibly.

Because I’ve trained for races many times in my life, I know that you can’t go from being sedentary to running a 5k race with only a week or two of training. You have to set yourself up for success by having attainable goals, by building your endurance and mileage week to week. Eventually running five, ten, even twenty miles in a single day becomes easy (or at least doable).

I’m approaching this situation with the same kind of pragmatism. For the next three to four weeks (or until it gets easy), we will limit our drinking to three weekdays and one weekend night, with a maximum of two drinks per weekday and four on our weekend night. To many of you that still seems like a lot, but trust me, that would be cutting back to a reasonable amount for us. And, like I said, this has to be attainable for it to work. After three or so weeks of successfully reaching this goal, we’ll cut back again, to two weekdays and one weekend night, and so on, until eventually we are drinking only one or two nights total each week.

I think we can do it. Wish us luck. We’ll need it.

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