Alcoholism: not even once

Hi, I’m Jeremy, and I’m not an alcoholic, but…

As I write this, I’m in the LA area helping a friend who is having some serious struggles with alcohol. I have been rather out of touch with this friend for a while so I wasn’t even aware any of this was going on. But Wednesday evening they reached out and Thursday I dropped everything and hopped on a plane.

I don’t even know where to begin.

A bit over 5 years ago, I ended my own struggles with alcohol. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, but as I describe it: “I had a bad night in San Francisco and decided that was enough of that shit”.

I was visiting SF to attend PuppetConf in 2014. It was being held that year at the Yerba Buena conference center. The night before, I met up with some folks and we ended up doing some heavy drinking and ended up at the bar on the top floor of the Mariott called The View. Named so because of the huge round window overlooking SF from 40+ floors up. It’s a pretty cool spot.

Well, by the time we got up there I was already pretty drunk. I then proceeded to drink more. I remember at one point I tried to buy a round of drinks for my friends, and told the bartender something along the lines of “fuck it, I’ll buy the whole bar a round” and someone next to me said something like “keep it under $500” and I remember just not caring. Fortunately, this bartender recognized that I was not in any position to be making such decisions and didn’t let me buy a round. At least that’s what I’m guessing, since my credit card statement didn’t have a ridiculous bar tab on it.

Later I remember getting rather depressed about a thing. There was a woman there who I was interested in but couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to. I am fairly certain she was there with someone, too, and that didn’t help my mental state. I may have said or done some really stupid things, I have no idea.

Later, I remember very vaguely talking to someone while walking down the street and I think I dropped my phone. I don’t know if the screen had broken, but I vaguely remember being like “fuck it, I have apple care, I don’t care” and spiking it on the ground, thoroughly breaking the glass.

I was staying at an airbnb in soma, so I’m pretty sure I walked back there. I say pretty sure but I’m not entirely sure. I know I walked back. But I don’t know *how* I walked back. At the time I was using Moves.app to track steps and low-res gps track log of where I’d walked. Well, that next day it said I’d walked 33,000 steps. And done a straight line (as the crow flies) from the hotel to my airbnb. So who even knows what happened. For some perspective, my longest Moves.app day ever was about 45,000 steps, walking almost 20 miles in Japan. So even my phone has a vague memory of what happened that night.

I vaguely remember entering the wrong room. It was one of those airbnbs where there are multiple rooms on offer and I was renting one. So the other rooms had other guests in them. I don’t know if I actually did or if it was just a dream (I’d stayed at that airbnb in the past and had worried about walking into the wrong room before).

I woke up later, extremely hungover and quite possibly still drunk. I noticed my phone. I couldn’t find my backpack. My backpack that had my laptop and my iPad. I remember pacing around the hallway trying to find it in the common area or whatever. I don’t know how long that went on, or how quiet (or not) I was being while doing it.

I went back to sleep and woke up around noon. I realized what had happened: I’d left my bag at the bar the night before. So I called and they said they didn’t have it. I’m notorious for forgetting stuff like my backpack at bars and such, so I was certain that’s what had happened.

Meanwhile, the conference is going on. The conference I was spending a lot of my company’s money to attend. The conference where I was hoping to learn some cool new things to take back with me to make me more effective at doing my job. I’d just missed half of the first day because of drinking too much the night before.

All the shame from my actions and words. Actions and words I couldn’t even remember. Feeling like perhaps I got too forward with a woman just trying to attend a conference. Being Yet Another Tech Guy Hitting On The Only Woman In The Roomâ„¢. Possibly even getting belligerent. Breaking my phone as a flex because of how rich I am. Literally the worst possible person on the planet. That was me. I didn’t want to be that anymore.

After that I was ashamed because I’m walking around with a phone that looks like it’s gone through a blender. It’s the only computing device I have left because everything else was in my backpack which was still missing. I felt like complete garbage.

That evening, I decided. I was done. No more booze for me. I’d lost too many nights to losing control and drinking too much. No more.

I reached out to a friend who was in AA and was like “I think I have a drinking problem.” I still to this day don’t consider myself an alcoholic. For me it’s not an addiction, I just couldn’t retain control of myself when I was drinking. I didn’t want it to turn into an addiction, there’s enough of that in my family, I try really hard to not get into addictive behaviors. She told me some stuff and we talked, and fortunately, that’s all I needed to be able to quit. Also, someone turned in my backpack, so I got my laptop and iPad back.

Basically, I got off easy.

Not so much with my friend.

They’re going through some stuff right now I wouldn’t wish on my WORST ENEMY. And despite wanting more than anything to do literally everything possible to help them, I know there’s only so much I can do. Especially since I’m so far from home. And I know that at some point I have to go home, and I’m super afraid of what will happen after that.

Thanks for letting me share.

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