The Most Important Date of All
The date that started, and ended, with a bottle of Merlot
I started and ended most dates with a glass of wine.
It eased my anxiety, gave me a little confidence boost, and helped me feel more natural, open, and honest. I wasn't holding back out of fear. I was calm, ready, and maybe even a bit bold. Plus, a glass or two of red wine is supposed to be healthy, right? I liked the thought of that.
I chose wine as a starter and ender because, no matter what happened in this date, at least it would start and end on a good note. My wine of choice was a Merlot from Saint-Émilion, France- whenever possible. The richness of berries, notably raspberry and grape, is as smooth as satin going down, and not bitter or acidic like some other options. Having this comfort flavor, something I know Ill always enjoy, will turn even the worst of dates into manageable ones.
Some dates, the worst dates, usually had some other drinks to go with it- just to get me through until they were over. A cocktail here, a shot of Jack there, or even the whole bottle of Merlot. But the best dates? The minimum of two: the starter and the ender.
One of the most important dates?
March 11, 2020.
This is the day that the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. As such, the world itself seemed to close, with restaurants and bars shut down and any jobs that could be done from home accomplished as such. The result? Dates as we knew it were cancelled. This was a whole new ball game.
As my job moved remotely, and I would have no dates for the next few weeks at least, I decided to take myself on an at home date. If I can't mingle with others for drinks, I can at least treat myself and get to know myself a bit better.
So, I did my usual date routine. One glass of Merlot as I cooked myself dinner, and one glass as I wound down before going to bed. But, during the date with myself- over dinner, the subsequent movie nestled into my couch in my fuzziest of pajamas, and bubble bath- I drank nearly two bottles of this wonderful wine.
This was a treat though. It wasn't my usual go around, and it was nice to just relax with myself for the evening. Sure, it was a bit more than I intended, and more than I drank on a usual date, but it was worth it. It was relaxing. I felt empowered, taking myself on a date at home! I sure as hell deserved it, too. I'd been working hard lately, and deserved a night to myself- however I chose to spend it.
However, the next morning, I woke up with a pretty decent hangover. My mind was fuzzy, the sun was too loud, and my alarm clock seemed to smash my skull into a million pieces. It was a good thing we were working remotely- no one had to deal with me being such a grump, or see the state of my stature.
Over the next few weeks, I had quite a few of these dates with myself. I kept telling myself I wouldn't drink as much as I had the time before, but by the end of it, I was averaging 1.5-2.5 bottles of wine a date. I stopped making myself good meals for these dates, and instead ordered delivery from somewhere or had microwavable meals. Easy, and low energy. I switched from watching feel-good movies to binging on one series after the next. Most dates, I didn't take a bubble bath, let alone shower. No one saw me, so what was the point?
As time went on, weeks, even months passed, these dates became more and more frequent. They'd start earlier and earlier, until I was technically day drinking and having these 'dates' with myself on the clock. The few times we had video conferences as I was on a date, I put the wine in a coffee mug and made it look like I was drinking something else. No one was the wiser.
As things worsened in the world, so did my drinking. If the date on the calendar was a bad day, then my day was a bad date. On bad dates, I drank more, and shifted some of the wine to something a bit harder.
When innocent people were murdered, new covid-related death tolls were reached, when someone I knew passed, when lockdowns were extended, or when work was all sorts of wrong, I treated myself to more of what calmed my anxieties. There was no way for me to be anxious if I couldn't think straight at all, right?
This went on for months. Covid-19 continued to ravage the lands, and didn't seem to indicate that it would let up any time soon. Every date became a bad date, and every date on the calendar was a new opportunity to self soothe.
By October, 2020, had replaced my morning coffee with a morning Merlot. It was the first thing I had in the morning, and the last thing I had before bed. It truly became a starter and ender.
I was drinking all day, every day. At work, since we still worked from home, no one knew of the secret liquid in my cup. If we had a meeting over video chats, there was no way to tell what passed my lips. No one questioned the clear liquid in my water bottle, as they couldn't smell the vodka through a screen. No one suspected the dark drink in my mug wasn't tea or coffee.
Or, so I thought.
Apparently, my work had been slipping more than I noticed. If the meetings were in the afternoon or later in a date, my words became slowed or slurred. Sometimes, I missed whole dates or forgot things I had been told a dozen times. I was none the wiser.
But my boss was.
Just before Thanksgiving, my boss told everyone that we were going to have one-on-one video chats to discuss any concerns we were having during this difficult time. Knowing it was for everyone, I thought nothing of it. It wasn't personal. I was fine.
I wasn't fine.
The meeting started off in what seemed normal. My boss asked me how I was doing working from home, how I was handling the pandemic, and if I was having any sort of difficulties I wanted to speak about.
Of course, I said that everything was fine. It was certainly different than the normal, but I was sticking to a new routine (of day long 'dates') and thought it was going well. Nothing noteworthy came to mind.
"Oh? If that's the case, why have you been an hour late for every meeting for a few weeks, if you show up at all? This one included. All of your assignments and tasks have been the same- late, if not missing."
What? An hour late? For everything?
-That was such an oddly specific time.... change. We had a time change, didn't we? It's now the end of November, so yeah, a few weeks ago.
"If you don't mind my asking, what is it you're having to drink this morning?"
-This? Oh, it's just a cup of coffee*. The usual.
"I see. If you would be so kind as to just... appease me, would you dip a corner of your napkin into your coffee so I can see the color?"
-What? For what purpose?
"There have been a few reports of concern from others for several of our workers, and quite frankly, I'm concerned as well. And, either the camera is staining your teeth and tongue red, or that's not coffee in your mug."
What followed next was a deep conversation with my boss, that somehow went much better than could be expected in most situations like this. It also made this "date" the most important date of them all.
This is the date that I decided to get help, to get sober, and get back to my life. This way, I got to live to see every other date that I was meant to, to be present, and remember it to tell the tale.
Now? Dates with myself have never been better.
**This story is not my personal one, although some aspects do resemble it. I created this piece to show the struggle of addiction and addictive behaviors. Many people struggle with addictive substances and behaviors every day, and the pandemic has only heightened the number of people impacted by such vices.
If you are dealing with similar battles, and are actively trying to recover, I'm so proud of you. I know it's hard, but you can do this. It's worth it. I promise.
If you're looking for some recovery tips, or places to get more information or help, I did write another article that does contain some info: Recovery is Anything But
Help is out there. Recovery is possible. And yes, you ARE worth it.
Much love, friends.**
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