Peeing In Parking Lots: A Story About Quitting Drinking After Not Being Able to Quit

Claire Widman
Illustration by Claire Widman

First off, I am not a health professional, a sobriety expert, or a medical doctor. I’m just a sober lady who quit drinking after a decade of uncontrollable benders, peeing in parking lots, and hook ups with men so disgusting I should’ve probably dipped myself in flea baths, daily. Luckily, I loved blue-balling guys, so STD’s and unwanted pregnancies were never my thing. What if they were your thing and you posted weird updates on Facebook, something like, “Yeah, I finally got gonorrhea and it has brought so much joy to my life,” and then you got 47 likes. Or, maybe you’d write, “Not sure who this kid’s dad is, I’m just so grateful to be broke, single, and pregnant with no health insurance,” and then some pervert commented, “Post a pic of your big pregnant tits.”

Anyway, I was a mess who didn’t seem like a mess. I did most of my drinking in my twenties in NYC. I was good at it. I was a happy drunk – loved to dance, could talk to anyone about anything, and really enjoyed getting felt up in public restrooms. I didn’t start fights, although one time a guy took a swing at me because his girlfriend and I were grinding on the dance floor. I said, “Hey, she’s just trying to get from me what you ain’t givin’ her.” I didn’t say that. I always make up stuff I wish I would’ve said. I probably just said, “Sorry.” One of the weirdest things I did when I was drunk was call my mom and demand the child tax refund money she got on her tax returns (ya know how parents get a tax break for having kids) – yeah, I called her in a black out and demanded tax credit money. Horrible.

But, over all I had my shit together. I always had a job, paid my bills, and was very active in life. I flew under the “problem drinker radar.” I think most women do. Women are better at hiding drinking than men, because when a man is drunk and acting like an idiot it’s funny, it’s acceptable. But, when a woman does it, it’s tragic. Maybe since women have babies, we subconsciously worry about her being a drunk mom who asks strangers to hold her baby so she can drink with both hands.

The thing about heavy drinking in your teens and twenties and acting like a complete nut job is — there’s an awareness of how young you are, and you think, “I’ll eventually stop doing this, but for now I’m just having fun.” And, I did have fun. I had a blast. I loved being drunk, my favorite part of it is the NOT CARING. I have a type A personality, I’m wound a little tight, and am always running around trying to be perfect. When I drank – holy shit I’d think, “Who gives a fuck? Let’s kiss. Let’s dance. Let’s laugh.” Not a bad way to think, it’s sort of spiritual and free. As the years went by, my drunk thoughts turned into, “I’m tired. I don’t feel drunk. I’ll have another and see if that helps. I don’t want to dance. Who I can trick into feeling sorry for me.” I became the lonely old drunk man at the end of the bar, disguised as 26-year-old girl with dead eyes. It sounds sad, but I was drawn to this darkness. All the fucked up shit in my life felt somewhat romantic and unique.

Although I could’t get “fun drunk” anymore, the booze was still working because it made me feel different than I felt when I was sober — anxious, paranoid, obsessive, fearful, ugly, fat, stupid, etc. But, that euphoric high I used to get was gone. I thought about stopping a lot more but couldn’t. I’d wake up every morning with a hangover, and think “I’m not going to drink today.” Then by 5 o’clock I’d either forget that I wanted to stop or I HAD to drink. Then I’d try to control it, which is the the most un-fun way to drink. If you’re gonna drink, and you’re an alcoholic FUCKING DRINK. Trying to have just one or two became an exhausting experiment on myself. I didn’t like to drink on a full stomach so I’d eat a big cheeseburger or burrito before I went out. Although I was full, I realized if I did shots I could still get drunk and not consume too much. Seven shots is the equivalent to a glass of water, and it only took me .5 seconds to figure that out and try it. And, the next morning not only would I be hungover, but I would take shits the size of baby dinosaurs.

This went on for years. What was confusing was, there were times where I could stop for months at a time. I’d drink so much I’d sort of scare myself sober for awhile, and truly thought I would never drink again. During these dry spells, I would think, “Glad I finally got that drinking problem under control…” but before I knew it, I was drinking again.

The scariest time was when I finally admitted I had a problem, but didn’t care, and refused to stop. I was still obsessed with controlling it, but couldn’t. And, then, one morning I just woke up and I knew I was done. Before I tell you what happened that morning, I’ll tell you what led up to that moment of clarity.

I wasn’t doing comedy, or writing, or anything I wanted to do with my life. I was selling and delivering mattresses on Craigslist (long story, maybe I’ll write about it sometime) and was dating a guy who only liked me when it was convenient for him. I was in love with him, and all we did was drink and have sex. He made it clear that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend, although he did like having sex with me. Imagine that! But this relationship really sparked an awareness of just how low my self-esteem was, and how far removed I was from where I wanted to be as a person. But, I couldn’t go a day without drinking, it was like I was in this demonic cycle of choices I didn’t have control over.

Then, one morning after a long night of partying and obsessing over the guy I loved (who was probably bonin’ some other girl with low self-esteem) I opened my eyes and had a moment of clarity. A moment so clear I felt like I left my body and had this simple thought, a thought I’ve had many many times but for some reason, this time – it was the only thought in my head for about 10 seconds. “If you quit drinking, your life will get better. If you don’t, it’s going get worse.” Then I thought about my dad, who dropped dead alone his apartment a few years prior from drinking and taking pills, and that was it. I was done. And, what’s fascinating is, not that I made a clear decision to stop, but the craving to drink went away. Didn’t want it, didn’t need it. BAM! FUCK YOU, BOOZE.

I immediately ended it with the guy who didn’t love me, sent an email to a very cool guy who I knew was sober, and did what he suggested. I got involved with the 12 steps, and surrounded myself with sober people. I couldn’t believe how many people went through what I went through, because when I was going through it I felt very alone. I was like, “I wish I would’ve met you fuckers years ago.” I realized that I have to talk to other sober people open and honestly about my feelings and thoughts – otherwise I get real cranky and stupid. My default way of thinking is negative and scary, and that’s why I drank. I have to shift my perspective DAILY so I can function and feel good naturally.

One crucial thing that helped me in early sobriety is learning that alcoholics are mentally and bodily different than normal people. This explained why I drank the way I did. My obsessive mind led me to the drink, and once the drink entered my body the “phenomenon of craving” kicked in. Alcoholics metabolize alcohol differently and it send signals to our brain that say DRINK MORE AND DO INAPPROPRIATE THINGS. Alcoholics are like, “Ok.”

It’s been over six years since I had a drink, and I gotta say life is still a piece of shit! Ha – just had to write that because it made me laugh. The truth is I feel really great about 85% of the time. Do I still get depressed?  Yes. Do I get bored sometimes? Yes. Do I miss being completely unaware how selfish my behavior is? Yes. Do I miss hangovers? HELL TO THE N TO THE O. Do I miss liking boys who don’t like me? FUCK, NO! NOW I GOT A MAN WHO CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF ME. Do I miss peeing in parking lots? Yes. Do I miss spending all my money on booze? No. I have a couch with chaise lounge and a Vitamix now. Am I more materialistic? Maybe. Is my life a million times better? Yes.

I want to end this with something inspiring and profound but I can’t think of anything. I think it’s because I have to poop right now. Hopefully it’s a normal sized poop. But, all I gotta say is, if you have a drinking problem there are so many people in the world who have recovered from what you’re going through and they will help you. Just ask. Sobriety is a scary, beautiful, painful, enlightening experience and I’m so fucking happy I asked for help. Now, I can walk into a bar or a party, grab a club soda, and have a great time. I still dance, get felt up in public restrooms (only by men who deserve it), and the thing I like most is that I don’t hate myself anymore. Oh, and if I ever see that guy who didn’t love me back I’m going thank him for not liking me because it helped me see how fucked up I was. Actually, I wanna give a shout out to all the guys who are so gross it makes the alcoholic women you have sex with want to get sober! You’re saving our souls!

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