Day 204 Alcohol-Free: Dive Bar Memories

I was feeling a little off today. A bit lonely, I guess. This happens every now and then, usually around my “time of the month,” and can be a little draining, to say the least.

I was driving home from the gym, after hosting another great writer’s meetup group, and the desire to drive to one of my old favorite dive bars smacked me right in the gut. I could imagine the smell of the old pleather seats, the slight stickiness of the bartop, and the rapidly-aging bartender who used to say, “hey kiddo,” when I would walk in, before asking if I wanted a Furious or a Sweet Child o’ Vine.

I frequented that bar when I first moved home after separating from my husband. I was jobless, living with my dad and step mom (just like I am now!), and still reeling from my ex taking my heart, smashing it into thousands of pieces, and refusing to help me clean it up.

I met an older woman there one time, I forget her name, but she told me to get into coding and programming. She bought me a beer and gave me a few pull tabs to try. None of them were winners.

I brought my first “boyfriend” to that bar, a guy from high school who I started seeing only a month after moving back home. I’d usually impress him by ordering a tall beer and eating an entire plate of wings in one sitting. We’d usually go back to my place after that and get blasted on cheap wine.

I used to stop at that bar after work, when I finally got a job, because I wanted to reward myself for putting in an 8-hour day.

I stopped there many times after casual brewery dates with men I met on Tinder. I was usually the youngest woman there by a long shot, and could typically depend upon guys trying to strike up a conversation with me at midnight.

They sold packs of smokes and offsale liquor there. Even though smoking is banned indoors, the scent of cigarettes is firmly embedded in every corner.

Last summer, right after I got sober, I remember riding my bicycle home and passing this bar on the way. It was a particularly emotional day for me, being very early in my sobriety, and I spent half the ride crying to myself about how lonely I am, how I don’t have any friends, how I have to ask my boyfriend to even take an interest in the things I’m doing. And I wanted to stop and step into that bar so badly. I didn’t even care that I didn’t have a bike lock. I wanted to stop and sit on the cool, shoddy bar stools and sip (gulp, rather) a beer while stuffing my face with wings. I wanted to buy a pack of smokes and say, “fuck it all, this is too hard.”

But, I didn’t. I pedaled past and looked somewhat longingly into the windows, where the decades-old light fixtures hung sturdily over the pool table. I was too drained to even battle with myself about it. I got home, landed face first on my bed, and felt sorry for myself.

But I got through that day, and many others, resisting.

Tonight, I resisted the urge, mainly because it was a fleeting sort of desire. with little substance behind it. I thought momentarily about the sticky bartop and the withered faces of its most dependable patrons, and I felt a little sad. Sad because, as happy as I am without alcohol in my life, and as destructive as that bar could be, it’s always hard walking into the future without that “failsafe” offswitch you find with booze. Even after almost 7 months, I catch myself sometimes thinking it would be so fucking nice to just… stop. Stop thinking for a minute, stop worrying, stop feeling the feelings.

I let myself have those thoughts, and then I let them go.

I try to understand where those thoughts and feelings are coming from.

Tonight, I know, it’s coming from a place of loneliness, and a fear about what my future has in store for me.

Namely, I’ve been worried lately about my required internships coming up in the Fall & Spring of 17/18. I’m worried about having to cut my hours at work and lose a chunk of my income, as well as my healthcare. I’m angry that it isn’t illegal to have unpaid internships in my state. I’m concerned that the current political climate I live in is going to make it very hard for me to afford basic health care while I’m in school. I want to move out of my dad’s house so badly, but the closer I get to the Fall semester, the less likely that seems. Unless I’m willing to be the stereotypical broke grad student, reverting back to living paycheck-to-paycheck, which I haven’t done since I was a depressed undergrad who drank herself to sleep every night.

And so I think back to the “comfortable” days of my heaviest drinking, when I would head over to the dive bar whenever the urge struck me. Even though those days weren’t that comfortable at all. In fact, I was miserable. But that dive bar was a place I felt both invisible and seen. I could walk in and feel immediately at home with a beer in my hand, while still blending into the background if I so desired. Forget the fact that, at the time, I had no idea what the future held for me, or if there even was a future at all. Forget that I was heartbroken and destroying myself from the inside out. All that mattered, at the time, was me, my beer, and my seat at the bar.

I don’t mean to complain about my life now. When I compare it to those fuzzy drunken days almost 2.5 years ago, I am so far ahead of where I thought I would be. Past me would’ve been so pleased. But the fact that, for a moment, my mind reached back into my memories and yearned for a spot at the dive bar sent shivers down my spine. Because I know the allure, and I know the danger that hides behind the satin curtain.

I’m home now, and sitting at the kitchen island. I made a huge diner of sauteed veggies and chicken, and satisfied my sweet tooth with a Zevia cola and a bowl of raspberries & cream. I still feel a little lonely, but I think I’m okay with it, for now. I can wait until May or June to start agonizing over internship hours and health care and money. I can figure out where I’m going to live when the time is right, which I’m thankful for.

I just need to give myself some headspace, some time, a day to do nothing again – and soon. I imagine I’ll have a lot to think about in the coming weeks and months ahead.

But now, sleep.


3 thoughts on “Day 204 Alcohol-Free: Dive Bar Memories

  1. elissaw says:

    I really relate to what you are saying even though I’m only 25 days into being sober. I get the same feeling walking past old hangouts – sad nostalgia for what was. I also like to make myself something healthy for dinner to combat cravings. Power to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. shehidbehindtheglass says:

    Ahhh dive bars… I used to go to quite a few with one of my ex boyfriends who absolutely loved hanging out in them wherever we traveled to. You’re doing amazing, and congrats on 204+ days. I’m so proud of you 🙂 I think that it’s completely normal to be afraid when we’re faced with uncertainty and I’m sure it feels like there’s a lot of uncertainty in the future with where you’re at right now. The thing is though, once that’s all behind us we’re overcome with a sense of pride and inner strength. You’ll make it through, and the internship will be over before you know it.

    Liked by 1 person

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