By Jillian Owens
“We could never be in a relationship. You’re 14 years older than me, and the life expectancy for a man is already shorter than for a woman. You’d pre-decease me,” I said, taking a long drag of my cigarette and looking the other direction…running nail-bitten fingers through my stiff spiky hair.
“Really, Jillian? Given your lifestyle choices, I think I stand a fairly decent chance at outliving you,” was my wannabe suitor’s snarky response.
“You should drink,” I said after a sip of wine. “I hate it when you just sit there and watch me drink. People who don’t drink make me nervous.”
He just looked at me through heavily-lidded eyes over his cup of Earl Grey and said, “I don’t want to feel like shit tomorrow like you’re going to.”
This was met with an over-the-top eye roll.
This was years and years ago, but this conversation sticks out in my mind. It captures an era in my life when the choices I was making were questionable at best, and terrifying at worst. I smoked, partied, and drank heavily. My diet consisted primarily of twizzlers and Diet Mountain Dew. My coffee shop manager started automatically scheduling me as a closer, as he knew I’d be too hungover to function in the mornings. I was bored, unmotivated, and volatile.
I’m still friends with this guy, which is surprising. Very few of the friends I have now knew me then, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have cared much for me.
Somehow I managed to get my shit together. After having dropped out from USC, I went back and finished my degree. I cut ties with the people and things that were aiding me in my path of self-sabotage. I quit smoking and biting my nails. I stopped drinking so much. I got a job in the arts, became more involved in my community, and finally wasn’t a f*ckup anymore.
This background information is important, because to understand why I’m doing this, you need to understand where I’m coming from and what I don’t want to go back to.
When I told my friends about my two weeks off alcohol, they they thought I was being silly.
“Jillian, you don’t have a problem. I just don’t get why you’re doing this,” is the general consensus.
I get where they’re coming from. Right now I’m fine. I don’t have a problem. But I started noticing a pattern over the last year, when several emotionally-taxing things happened. I started drinking to shut down and not feel things. No, I didn’t binge-drink like I used to a decade ago, but the motivation behind what I was doing was the same as back then.
Those of you who are close to me know I’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years. But they’ve also been the most successful years of my life, and I’m not willing to let that momentum die. I’ve worked too hard.
The next couple of weeks are going to help me get back to where I was before last year. I believe behavior guides emotion. If I can deal with stress, anxiety, and generally negative stuff without a cocktail in my hand, I’ll know I’m okay.