Readers Share Their Fascinating Stories–And We’d Love to Hear Yours!

As many of you may know (since we’ve announced it on our blog a few times!) our book, Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up, is out in the world—available online and in bookstores around the country. The women who wrote essays for us were brave enough to share their stories and so, it seems, are you.

Lately, we’ve been getting some fascinating posts on our Share Your Stories section of the blog. Every Wednesday, we interview writers about their drinking lives, but it was always our intention to hear from you, too–our readers, who are all over the map in terms of age, stage, profession and culture. Although we focus on women’s drinking stories, we’re very happy when men chime in with their stories as well, since we are all partners in this crazy life.

Our mission at Drinking Diaries has always been to be a safe space where people can share their “drinking” stories, without judgment or shame.

Here, to inspire you, are some tidbits from recent posts. If  you click on the Tab Share Your Stories, you can read the rest of these riveting stories and, in the comments section, you can add your own.

Jax: “I’ll never know when or why or how [my husband’s] drinking turned into alcoholism – he’s not around to ask. I still occasionally drink. I think it’s important to show my kids that an adult can drink responsibly. But the things my seven year old has seen, has felt, will have a lasting impact on his perception of alcohol. I’m not sure what’s in store for my kids, but I want to make sure they have an understanding of the power of alcohol and what it can do – but that it’s okay to try, responsibly, with friends.”

Gary: The intensity of Dad’s drinking and smoking (2.5 packs of Camels/day) made what took place in his 79th year truly astounding. Following a 3-month hospital stay after a near-death surgery, Dad emerged clean. He returned home to find his stockpile of 2 cases of beer in the refrigerator, but never opened one of them. Eventually, he packed them up and gave them to one of his buddies along with a couple cartons of Camels, minus one cigarette, which he kept on his workbench for the rest of his life. When I visited home, I’d sometimes catch a glimpse of him with it in his mouth, strutting a bit with the pride of a man who had the willpower to quit.”

Jodi: “I’ve given up drinking!!!…I don’t want to be the one on the floor, the one in the toilet retching or the one who ends up in a comprising situation with that guy from accounts. The truth is drinking hurts my stomach and has for many years…Now I have to rethink every social situation and living in London (England) and not drinking can and will be a challenge.”

Pippi: “In third grade I needed to let off some steam, usually towards the end of the week, so I would hit the booze. After school I would head to the bar, the fully stocked bar with spittoons, sink and fridge in my basement. The family crest hung large behind the bartender’s head. I would turn on the small saloon lamp with the drunk at the base lying on the park bench.”

What’s your Drinking story?

And now, we’d like to share a bit of Drinking Diaries news:

–For a few “sips” of the book, you can check out the September issue of MORE magazine, which features Joyce Maynard’s intense essay about how it felt to be arrested for possible DUI (as the daughter of an alcoholic father). Elissa Schappell’s essay was a Modern Love piece, featured on the front page of the Sunday NYTimes Style page.

–Drinking Diaries is featured on THE FIX, a great site about all kinds of addictions.

–Leah was interviewed for Gretchen Rubin’s addictive Happiness Project blog.

Here are a few things you can do to support our project:

–Share your story!

–“Like” us on the Drinking Diaries Amazon page (press the little yellow thumbs up button to the right of the book’s image)

–Give Drinking Diaries as a gift—support your local bookstore by going in and asking if they have the book—if not, they can probably order it.

Thanks so much for reading our blog and being part of the Drinking Diaries community.

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Drink and Me

For our latest essay series, we are inviting men to share a story, an episode, or an experience that involves women and drinking. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.

by Corey Mesler

My relation to demon hooch is a meandering one, like, say, my relation to British costume drama films. The last time I was drunk I was 16. It made me sick. I stopped doing it. Later, when I was married and unhappy with my wife, I took to drinking nightly Bloody Marys, but not to excess. Only to numb my sadness.

These days, what with my tricky gut and the antidepressants I am on, I cannot drink at all, which is just as well. Only occasionally do I miss Bloody Marys or Kahlua and Creams. I don’t need any more numbing, having married happily the second time, and, of course, already living with the numbness of legal prescription drugs.

But what I want to talk about is way before either of these marriages. I want to talk about my childhood. I grew up in the verdant suburbs of Raleigh, Tennessee, which, at that time, was a remora on the dark, gray side of a whale called Memphis.

It was a golden time. I was surrounded by many children my own age and we were free to wander our burgeoning suburb, with its myriad construction sites, where pop bottles could be found to turn in for cash, where wood and nails could be borrowed to build tree houses in the many lots where there were still no concrete foundations but instead 50 trees of varying kinds and strengths and heights. It was practically a paradise– like where Tarzan’s son Boy wandered. We were as free and unfettered as the neighborhood dogs. There were few fenced-in backyards at the time and, if there were leash laws, they were certainly ignored. We were on speaking terms with dozens of beautiful mutts.

And manning these homes like captains of house-shaped Enterprises were parents, two to a home, all well-off enough to live in a new suburb and all with working dads and stay at home moms. Ah, the 1960s.

Someone told me my parents were “functioning alcoholics.” I am not sure if this is the correct nomenclature. I am not even sure if the person who told me this was right. All I know is that back then booze was all around me.

Some of the braver kids—ten year olds!—said they snuck drinks, but my peers, for the most part, were more interested in playing army, corkball, dirt clod fights, street football, driveway basketball. And trading cards and gum and candy and army men and magic tricks and little metal cars and Slip-and-Slides and Easy Bake Ovens and Creepy Crawler makers and Monopoly and Risk and Chinese checkers and card games like Crazy Eights and Go Fish.

But, it seems to me, that that whole generation before us–what we now call The Greatest Generation–the one that raised all us kids, did a lot of boozing. My mother, who was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, was one of sixteen children–eight boys and eight girls. The family reunions, in Canada, where we went almost every year, were lively gatherings. There was swimming, and eating, and swearing, and badminton, and lots of good food, especially if cooked by my mother’s mother, a German woman who was used to preparing food in large quantities. I can still taste her frosted molasses cookies to this day.  Yes, I loved my mother’s brothers and sisters. They were all so much fun, and so funny, and, seemingly, to a child’s eyes, happy as heroes after battles won.  All her brothers were big, strapping men, lumberjacks (literally in some cases) and hockey players. And, at these gatherings, the booze flowed like the streams of time.

So, it was something of a revelation to go back to one of these reunions as an adult, and to see the cracks in the beautiful surface of the family I loved so much.  Simply put, alcoholism and depression and strained marriages were all around me. I could not see it as a child. Or I didn’t want to. Every one of my aunts and uncles drank like there was no tomorrow. I am not sure why. I am not a sociologist. What about that generation caused so many of its members to take refuge in the bottle, even if only socially?  I am not saying that I now find my large family sad or debauched or to be pitied. I love them as fiercely now as I did then. I guess the difference is that now I see them as flawed humans instead of gods.

So, alcohol: it’s always been around me. It’s always touched my life. I dated a few women who later ended up in rehab. This is not uncommon, I am sure. And I have friends and family members who have really struggled with it, or are struggling still. But I do not drink myself. And, as all parents do, I pray my children don’t either. W. S. Downey said, “Strong drinks are like wars, making cripples of some men, and sending others to the grave.” Some survive the wars. I am not a brave man, nor a strong man, but I seem to have skipped the addictive personality traits that my large family wears like leis, or chains.

Corey Mesler has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published four novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are BillionYear-Old Carbon (2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (2010) and Following Richard Brautigan (2010), a full length poetry collection, Some Identity Problems (2008), and a book of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009). He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He also claims to have written, “The Martian Hop.”  With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. He can also be found at www.burkesbooks.com.

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Drinking & Dating by Joe Berkowitz

For our latest essay series, we are inviting men to share a story, an episode, or an experience that involves women and drinking. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.

By Joe Berkowitz

Last Mother’s Day, I went out for a Bloody Mary brunch with friends, and ended up staying out until one in the morning. Technically, the worst thing that came out of this experience was that I was twenty minutes late to work the next day. I didn’t get in any trouble, though, so the impact didn’t register at all. Once again, nothing terrible happened from drinking too much except a nightmare hangover that had me throwing up in the bathroom and hating myself. It became clear to me that day that I seemed to be waiting for something truly terrible to happen before making any kind of real change to my relationship with alcohol. Obviously, it was not a well thought out plan, but rather an informal acceptance of “the way that things are.” Maybe it was the fact that I had turned 30 years old recently, but I decided that day that things couldn’t be that way anymore.

Two weeks off from drinking—that was my initial plan. It didn’t seem significant enough, though, and after a few days of feeling really good about my decision to actually DO SOMETHING, I decided to stop drinking indefinitely. It’s been over nine months now. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I do know that this experience of total sobriety is changing my relationship with alcohol forever. The main reason is because I now know that I can go through any social situation life can throw at me without drinking, and be fine with it. I’ve been through work functions, birthday celebrations, and even bachelor parties without alcohol, and each time I’ve made it to the other side no worse for the wear. As you’re about to read, though, some of the most difficult situations I’ve gone through have involved dating–without drinking.

I was a few months out of a relationship at the time of that final brunch that broke my drinking spirit. I was ready to meet new people and get started dating again when I abruptly learned just how much drinking had played a role in my dating life. It affected how I met people, how we got along, how quickly we got physical, and probably some other factors that I haven’t even discovered yet! It is perhaps a spoiler to say that the piece I wrote for Salon, “The Hardest Part About Quitting Drinking? Dating“, about this experience does not have a happy ending. However, it does have a hopeful ending. Writing it really forced me to evaluate some of the choices I’ve made romantically, and I’m much better for it now. Hopefully you will get something out of reading it too.

Joe Berkowitz is an associate editor and a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York City. He also runs the pop culture blog, And Now For Something Completely Unnecessary.

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Let’s Do It

For our latest essay series, we are inviting men to share a story, an episode, or an experience that involves women and drinking. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.


by Peter Birkenhead

Listen, I hope you don’t think this is too forward of me, but I’m really having a nice time with you, and, well, dinner was great. We really do seem to have a lot in common. We’ve shared–what, four or five semi-sincere laughs already, and you’ve just begun to tell me a story that seems genuinely interesting and heartfelt, so I don’t know—am I crazy–or should we take this to the next level and just go right to fucking up our ability to be heartfelt and interesting? I’m kind of thinking we should. You know?

I really think I like you. And I guess I’m just old enough now to skip all the silly game playing, the bla, bla, “getting to know you” and “enjoying your company” and all that crap, and maybe go right to not understanding a damn word you say, admitting I’m unemployed, quietly pissing myself and who knows—I’m just saying—holding your hair tightly in my hands while you vomit paella on my shoes. What do you think? Should we order another?

I mean, look, I know it’s different for a woman. I do. Remember those old Thin Man movies? Boy, I used to dream about meeting a girl like Myrna Loy. Being Nick to her Nora, both of us getting more witty and suave and crime-stoppy with each Martini. Nora falling more in love with Nick the drunker he got. But I’m not a kid anymore, and neither are you. I mean, I know how things really work. I know vodka doesn’t exactly make anyone witty, or suave. Sangria does. And sure, maybe it’s not Nick-and-Nora witty, but still—witty enough to, oh, I don’t know, drive out to Astroland and ride the bumper cars till one of us does a pole dance on the bumper car pole and fractures several tiny bones in her feet, maybe? Hmm? I’m just saying. And I know you may not feel ready for that yet. And I respect that, I do.

But let me just say this–if you’re not sure? If somewhere in the back of your mind you think you might be ready to visit an emergency room with me and awkwardly reveal your actual age and weight and medical history—then I’d like to hear that history and loudly make fun of it in public.

And you know what–if you’re not ready?  Then maybe this just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe all of this isn’t as real as we think. The laughs, the stories. Maybe that’s just the lack of wine talking. All I can say is that, at this point in my life, I want to go into any relationship with my eyes as wide-open and dilated as possible. Like, totally black, dead-body dilated. Barely breathing. Because what else is life for, if not to have fun?

This isn’t a movie. It’s not the olden days. This is a great time to be alive! A woman can drink like a man, and a man can secretly dress like a woman! Wait, what? No, I said, “secretly impress a woman.” Yes, I did! I know it doesn’t make sense! That’s my point! I want to not make sense with you! I want to not “get” you or “want” you or even “like” you, or me, in any way at all! There, I said it. My cards are on the table. Now waddaya say we drink ourselves under it? Huh? Huh? C’mon, let’s do it!

Waiter, mas Sangria por favor!

Peter Birkenhead is the author of the memoir Gonville.

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The Sorrows of Gin Revisited

For our latest essay series, we are inviting men to share a story, an episode, or an experience that involves women and drinking. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.

by James Kullander

I’ve always liked a glass or two of wine or a cocktail in the evening and I’ve always liked the women in my life to like that, too. So it was out of character that, years ago, I married a woman who didn’t drink because she was allergic to alcohol. I thought having a wife who didn’t drink would keep my own drinking at bay. And, mirabile dictu, it worked.

For most of us, a cold gin and tonic on a hot summer evening or a bottle of wine anytime is better shared. Like falling in love, drinking is something you don’t really want to do alone. After we divorced I never steadily dated a woman who didn’t drink. I didn’t plan it that way. Nor did I plan the fights that happened as a result.

Try as we might to avoid it, we often find ourselves drawn almost unwillingly into all sorts of relationships that touch our sore spots. I’ve found that two common sort spots touched in most any intimate relationship are jealousy and authority. If you drink and have a tendency to be jealous, then when your partner appears to flirt with the wait staff during a lovely dinner out, a vicious fight on the drive home will likely leave you both feeling you’ve been thrown from the wreckage of some crash you’ll barely recall in the morning. If you drink and resent authority, God help your partner who tells you how to mince the garlic as you cook dinner together.

Sadly, looking back on my life the past several years, I can see that the women I’ve dated who have liked to drink the most are the ones with whom I have fought the most. Two come to mind.

With the first woman, we’d start to fight–in the middle of dinner and well into our second bottle of wine–over her being jealous of, say, an old girlfriend I’d mentioned talking to in town. I, not keen on being told what to do, would get up from the table, slam the door, and peel out in my car like some hoodlum in a James Dean movie. I’d see her stunned figure staring out the window at me as I sped away into the night and for a split second, I felt a softening within me, a sense of compassion or pity or sadness that would almost make me turn around, but I never did. Not until the next day. One day, I didn’t go back at all.

Another woman I dated for only a few months invited me to a party in a remote cabin with a half dozen other couples. It was a new crowd to me. Turned out she and her friends were a hard drinking bunch; there were bottles of scotch, tequila, vodka, Kahlua, gin, and cheap wine all stacked on the kitchen table like bowling pins after a first poorly aimed throw. I spent a small part of the evening talking to another woman because I found her interesting, and when I circled back to be with my girlfriend, she seemed distant and cool, not to mention barely coherent.

When we all paired off and stumbled to bed, my girlfriend scolded me in front of everyone to go sleep with the other woman since I seemed to be so smitten with her. I blanched. Reeling, I climbed into bed with my girlfriend, the two of us fully clothed, our backs to each other, the small space between us as fathomless as the light-years between the stars. All night long while she was passed out those existential questions that come up when we find ourselves hovering in a delirium between sleep and wakefulness haunted me: Who is this person in bed with me? Who am I? How the hell did I end up here?

The next day during our entire two-hour drive from the cabin to her home, we fought about the night before. “I have you,” I said. “I don’t want anyone else.” The effect of her alcohol-induced delusion had clouded her thinking so thickly that, even sober, if not a little hung over, there was nothing I could say to exonerate myself. It’s hell to be falsely accused of anything but perhaps I was a little too zealous in defending my innocence. Later that day sitting on the edge of her bed I finally said: “If you don’t tell me right now that you believe me, then I am packing up, getting in my car, driving home, and never coming back.” This was no idle threat; ours was a long-distance relationship and home for me was 1,500 miles and two-day drive away. I packed up, got in my car, drove home, and never went back.

“Drink made her contrary,” a live-in cook confesses about her long-dead sister in a John Cheever story I love, The Sorrows of Gin. “If I’d say the weather was fine, she’d tell me I was wrong. If I’d say it was raining, she’d say it was clearing. She’d correct me about everything I said, however small it was.”

When we drank, this is often how I felt with these two women.

Although I still have a weakness for a woman who purrs after the first sip of a full-bodied cabernet, or pinches a speck of lime pulp from her smiling lips as she compliments me on the gin and tonic I’ve just concocted, I have scratched a fondness for alcohol off the list of qualities I must have before committing to a second date. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m both happier and less argumentative when there isn’t a bottle of anything but water between a woman and me.

James Kullander lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he works as a writer, a program curriculum consultant for Omega Institute and other organizations, and an online program specialist. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including a personal essay, “Love’s Legacy Lost,” in the September 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun and another personal essay, “My Marital Status,” published in The Sun magazine in December 2007. That essay is anthologized in The Best Buddhist Writing 2008 and The Mysterious Life of the Heart: Writing from The Sun about Passion, Longing, and Love. Some of his work in progress on a book about writing and meditation is available on his blog, , and on another blog, theleapintothevoid.wordpress.com.

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