You know you’ve been on a good date when you end the night in jail. Seriously, it happened to me.
I was depressed and drinking. It was 2013 and I was deeply unhappy. I’d started drinking to numb the pain and it was becoming a problem. With the encouragement of those around me, I put myself in an outpatient rehab program where I completed and earned a certificate of sobriety. However, the certificate was ultimately just a piece of paper and not long after, I started spiraling again.
I was drunk when I met my date. I met Peter on Cinco de Mayo of that year during my newest spiral. He was a friend of a friend of a friend and we met by chance. We were at a get-together and talked for a bit. I may have flirted but honestly, I don’t really remember. I blacked out early in the night, as I always want to do. To my surprise, the next day Peter asked our mutual friends for my phone number.
We planned our first sober meetup… We texted back and forth, and after a while, he asked to meet up. Because I was back to struggling with alcohol, my therapist suggested that I ask Peter to go for coffee. (Bless his heart.) However, the thought of sitting and talking to someone terrified me. The thought of sitting and talking to a guy terrified me more. And sober? Gag me with a spoon. But Peter and I had made our plans, and quite impressively, I didn’t find a way to get out of them.
I practiced hard for our date. Leading up to D-Day, my therapist coached me on conversation techniques, on how to sit down with my anxiety and smile in its face. We talked for two full sessions about this date, about what I could do right and what could possibly go wrong. Right: breathe deeply. Wrong: get drunk.
I was nervous AF. I was 25 at the time and always nervous. I suffered from crippling anxiety and my flight instinct was perpetually in high gear. I was depressed, lonely, and I didn’t know how to live with myself let alone others. I’d been single for the last five years, mostly too shy to put myself out there and too self-deprecating to take whatever advances that came seriously. I also had no self-esteem, which plagued both my normal life and my dating life.
I was determined to stay sober. “I’m not going to drink tonight,” I told myself. “I am not going to drink.” I really think I meant it too.
Ultimately, I ended up being a total mess. My head ran away with itself and my thoughts became invasive: How am I supposed to talk to him? How am I supposed to be? What if he changes his mind when he sees me? Maybe this is a mistake. This is definitely a mistake. Can I cancel? Is it too late to cancel? Do I even look pretty? How am I supposed to talk to him? How am I supposed to be sober? Can I even be sober? This was my first date in years and the latent butterflies in my stomach were thawing their wings.
I took matters into my own hands. Through all of the noise, I was able to steer clear of the bottle. I patted myself on the back for not drinking, popped half a Xanax instead, and headed to my car. Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.
Sober date? As if. At 5:30 p.m., I arrived at the cafe looking for a redhead among coffee drinkers and aspiring screenwriters. I found him, and while we walked together to the counter to get our coffees, he said, “You know what, I feel like a beer.” Ugh. I anxiously told him that it was cool, that the cafe had beer and wine. But he didn’t want to drink alone, he said. Would I join him? Double ugh.
My first drink. Out of fear, I ordered a champagne because it seemed harmless. I also got an espresso to even things out. I was not going to get drunk; I was going to make my therapist, my friends, my family proud. Peter and I nervously talked a little about ourselves, our likes and dislikes. Our drinks were almost finished but he wanted more so we walked to the restaurant across the street and sat at the bar. I did not know how to say no.
My anxiety was still in high gear. I was still anxious. The Xanax wasn’t kicking in and neither was the champagne. I was having trouble forming complete sentences and I was consumed by the thoughts in my head: I can’t do this, I am incapable, he doesn’t like me… and these thoughts echoed and echoed. I was sweaty and breathing shallowly. I scanned the cocktail menu and found it: tequila. It was the only way I knew to conquer this night. After my third one, Peter was ready to call it a night while I was just getting started.
I drove home when I knew I shouldn’t have. Back in my car, I looked for more Xanax but noticed I was out, so I decided to make a pit stop at my dealer’s house. I was heading down a busy city street, fumbling with my phone to set up the deal, when it happened: I floated towards the right, my iPhone in my hand, my mind distracted, and drove straight into a parked car. It was loud and it was ugly. Before I knew it, a cop came to my side and asked me to step out of my vehicle.
I was arrested and locked up. After a semi-balanced walk of shame, I was put in handcuffs, shoved in the back of a car, and taken to a holding cell. They took my hair tie, my shoelaces, and my purse, so I walked barefoot and empty-handed to a small room with a window where they had me take the breathalyzer test. I was crying hard. There was no way to deny it: I was drunk, and the second I blew into the machine, my fate was handed to me. I was taken to jail, and the rest is history…
I paid my dues. While I wasn’t convicted of a DUI due to a technicality, I did get punished as if I were. I attended AA, made it to weekly DUI class, did my community service, and checked back into the outpatient rehab. This year, my “reckless driving” was finally expunged from my record and I can breathe a little easier.
I didn’t have a second date with Peter. In fact, I never spoke to him again. The memory was too painful, I was too embarrassed, and I would never be able to tell him what happened. I ignored his texts, his calls, his Facebook requests. I truly liked him but was ashamed and deemed myself unworthy of him. Five years later, I still wonder, “What if?”
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