I finally got drunk, and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be

Kate McCarthy

I’m not really a drinker. Back in high school, I learned to dodge drinks with a wry smile and an, “Ah, bummer! I’ll catch the next round!”

Once in college, it was sips here and there, but a confluence of my Irish heritage and my family’s proclivity for alcoholism was enough to keep me away — that is, until this past Friday night, when I went to a comedy club with a couple of beers tucked in my backpack and a simmering plan to just go for it.

I’m not going to slap readers with a bunch of stats and facts here — this isn’t an indictment of underage drinking. That’s no fun at all. In all honesty, I don’t want to make any sweeping statements about drinking and how it’s bad and you shouldn’t do it, because I don’t believe that. In fact, I recognize that many people my age are smart and even sophisticated drinkers.

Wading through Friday night crowds on Hennepin, I booked it to the central arena of drunkenness — FloCo Fusion. I cracked my beers in the stairwell, and before you could say “Pabst Blue Ribbon” or “I guess I’ll take a PBR if that’s all you have,” I was stumbling drunk into my pals’ apartment.

It was all wrong, and the concern on my friends’ faces couldn’t be disguised. The next day, my behavior didn’t sit right with me. I had been trying to prove something. It was that classic feeling — I wanted to fit in.

Having rashly raged for one night, I can safely say that drinking for the wrong reasons doesn’t bring clarity, assurance or satisfaction. I wasn’t being myself, which is never a good place for anyone to be.

At the end of the day, when the friends are gone and the buzz fizzles, I realized all I can count on is me.

I want to develop the ability to deal with the weird, the uncomfortable, without having to reach for a drink. I want to be a sharper, well-rounded person because of my decision to sometimes abstain.

Every time I’ve felt ill at ease in my own skin and didn’t reach for a beer or other type of pacifier, I’ve thanked myself for it. And so I cling to the idea that sometimes it’s healthy, even productive, to entertain discomfort — revel in it, store it away, grow from it.

I’d like to keep indulging in the full gamut of icky feelings, while hopefully integrating a healthy, less all-or-nothing attitude towards drinking, as well. The two don’t have to be at odds, but instead should inform and balance each other. May you all drink responsibly — emotionally and developmentally speaking. Godspeed.