The Sober Truth Behind Our Drunk Courage

“Do you guys cuddle?”

“Not really.” I thought about the question—and the guy friend I was crushing on—for a minute, then added, “Well sometimes. I guess we do when we’re drinking.”

“I get it. It’s one of those things where you want it, and he probably also wants it, but you would never admit to it or cross those lines sober.”

Even strangers in my Uber understand. Drinking is an excuse we too often use to do the things we’re too afraid to do sober. Why is that?

It took half a bottle of red wine and entirely too much whiskey and coke to lay with my head on his shoulder and let him stroke my hair. It took a full bottle of rosé to lie down inches from his face and play with his hair. Yet somehow, neither of those instances led to more than just that, because even drunk, it’s always scary to cross lines like those with friends.

But had those lines been crossed, would we even admit the next morning that we wanted it? Or would I say the alcohol made me do it, I wouldn’t have otherwise. What’s even the point of giving ourselves the courage to do something when it all disappears the next day and we go back to denying ever having felt a thing?

The night I decided it’s now or never, I needed to make a move or move on, I intentionally got too drunk. I was afraid it wouldn’t go well, and I wanted to “blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol” if and when I was rejected.

You should never go into making a move on someone with the mindset of “I’m going to be rejected,” and especially not while overloading on whiskey. That just reeks of a bad idea. Why should I ever assume my advances are going to be shut down? Why is it so terrifying that I need both the “liquid courage” and an excuse for doing what I knew beforehand that I wanted to do?

I was able to lower my inhibitions enough to announce to our friends that I wanted to hook up with him, but not enough to actually kiss him when I had the chance. Instead, an unfortunate turn of events and a bit too much whiskey led to my being the drunk crying girl. I was the hot mess that ruined everyone’s night.

He wasn’t even the reason why I was crying. He, being the good guy that he is, hugged me while I cried, and tried to reassure me. I later learned that, in the spirit of bad decisions that night, he got so upset by the events that he got blackout drunk.

We’ve all been there. Drinks give us courage. Drinks act as an excuse for acting on that courage. But drinks can also mask our own feelings and allow us to hide from them. Whiskey’s a cure-all.

That was the night I decided that maybe being drunk when dealing with feelings is a bad idea instead of the good one I always considered it.

Alcohol has always been the crutch for me in relationships when I needed one. You start sleeping with a guy you’ve talked to everyday for months and know you need to ask if it’s just sex or something more? Go to the bar across the street and down three beers before making the phone call. Planning on losing your virginity? Make sure you’re drunk for it. It’s gonna hurt and you don’t want to feel or remember it. These are the thoughts I leap to when faced with a difficult situation.

A few weeks ago I was winery hopping in Napa. It seemed like I hadn’t been talking to my guy friend as much since that blacked out emotional shitshow of a night, but he Snapchatted me and I responded with a picture of the wine bottle my friend and I were cracking into. Then I sent him a picture of the first winery we visited the next day, and it was all downhill from there.

This time it wasn’t intentional on my part. As far as I’m aware, he’d been drinking too. Two drunk people communicating via an app where your messages disappear almost instantly? You’d think drunk texts are the worst until you’ve managed to accidentally discover drunk Snapchats.

I remember kissy bitmojis, I remember telling him I hate him (I never said I was a good flirt), and I remember my friend threatening to take my phone away. I remember forgetting what we were talking about, and him joking that I had sent him nudes. That joke spiraled out for the next few hours.

He’s one of my closest friends, but he’s never flirted with me like that before. At this point, he’s known for a few weeks already that I like him, so why now?

That uncertainty is why I told him the next day that we can’t do that anymore. Of course, he used the excuse that:

“We both need to learn to handle our chardonnays.”

I have to ask myself what it is that I’m even really afraid of that requires the liquid courage. Is it the fear of rejection that’s stopping me from going after him? Am I afraid of ruining a friendship by crossing lines that we can’t come back from? Or am I just afraid of even having feelings and want to avoid them at all costs? When I start sobering up and hear that voice in my head yelling at me to stop, “You don’t want this!” I can’t help but wonder, “I thought I did? What do I want?”

If I have to be intoxicated to act on something, is it really what I want at all?

A friend once told me, “You’re Lindsay fucking Marshall. You don’t take what you can get, you get what you want.” It’s a new year, which means time for positive changes, and I know one I need to make is to stop being so afraid. If I want something, there is no reason not to go for it. Maybe I still don’t know what I want, but I know I don’t want to rely on alcohol for courage anymore.

Photo credit: Rashid Khreiss

Lindsay Marshall

Lindsay Marshall

Lindsay's life goal is to see a concert in every state, and somehow she's already halfway there. Her hobbies include reciting all the lines along with The Little Rascals, spending way too much money on food, and pretending she belongs in places she definitely does not.
Lindsay Marshall
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