It’s actually gotten colder.
Record lows. Like negative something. Makes your skin hurt.
Your legs never really get warm, even in the house. It’s that cold.
It’s New Year’s Eve. I think it’s always really cold on New Year’s Eve.
I remember being in my early twenties and going out- it was the biggest deal. You had to have a solid plan, a new shirt, and a pocket full of cash.
The solid plan usually included pre-party spots, bars and then after-party spots.
Back then I would certainly sacrifice comfort for style. I never wore a coat anywhere- didn’t matter if it was -40 degrees.
Then when we got a little older, the bars were a headache. Too expensive, too crowded. We started to get blocks of rooms at the Embassy Suites. We did that for a few years and it was always really fun. Everyone could let loose since no one was driving home, and the balloon drop made it feel fancy.
I remember the last year we did it we were all wearing suits. Popping bottles. Real cornball fancy pants bullshit. We had been down at the hotel bar taking shots and were headed back up to the room- I assume to take different shots. We were all stuffed on the elevator, and somehow someone started talking to a friend of mine in a way I didn’t appreciate. I respectfully asked this fella not to repeat what he said and warned him that I would punch him in the face if he did. The guy repeated himself, so I hit him, and all hell broke loose for a couple minutes. I was on probation, so someone grabbed me and got me back in the elevator and told me to get to the room. I was happy to oblige, not wanting the good times to end. As things started to calm down I noticed these two kids on the elevator. They were probably like 10. My memory is a bit fuzzy for several reasons but I feel like they were brother and sister. They looked terrified. I proceeded to explain to them that I was a nice guy and that I had given that fella a “fair” warning. I later bragged about it, and mischaracterized their fear for excitement, I guess to make myself seem like less of a monster.
I was the fake tanned, spikey haired sleaze ball wearing a silver suit with a light purple shirt punching people in front of kids on New Year’s Eve- while on probation- then bragging about it. I thought I was so cool. I can’t stand 25-year-old me. I don’t punch people anymore but if I met 25-year-old me, I might make an exception.
At that point, I had no idea that I was an alcoholic. I blacked out a lot. I drank to excess every time. I was always on probation for one thing or another, and every one of those things involved drugs or alcohol. I was just a guy who liked to party. A guy who liked to party, and had some bad luck when it came to police.
You know, I don’t remember what came after those Embassy Suites New Year’s Eves. I know at a certain point I stopped participating in New Year’s Eve altogether. It was Amateur Night. By that point, I was no longer an amateur drinker- I had turned pro. My daily routine involved drinking. I didn’t need a holiday to provoke it. I was living some kind of strange sad anti-life. I stayed home on holidays and went out on regular days. Except sometimes I went out on holidays too. Mostly I was just drunk.
Overall, I remember New Year’s Eve as a day where it was okay to be decadent and excessive, at a time in my life when being decadent and excessive were things I enjoyed doing on a regular basis. “The key to success is excess”- that was a motto of mine for a while. Motto or lame justification for my behavior…. back then I preferred to think of it as a motto.
Now I don’t do shit on New Year’s Eve. I think the first couple years I was sober I might have dressed up (even though I wasn’t going anywhere) and popped a bottle of sparkling apple juice and watched Carson Daly or something. I maybe even had some noisemakers. I guess I was transitioning from one part of my life to the next. I like to be festive. I like to celebrate things. I enjoy a good tradition. But you find new ways to do those things. For example, now on New Year’s Eve I take a picture of my wife when she falls asleep way before midnight, and share it with my family. We all laugh. My wife gets mad in the morning. It’s really fun for me.
But seriously, what I have recently started doing as a tradition is making black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day. Oh, by the way, outside of the party world it turns out that NEW YEARS DAY- not New Year’s Eve- is the actual holiday.
Making black-eyed peas on the first day of the year is a tradition that comes from the South, I think. My friend from Arkansas got me started on it. It is said to bring prosperity, and I could certainly use that. It’s also a pretty unique tradition for a family in Iowa to do, and that helps me really enjoy doing it. We are all so unique, right? (If you haven’t heard that at a meeting, I suggest you go to a meeting.) I feel like celebrating with food is a pretty healthy option. It’s certainly healthy by comparison. Even if you celebrate with French Silk pie, it’s healthier than a bender.
This will be my 7th New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day since I quit drinking. I think I am starting to settle into some pretty nice new traditions and celebrations. I am very comfortable with not drinking on holidays. I am very comfortable staying home on holidays. I am comfortable with most aspects of my life. Room for improvement? Sure. Always. A resolution for the new year? Not really. That’s not my style.
As I write this, I am reminded of how life was. I am reminded of how hard it was to make the change. I am reminded of my failures along the way. Mostly, I am reminded that the decision I made and the work I put in was the best decision I’ve EVER made, and the best work I’ve ever done.
This is a good place. This will be a good year. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
I will be up early having coffee and watching the sun rise on a brand-new, potentially prosperous year.
Excited to continue learning what comes after the dark.
The door was open I was seething
Your mother burst in it was freezing
She said it looks like it’s trying to rain
I was lost I felt sea sick
You convinced me that he’d left
You said keep talking but don’t use any names
I scolded your driver and your brother
We are old enough to know how long you’ve been hooked
And we’ve all been through the war
And each time you score
Someone gets hauled and handcuffed and booked
It felt like four in the morning
What sounded like fireworks
Turned out to be just what it was
The stars looked like diamonds
Then came the sirens
And everyone started to cuss
All the noise was disturbing
And I couldn’t find Irving
It was like two stations on at the same time
And then I hid your car keys
And I made black coffee
And I dumped out the rest of the rum
Nick and Socorro broke up
And Candice wouldn’t shut up
Fin he recorded the whole thing
Ray he said damn you
And someone broke my camera
And it was New Years
And we all started to sing
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot for the sake of auld lang syne
- Tom Waits – New Year’s Eve