02 December 2012

The Best Is Yet to Come

A few nights ago, I happened across a few sample size bottles of booze. They were originally tied to Christmas gifts from friends of mine several years back and I've kept them. I decided to drink them. I started with Mount Gay Rum (my favorite). That was nice. Then onto the Jim Beam black label, which became my go-to bourbon in my drinking days because its taste is very close to Knob Creek but its price is about $10 less.

The third and final 50 mL bottle was Old Whiskey River.

You may recall, Dear Reader, that this was the bourbon I very nearly used to kill myself by combining with a bottle of sleeping pills. I very nearly just threw it away. Instead, I drank it. It was surreal to think that this was going to have been the last thing I ever tasted. I always liked that bourbon, sure, but it was clear to me the other night that it was not deserving of being the last taste I would ever have. I don't know what would be, but it certainly isn't that.

I didn't imbibe, incidentally, out of a self-destructive impulse. It wasn't that at all. It was more about testing my boundaries, since booze isn't particularly compatible with either Crohn's or depression. I figured a combined 150 mL spread out over three drinks wasn't going to be particularly dangerous, especially with nothing else to go with them. I won't lie: I miss getting buzzed every now and again. I miss the warmth in the cheeks and the dissipation of tension. I even miss how time slows down when you've got a drink or two in you.

But I also don't have any compulsion to carry on with it. I indulged. I was grateful that it didn't do me any obvious harm, but I have no intention of pressing my luck.

I quit wanting to do anything about my birthday some time in my 20s. I tried to stop acknowledging that I even had one. The farther behind I felt I had fallen in life, the less I wanted to confront an annual review of my life to see that I'd made no meaningful progress. Birthdays became audits, then, with all the intimidating power one would expect of such an event. I wanted to sleep from 30 November until 2 December and not even hear anything about it.

Last year, I was still too tentative coming out of my hospitalization to do much about my birthday. I went out to The Great Escape and bought some Batman comics. I stopped at Steak & Shake for a bite to eat. Checked out the ornaments at Hallmark in The Summit. It was a pretty low-key day. I didn't catch up with anyone.

This year, though, things were different.

In August, when I went out to celebrate the birthday of a friend, I wasn't very hungry so all I ordered was a dessert. My inner 7-year-old was happy about that. Then last month, while celebrating another friend's birthday, I very nearly repeated myself. Discussing that led me to decide that this year, I didn't want dinner plans. I wanted dessert plans. All we were going to do was get together somewhere and have dessert. I requested that no one even order actual food wherever we wound up meeting for the dessert.

We picked The Cheesecake Factory in Mall St. Matthews. Not only do they offer a lot of dessert choices, but they're right across the street from Ten Pin Lanes. I haven't bowled in several years, but I always liked it. Dessert and bowling became the plan. I invited my friends and (some) of my family. The turnout was terrific. I was joined by 16 others, including my baby brother. Things didn't go as planned time-wise, but because everyone had already eaten, everyone was fine patiently waiting for us to finally be seated.

The thing that I've thought most about all day today - other than how sore I am from bowling and why I quit doing it in the first place - has been that this year, for the first time in a very long time, my birthday was an actual celebration. It wasn't an obligatory event, as it had become in my early adulthood. Nor was it the test I wasn't prepared for that it has become in recent years. This year, I sincerely felt that I had cause to celebrate.

My depression is under control. I've gone another year without needing surgery to treat Crohn's.* I've reconnected with some old friends and made new ones. Because of all of this, and other nice things that have gone my way, I'm still standing.

In light of the drinking experimentation and then the celebration last night, I keep thinking about the old song, "The Best Is Yet to Come" (lyrics by Carolyn Leigh) - 
The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine
The best is yet to come, come the day that you're mine
Come the day that you're mine
I'm gonna teach you to fly
We've only tasted the wine
We're gonna drain that cup dry