The Break-Up Bender
My girlfriend and I broke up recently. We were together for seven months and five days--not a long time, but long enough. After she dumped me, I went on a bender. For three weeks I went out every night, wrapping myself in alcohol's sweet libation, with friends or alone. I made the rounds--Linda's, the Nitelite, Ileen's--getting plowed and staggering home, stumbling into bed and passing out. The next day I would wake up shaking and queasy, and go to work.It was a glorious time.The bender has many forms. There is the "a friend just died" bender and the "I just got fired" bender; but nothing seems to fit so snugly in the arms of alcohol as the "break-up" bender. After all, romance often turns into tragedy, and heavy alcohol consumption helps you forget.The key to a successful bender is a relentless pursuit of squalor. When you're depressed, you want to completely immerse yourself in that depression, so it's vital to look as ragged as possible. If you are clean and well-kept sitting up at the bar, you're not really on a bender, so the first step (even before your first drink) is to cease bathing. Don't bother with your hair. Quit shaving. Wear the same clothes several days in a row. When you look depressed, you can be depressed.After my break-up, I found myself with a lot of free time. The routine my girlfriend and I had established was suddenly gone, so I would sit at home alone mulling over my mistakes, and inventing desperate measures to try and get her back. This is where the bender usually begins. Instead of sitting at home, I went out. Instead of missing that routine we had, I invented a new one.There are three phases to a break-up bender:*DepressionThis first phase usually begins before you step into a bar. You screw up the courage to go sit in a bar--Didn't you meet her in a bar? Isn't that how it all got started?--and you sit by yourself, or at a table with friends, and stare into your drink. You try to participate, but you're just too sad. This usually lasts until about the second drink, when alcohol starts to break through your depression. First it knocks on the door, slyly. Then it kicks it in.*OverconfidenceThis is where the bender starts to work its magic. After three or four drinks, your depression is gone! All of a sudden you feel extremely attractive and confident. You start saying things like, "I'll be fine," or, "I don't need her anyway." It's the healing process--adapting and overcoming--helped along by your old pal alcohol. You look around the bar, eyeing the other people. That little sulking waif in the corner catches your eye, and you flash her a smile. Women can smell desperation like a wet T-shirt--and since you haven't been bathing, you smell like shit--but it doesn't really matter. You're out there, living again.*PanicThis last phase is where things often fall apart. A good, healthy, constructive bender holds steady in the Overconfidence phase, but on many occasions I found myself blundering into Panic. After six or seven drinks, you start winding down. Your body is spending too much energy trying to rid itself of the poisons you're pouring into it. Your eyes gets droopy, and you slump in the booth. This is when your defenses are down. Suddenly, the conversation at the table, or something you see, reminds you of your former mate. Your mind starts churning again. You start saying things like "I really fucked up," or "I'd do anything to get her back."In your stupor, things that would normally seem hideously stupid suddenly make perfect sense. This is where the drunken phone call starts to sound like a good plan. In my case, I found myself ambushing my ex-girlfriend in public, pleading with her to take me back. The next day, of course, I was humiliated.A bender exists to help you ignore. You ignore that gnawing feeling in your stomach, and all the memories, both the good times and your past mistakes. Being outside of that relationship routine, surrounded by pitchers and glasses and friends, you realize it's not the end of the world. That is the beauty of a bender.Eventually you will either stumble into a new fling with someone who you convince yourself is a much better person, or you'll stretch your bender out until your former flame starts dating again. If you're lucky, though, you'll just get over it--which is what I had to do. I blundered and did everything I could to get her back, but it wasn't enough. Thank God alcohol was there for me!Drinking to forget never works, but drinking to ignoreÉ well, that's the best thing you can possibly do.