A Vice Writer Admits She Has a Vice
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A Vice Writer Admits She Has a Vice

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My love hate relationship with Vice Magazine was on a solid year-long hate binge until about 20 minutes ago when I read Megan Koester’s essay about attempting sobriety in Los Angeles after admitting to her readers in a previous story that she has a drinking problem. In this piece, she describes being begrudgingly sober after midnight on a Saturday night when her friends had been congratulating her on her story about her drinking problem by (unironically) raising their glasses for her. That Saturday night was different from all the others because she wasn’t stumbling down drunk—and not for the better. In fact, she says she was miserable.

She explains that she woke up the next day at 3 pm (been there). I can certainly sympathize with waking up at a time when schools get out and since this was written from the West Coast (where I got loaded and sober), waking up at 3 pm means waking up after the NYSE has closed and the sun has gone if it’s winter. I used to have a rule: I had to go to sleep before The New York Times started tweeting. I never followed this rule because it meant going to sleep at 3 am and I don’t even do that sober. The rule then turned into having to go to sleep when the birds started chirping (everyone has this rule). That rule I tried my hardest to follow because nothing is more depressing to me than hearing a bird chirp and seeing the sunrise with cocaine crusting my nostrils.

Alcoholics and drug addicts sure do have a lot of rules. I didn’t notice this until I made rules for waking up, too—even in sobriety. Depression in sobriety is basically like drinking without getting drunk. For me, all the actions are the same: bursts of anger, waking up so late I can’t save a seat for a 4:30 pm meeting five miles from my apartment and eating dessert at diners at 3 am. Koester writes about her new rule of only drinking when in the company of other humans. In my experience, this is generally one of the last ones people with drinking problems make before giving up. But it only takes her a couple of sentences before she admits that her new rule is “fairly useless” since she quickly found the loophole—by staying up all night around anyone just so she didn’t break the rule.

Admitting you have a drinking problem is one thing. Trying out sobriety is another. We all did this a million times before committing. Reading Koester’s experience with two situations where she didn’t drink when she normally would was as excruciating for my selfish memory as the thought of falling into a cold pool of knives. She discusses performing stand-up comedy sober while her favorite drink (bourbon) is available for free in the green room. Yet she admits that she thought her stand-up set was better when she wasn’t drinking—a boon since from what I can tell, the new normal for working comics these days it to start juice cleansing and driving a Prius (after having seen half a generation of SNL alums and HBO one-hour special could-have-been’s overdose or just become miserable comedy club fifth year seniors). I, personally, can list a double-digit number of comedians with top-selling albums that don’t drink and exercise all the time; notebooks in seedy comedy clubs seem to have been replaced with iPads and Blueberry Bliss smoothies from Earth Bar. Don’t shoot the messenger but it’s fucking true. Our heroes became parents and lost friends; what was to be expected?

Koester describes the next social situation where alcohol would have lubricated the hell out of discomfort: at a birthday party when she went to a “slightly la-di-da” bar in Hollywood (“slightly,” the way I translate it, to mean East of Highland, “la-di-da” to mean below Franklin and above Melrose—this probably isn’t remotely relevant to you if you’re not in LA and you may well know it if you are). She bought a club soda (straight out of my mom’s manual for “fitting in at a night club”) and justified it by saying, “Well, it wasn’t an $8 cocktail.” One catch and it was bound to happen: she found conversation to be at an all-time low. I think this is where most people throw in the towel on sobriety because social life is so crucial and fitting in is so important that internal misery and physical decay may just be worth it in the end. She didn’t throw it in and left.

Since her last drink eight days before writing the article, Koester says she’s been chugging water. I guess it’s like ex-smokers chewing gum or basketball players going to strip clubs—people have to keep busy when they’re off their schedules. What hit me hardest about her piece was her describing her sleep. I happen to be something of an expert on troubled sleep. I used to think it had to do with drinking and drugs, and it did to an extent, but in sobriety I’ve learned that now it almost all has to do with my head; In fact when my mind is clear of substances, my brain is louder and probably meaner.

Koester turns to a mantra—thinking about her ex’s new lovers, whether or not her mother is proud of her, and the list goes on. This is a pretty amateur night move but it’s amateur like porn or The Room: classic.

She ends by explaining that she cut down her drinking to zero because the way she was living was “untenable.” She also goes on to describe the praise she received for having been able to her hold her liquor being similar to “complimenting a heroin addict for hiding her track marks.” Her article, she says, isn’t a cry for help but a “statement of fact” that she’s “giving up on giving up.” Her story isn’t unique but I hope she makes the leap. I may be writing this at 2:30 am but I’m writing it with a clear head in a life I would never have if I was still drinking and doing drugs. I’m not exaggerating; a kitten that I thought hated me just jumped on my lap and went to sleep. Megan Koester, I just emailed you. Kitten, let’s go to bed.

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About Author

Carlos Herrera is a comedian, photographer and writer whose work can also be found on The Fix . He has been featured in LA Weekly and has performed at The Hollywood Improv among other places.