Harvey, or: how I learned to stop drinking and love sobriety (briefly)
(With apologies to Lewis Carroll):
"The time has come to talk of many things.
Of bourbon, insomnia, and alcoholism
Of how I wound up underneath a coffeetable
And of a bunny named Harvey."
At the beginning of December, I was drinking really heavily on a regular basis, spending £20 a night on alcohol on average and generally having a great time even as I was destroying my liver. I occasionally worried that I might be becoming an alcoholic, but I wasn't particularly concerned about that, regardless. Then, within the space of two days, two incidents lead me to give up drinking for awhile.
On 1 December, a Saturday, Eloise, a friend from the hostel who I'd almost wound up living with, had a flatwarming party. This party turned out to be a historic moment, as it's one of the few times I've ever gotten so drunk that I simply don't remember most of the evening. Usually it's my curse to remember EVERY stupid thing I've done. Not 1 December, 2002.
It's easy to figure out why I don't remember much of the evening. I started out playing Around the World with James, Dominique and four Aussie blokes who'd arrived at the hostel that day. We were all drinkingm from our own bottle of spirits with only two bottles of coke split between the six of us for mixers. I was drinking JD, James had rum, and each of the Aussies was cradling the cheapest vodka. Dom was taking bits from their bottles since she relied on her charm rather than her cash to get her alcohol. She got nothing from me that night.
We played for about two hours, with the waterfall rule in effect. We already knew it was going to be a messy night even before we left for the party. It was on the way to the party (J.D. bottle in the sleeve of my coat, top poking out into my palm so I could quickly take a discrete drink) that I indulged in that time honored Edinburgh tradition: pissing in doorways. At the time, I thought I was being a good bohemian anti-capitalist by doing my business in the doorway of a bank (though, it wasn't my bank).
I mention this not to brag, but because it's really my last clear memory of the evening. I vaguely remember going out to buy alcohol before the 11pm cutoff date, going out to pick up some beers, but from about 11pm to 2am I remember nothing. Apparently (though I give no credence to these rumors) I clutched my J.D. throughout the entire evening, giving it out if others asked for some, but refusing to actually let go of the bottle. "As if you were afraid it wouldn't come back to you," as James described it. Then, I wedged myself under the coffeetable and appeared unconscious for awhile, though I would occasionally open my eyes to ask passers-by to pour beer into my mouth, which they happily obliged.
The next thing I remember is waking up on Eloise's bed, where I'd either been carried or went on my own (I've gotten conflicting reports on this). I was being kicked out by James and Eloise. I made it back to the living room and briefly lost consciousness again. It was probably only about ten minutes later that I woke up in an empty living room amidst the wreckage of bottles. I was still clutching Mr. Daniels; there was only a swallow left inside of it, which I happily finished off and put it amongst its brethren on the table.
And then I realized what had woken me up: the sounds of boisterous sex on a cheap bed. Good on ya, James!
But whether I was capable or not, I decided to leave; I wasn't going to sit and listen to that for however long it took. It was 3am; I know that much. I had a gap of about four hours in my memory, only part of that was I passed out.
When I stepped out of Eloise's, I had a long moment of panic where I simply did not know where I was or how I could get back home. Luckily, Edinburgh has perhaps the best landmark for orientation there is: Edinburgh Castle. The moment I saw that dark silhouette looming over the city, I knew where to go. I also knew that I was three blocks from the dorms of the University of Edinburgh, and I thought it might be nice to go see Belin.
I'd thought that the surprise and adrenaline from being woken up by James and Eloise had helped sober me up; I realized I was still extremely pissed though, when I found myself right outside Belin and Fernanda's window with absolutely no memory of walking the three blocks to get there. The mini-blackout, even more than the four hour blackout, scared me most about that evening, and made me realize it might be a very bad idea to show up at 3am, unannounced and pissed at the place of a girl I'd just met and was starting to really like.
I moved into the park and sat down on a bench where I'd hopefully be out of the way (being even more concerned that they'd come home from a night out themselves and find me just out there "waiting." If I'm going to get in trouble for stalking someone, I at least want the joy of stalking them). When I stood up, it was an hour and a half later. I can't be sure I didn't black out then, but I don't remember doing so. I did come to the decision I should cut back on my drinking a bit, though.
The next night was a goodbye party for Sarah, a kiwi who was going back to New Zealand on Tuesday. And she was damn persistent. I was woken up after trying to go to sleep by her insisting that I needed to come down and drink bourbon with them, me being the only actual American there (why you need an American to drink bourbon, I'll never know).
So I weathered that storm, finally going to bed and getting enough sleep so I wasn't entirely stupid at work the next day (probably about three hours, I think).
And then it was Monday. Which brought Quiz Night at the Globe, something I always show up for because almost without exception we win the 50£ bar tab. This night was no exception, though it looked like it would have been one. I managed a miraculous comeback in the final movie round, allowing us to come back from a five point gap and win by three points, because I got every question right in the last round. So we went through the bar tab, and I came home to sleep.
And the same thing happened. "Stu, come down and drink bourbon with us. It's my last night."
"Didn't we just have your goodbye party last night? And didn't we have another one earlier? Wasn't this supposed to be your 'quiet night' before going home?"
Pause. Then, "Stu, come down and drink bourbon with us. It's my last night."
Who was I to argue with that logic?
Six in the morning I finally staggered to bed (yes, I'm glossing over a lot). Eight in the morning I staggered to work (yes, I'm glossing over a little). At three in the afternoon I finally gave up, told my boss I had a migraine and can't work anymore, and staggered back home, probably still smelling of bourbon. I went directly to bed.
That, in itself, would not have been enough to get me off the piss, if not for one extremely odd added wrinkle. I was in bed for about two hours when George came up from reception. "Stu, I'm sorry to wake you up, but I think you should come down to reception. I normally wouldn't do this, but I think you need to see this."
"Ummm...well, there's a messenger here for you."
I put on my pants and went down. The messenger was a bunny named Harvey. Not the invisible pooka from the Jimmy Stewart movie, but equally perplexing. Someone in a giant bunny suit, there for me.
Moreover, Harvey seemed to be wearing glasses inside the costume. And was female. And, even more inexplicable, Irish.
"I'm sorry I woke you up, but I just wanted to come up and say hello. So, 'hello.'" And with that, she turned and walked out the door.
I sat down in reception, wondering what happened to a world where everything actually made sense. At that point, I decided to give up drinking. I used to think that not drinking was some sort of an unpardonable sin, like the alcoholic version of a wartime atrocity. But that was before I started missing time and getting greetings from six foot tall Irish rabbits. So I went on the wagon.
Okay, not completely on the wagon. It's more like I started walking near the wagon...okay, the wagon is at least within sight. My drinking dropped down into I'll-probably-survive-this levels instead of the usual how-am-I-still-alive level. Which was friendlier on my wallet.
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