Sober in Vegas: On nostalgia and alcohol

Don’t you remember those midwestern nights?

My brain has a way of inventing comforting and dangerous lies around my early drinking days.

This morning a friend posted a picture from a party circa 2004 that wasn’t even of me–it was of a house I lived in when I was about 20, and the picture happened to be in the hallway leading to my room that I’d decorated.

The floors are dark wood and the walls are adorned with Radiohead posters, MOMA postcards, and artwork I’d made.

Seems pretty harmless on the surface, right?

But here’s where my brain goes.

Awwww…wow, my old room!

Gosh, what party was that? 

And look how fun the place looks.


Ahhh, to be 20 or 21 again.

What did I even do for my 21st birthday?

That’s right, it was so great. I ate donuts with tons of friends and got blackout drunk on cheap beer and gin.

That wasn’t so bad right?

We had fun!

I miss those times, times when we could just sit and talk and drink and laugh.

We’d blast music and cry and laugh and talk about our families.

That was incredible right? That’s the stuff that life is made of.

And I start to get really….soft about the past.  I think that’s natural.  We want to remember the good, not the bad.

And my brain starts to say things like, “Really, how bad would it be if you started drinking again? Remember those warm midwestern fall nights laughing until 3am and making deep friendships?!”

And to be fair, many of those friends are still my closest friends today.


In these hazy autumn memories I forget why I was drinking to blackout. I set it aside because a polaroid picture doesn’t capture what was really going on inside of me.

Recovery from abuse.


Recovery from trauma.


Family struggles.

Financial missteps and crippling debt.

All of the things it’s taken me almost a decade’s distance from and two years sobriety to start to sort through.

The girl who decorated that college student hallway wasn’t always having an amazing time.

Drinking was an easy remedy for the wound and it was a poor salve.

It grew from distraction into addiction into depression into suicidal territory in the twelve years that followed that polaroid.

And instead of feeling sentimental for that 20 year old, I want to feel compassion for a young person trying to grow and heal in all the wrong ways.

I want to look at my current life, which is steady and balanced and supported and hopeful and realize that right now is a beautiful time.

I don’t need alcohol to have deep friendships.

All of the people at that party still love me deeply even though I’ve stopped drinking, and I still have nights where I listen to music late and where I laugh with others until 1am.

The difference is now when I wake up the next morning I don’t have a headache, I don’t regret things I blurted out drunk, and I don’t have to spend the next few days in a shame, hate, and guilt spiral.

I want to live in present, and be honest with myself about the past.

So for now polaroids, I will do my best to stay strong in the face of your alluring faded colors and your seductive but dishonest telling of my history.

Today is far better than the past, and the future continues to be full of possibility and discovery.

Thanks for reading friends, and happy sobering!

9 thoughts on “Sober in Vegas: On nostalgia and alcohol

  1. I do not have polaroids like you do. No drunken nights and guilt ridden morning afters. But there are still times when memories of the past are alluring and seductive. But always remember they are dishonest. Painted with what might have been, maybe. At least for me.

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    1. haha yes, I totally agree Emilio! The past has a way of being seen through a smokey lens, alluring and dishonest. it’s a good reminder to me to be present and love every minute of where I’m currently at, because one day I’ll look back on these moments with the same yearning I’m sure! 🙂

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