One thing I really miss about being healthy is that I always had the freedom to do what I wanted without really having to plan ahead.
Particularly when it comes to drinking alcohol. (Also, when it comes to medical bills.)
I was never a big drinker, but I never had to think twice about drinking either. I could let the moment decide how much I was going to drink. If I went out to a bar, I could have a beer. If I came home from work and felt the need to relax a little while I was cooking dinner, I could open a beer or have a glass of wine. If I felt like splurging, I could walk down the street and get a pint of microbrew and a slice of pizza. My favorite bars had a beer list a mile long. A cold winter night in Chicago called for a really dark beer. Summer called for something cold, light, and fruity, or just the standard 312. I started appreciating gin & tonics.
Technically, I can still drink. My liver tests are normal enough to show that it’s still functioning quite well despite all the tumors. My oncologist said, “A glass of wine every now and then” is OK. But the problem i’m running into is: a fairly social 20-something usually drinks more than that in a week. More, if the week has been particularly stressful and there’s a party going on.
I think the part of drinking that a lot of people enjoy is that they don’t have to think about it. And then, they don’t have to think when they’re drunk. Having a glass of wine or whatever “every now and then” is something I have to think about. Enough to write 700 words about it! So it just zaps all the fun out. Except I still really like the taste of beer and wine. I’ve gotten pretty used to ordering a sparkling water and lime and sipping on it like it has something in it. I would drink soda except my pancreas needs the help, too. I stay away from parties and places where the primary goal is to get drunk. I don’t really want to, I just don’t want to have to turn down drinks because it reminds me that I have to think and be responsible.
On my birthday, I had two beers. Nothing bad happened. And since then, and since i’m on my two weeks off from the chemo, I have started to drink a little more. Or, at least, have a few sips whenever it’s offered to me. A few nights ago, I had another whole beer to myself in an effort to appear “normal.”
When I think about it rationally, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. My liver has a hard job–shouldn’t I try to make it easier as much as I can? Is it really more important to appear normal when i’m out than keep my liver happy and functioning? And, if I’m going to be on the liver transplant list at some point, I won’t feel quite right about drinking. A lot of people on the liver transplant list need livers now because theirs aren’t working the way they’re supposed to. It feels like abusing the system that I still get to drink and I take a liver away from someone that presumably can’t drink and needs a new liver to, well, live. I guess I do too, but the urgency is uncertain.
But it’s not just the drinking. It’s the being irresponsible. It’s that my memories of living in Chicago and being happy in my adult life involve drinking beers and hanging out with friends. In LA, being happy is hanging out with friends (or sisters). Period. And feeling conflicted about drinking a beer or not drinking a beer.