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My Sober Life in Montreal Day 3: Remembering the dark weekends of 1999 and seeing the light in 2012

When I try to remember how I spent Saturday and Sunday in Montreal when I first lived here in my late teens, all that comes to mind is sleeping off a bender, dry heaving over a toilet, glugging orange juice from the container and knocking back extra-strength Advil. In between naps, I might have called friends to rehash what I’d forgotten from the night before or make that dreaded apology phone call, “I said what? I’m so sorry.” I did not spend SaturDAYs and SunDAYs in Montreal, I spent them in bed: piercing headache, dry cardboard mouth, smeared eyeliner and the smell of booze permeating from my pits. Rolling out of my dark room, I’d switch on the TV and watch something shitty like Matlock while eating soggy cereal. At around 8 pm, I’d soothe that self-loathing with a drink.

I remember a boyfriend who, after seeing me in this state, decided to pull back the curtains and turn on Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles. Tears lined my eyes as he smiled and gently tugged on my exhausted body; pushing the dirty sheets away from my face and lifting me towards the light. I wanted to be happy, sunny and lively. But I just couldn’t.

Back in Montreal for round two, over ten years later, the past 48 hours have been the opposite of dark and depressing. Long Bixi rides on winding bike trails, shopping for fresh fish at my local poissonerie, twirling with hippies at Tam-tams on Mount Royal, having an impromptu picnic with my friends’ kids, taking myself out for a theatre date to see Phone Whore at Zoofest (Wherein a phone sex operator shares anecdotes of her kinky conversations) and lapping up grapefruit sorbet while I stroll the hot streets. Even though I was mostly alone, it was a vibrant weekend that filled me with the noise of life.

I walked past my old apartment and creepily gazed in the front windows. An old lady sat surrounded by paintings, attentively writing letters in the area where my dining room table used to sit. The space looked polished, gentle, homey. I imagined my nineteen year old self walking the staircase from the basement bedroom, clinging  the walls to support the nausea inside. I wanted to meet her in the hallway; hold her, feed her, chat with her over tea. But she wouldn’t be ready to hear me, not for at least ten more years. 

~ Jen McNeely

My Sober Life in Montreal older entries:

On day 1, Jen outed herself as a recovering alcoholic. 
On day 2, she wondered why the hell she did that.

Montreal Notes:

What is Tam-Tams?
Tam-tams is a weekly gathering of anyone and their drum that wants to make noise. It happens every Sunday on the foot of Mount Royal park, just north of Pine and west of Parc. All types and ages collide; you can get up and dance or just sit back and take it all in. A must do in Montreal. Starts in the early aft and runs until sundown.

What is Zoofest? Zoofest is billed as a raunchier version of Just For Laughs and focuses on emerging talent in theatre, music, comedy and other bizarre productions. It runs from July 5 – July 29th. More info at zoofest.com.

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