We’ve all been in a social setting or situation where we’ve downed one too many brews or guzzled a few too many whiskeys. Life happens, no biggie. The thing is, you’re no college student anymore. You’re not the brash young gun your parents can embarrassingly cringe-laugh at with their old people friends and say, “Oh, don’t mind him, he’s in college” when you’re sauced at your uncle’s birthday party.
No, you’re an adult now. And while the desperation of seemingly never having enough money to party and perceived freedom of open bar events and loose family liquor cabinets may seem tantalizing, in some of these situations the consequences of being inebriated could be grave. What, you’ve already breached this territory? Well no matter, I’m here to help you handle one of these unexpected, drunken social interactions with grace and dignity.
So, you’re in town for your nephew’s baptism on a Sunday and you put back a couple (maybe a couple gallons) of beers the night before raging with your old hometown buddies? Chances are, if you were out late enough (or early enough, depending on how you look at it), and if we’re looking at the traditional church-going times somewhere between 9am and noon, you’re going to that church service still technically drunk.
So what do you do? Well, first thing’s first: don’t panic. The is going to be a long-haul of concentration and focus, but you can get through it.
You’re filing into the pews with Aunt Kathy, your parents, adult siblings, and the rest of the familial gang, and you’re feeling good and loose. You’re going to want to pop a couple Tic Tacs in that beer-breath opening of yours. I’d say gum, but there’s always some inherent risk of you feeling the need to blow bubbles with that. Hit up the good old-fashioned mint.
The pastor opens up with remarks to the congregation. Maybe he takes prayer requests or asks others to speak. People welcome each other and a few select church-goers stand to say a few things. Whether you believe me or not, trust me – you’ll feel the urge to get in the spotlight and say a few words yourself. Maybe crack an ill-timed joke about your sins from the night before or remark on the fancy hats and attire that some of the elderly women are wearing. Don’t. Bite that tongue and hold down. You won’t come off as witty; you’ll just look like an asshole and sound like someone with down’s syndrome. I unfortunately speak from experience. Nobody likes an asshole. Not in church.
You’ve gotten past some opening remarks and all the niceties of the service, and now everyone is standing to sing from a book. Chances are you’re not going to be able to stand straight for very long or be able to read the words in your hymnal. But that’s okay, because this is where you have the most freedom. As the congregation rises to their feet, stand up and lean hard against the pew in front of you and let it hold your balance. This will be give you some reprieve from having to concentrate on having the spins, and make you look like it’s business-as-usual with your attendance to the service. Don’t look at the words, don’t try and remember the lines, don’t flip through any hymns. No chance with that. Hear the beat/melody through one of two verses, as the group of church-goers belts through it, and try and get the gist of it. Copy what they sound like, even if it’s gibberish, and mumble it under your breath, like you do with the N-word on rap songs when you’re around black people. The idea is to give the illusion that you’re participating. Because let’s be honest, the more you coherently try to say, the more your inebriated little secret is going to be revealed. So keep it quiet and mumbly, and lean hard on that pew. Get your urges to say words out in this segment of service, too, because you’re going to have to be quiet otherwise. You got this.
Moment of Silence/Prayer
If your place is like mine, you probably have some sort of moment of silence or prayer during your service. While shorter than a sermon, obviously, this is probably the hardest and most-crucial moment. Your best bet is to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom and get the hell out of there, because silence in large crowds for prolonged periods of time isn’t something that goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism. If you can’t get out, however, focus is key. Bite that tongue once more and lock your arms down on that pew, Lenny from Of Mice And Men. If you accidentally laugh, or cough, or snicker, or burp, or fart (or God forbid, shart yourself, which pretty much requires its own column) your cover could be blown. So try not to. Worst comes to worst, turn that fateful slip-up into a dramatic whimper and rub your eyes, as if tearing-up. It’s a tricky gambit to play, turning a sloppy-drunk crack-up into a dramatic moment of emotion, but some can pull it off with the right crowd around them. In any case, though, this should last no longer than a minute or so. And if you can keep it together, you’re almost home-free.
The longest chunk of time that’ll eat up the service. This could range anywhere from 20 minutes to a solid two hours, and often it’s difficult to gauge. If you can’t sneak out at this point, or you haven’t already, this could be rough. You’ll also probably be coming up on your buzz wearing off or a hangover setting in, depending on the timetable of events, at this point. Your instinct may tell you to find wherever they keep the communion wine and go to town to keep that hangover at bay or that gentle buzz going, but dammit man, you’ve made it this far, and it’s time to weather the rest of the storm cold-turkey. Plus, if you’re Episcopalian or some other suburban denomination like that, chances are you’re getting served grape juice on the reg, anyway. No, you’re so close. You can wait this one out. Now, normally the de-facto standard for most people would be to pop out that iPhone and hit up a little Temple Run or Candy Crush, but knowing yourself, that’s just going to lead to your phone blaring off loudly and accidentally the moment you touch it, no matter what you do. And even if you do get it out and that doesn’t happen: the wrong environment with the right amount of time and the wrong state-of-mind is a dangerous, dangerous combination to play with on a phone. Trust me, you could call my average Sunday “WWII era Poland” with the number of bridges I’ve burned through the years using my phone in a boring morning drunk when I shouldn’t have. And just like WWII era Poland, I said, “never again.” So we can’t have that. Keep that puppy out-of-sight and out of your mind. Seriously. Trust me here.
No, for this sermon you’re going to want to go back to the basics of childhood. It sounds silly, but it kills time and engages the loosely-functioning alcoholic mind more captivatingly than anything else. Drawing. Doodling. Call it what you want, but trust me when I say this will be your saving grace. Find a pen or pencil, grab a church brochure or handout or bulletin that may be in your pew (or picked-up by one of your adjacent relatives on their way into the service) and let the Barney Bag of imagination run wild. You’d be surprised. By the time your intricate 4X6 inch envelope-sized illustration of Walt Jr. cooking breakfast on the back of a church offering slip is done, everyone will be getting up to greet and thank each other for coming. Doodling. It worked when you were 4 years old, and it still holds up as the ultimate uninhibited time-killer. Sure, you may look a little rude and inattentive to your aunt seated beside you, but that’s better than letting slip that you’re hammered and irrevocably sullying your namesake and self to all those old people that gave you candy and presents around holidays when you were little. You don’t have to be good at drawing. The key is longevity of time. Get creative and have fun. Doodling is massively underrated.
Many services, in addition to supplemental fanfare or rituals, have some sort of benediction/offertory/closing remarks as part of their ceremony. (If you’re Catholic, I’m sorry. There’s probably much more for you in-store.) If you’ve made it this far, the key is simple. Everyone will stand and go through one last hymn or so, and there will be some closing statements, maybe a prayer, before exiting the building and shaking hands and thanking one-another for coming. You can’t be there for that last part. Again, trust me here. You can’t and don’t want to be there for that, because if somehow you’re still sloshed, that’s two things: one-on-one conversation with elderly people that you still want to have some shred of respect for you, and a lot of people seeing you get in a car and driving under the influence. If you’ve figured out how to get a ride with someone that isn’t a family member or is a “cool” family member, the latter might not be an issue.
It’s likely, though, that you’ll have just stomached a LOTR-esque journey through time and space that you should be proud of, and there’s no point in ruining all that work and concentration. No, here you just want to get the hell out of dodge. The moment the congregation stands to sing in unison for some closing hymns, excuse yourself and get out early. Even if it’s by 3 minutes, weathering the majority of that storm will command respect and appreciation from your family for just being there, while the early exit keeps you out of harm’s way with judgment from the bible-belting masses.
And boom. You’re done. Did you make it out? Good. Praise be to God. Be proud and press on, you son-of-a-bitch.
**DISCLAIMER** If you’re in stereotypical black church, disregard everything above. Yell violently, dance wildly, sing loudly, and have fun. It doesn’t get better than this. Honestly, it may be some of the most fun you’ve had since leaving college. Enjoy it.