Day 13: A brief history of my alcoholism

It’s Day 13 in the Alcohol-Free Zone. So I’ve been giving some thought to my history with alcohol. . .

I first started drinking when I was 16. And I liked it right from the beginning. Liked the buzz. I’d often go out “partying” with my high school buddies on a Friday night, and drinking was usually a part of it. And I guess for the first 25 years of my adulthood, you would call me a “social drinker,” a “weekend drinker.” Some of my favorite memories are of Saturday nights sharing pitchers of beer with friends at a bar and slowly getting schnockered together. But I only drank on the weekends back then, and I never drank alone. I liked alcohol because normally I’m a hyper-sensitive, socially-awkward, introverted type, and alcohol loosened me up and shut off my thinking mind and allowed me to socialize more easily on the surface level of life. . . But mostly I considered myself an acidhead or a pothead back then — was more into drugs than alcohol back then — and was laboring under this conceit that various drugs were expanding my consciousness and inspiring my creativity (no, seriously, we actually believed that shit back then, ha ha). Alcohol was mostly just looked at as fun, this mindless goof.

I didn’t turn into an “every day drinker” until about 20 years. It started with my vending table job on Telegraph. By 5 PM I’d start to get worn down by the “endless socializing” with my customers. So I’d reward myself at that point by buying a 24 ounce can of Olde English malt liquor. Which invariably perked me up. Followed by a second 24 ounce can. At that point, I’d find myself actually enjoying socializing with my customers. Followed by another can, and then another. And I’d keep drinking all the way until I packed up my vending table and called it a night.

Oddly, I didn’t even notice the transition from “weekend drinker” to “every day drinker” — it happened so gradually. And the fact that drinking actually helped me at my job prevented me thinking of it as a hindrance (I’ve always been a fairly functional drunk — even nowadays, no matter how much I’ve had to drink, at the end of the night around midnight I still manage to make the mile-long hike (all uphill) to my campsite, and then set up my campsite and feed my cats in pretty much pitch darkness). . . And to this day I’ve never suffered from any alcohol-related problems (aside from an occasional “open container” ticket) or even any health problems that I know of.

But at age 64, I began to wonder about the potential payback at some point down the road. It seemed a matter of time before my body, and my brain, might begin to break down from the endless ocean of alcohol that I was consuming. I realized I had gone an entire year where I had gotten drunk virtually every night. I couldn’t remember a single night, for 365 days straight, where I hadn’t started the evening with a trip to the liquor store to get my supplies for the night of inebriation. And it made me a bit nervous that it had become such an engrained habit, and one that maybe I didn’t have as much control over as I thought I did.

So I thought I’d do this experiment for a month, sans alcohol. Just to give my body and my brain a rest, really. And to sort of assess the situation … . And here I am. Drinking this goddamn orange juice at 11:30 at night. Sheesh!

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