I never was much of a drinker–“was” being the operative word in that phrase. I did the usual high school-football-player-getting-drunk-bullshit on occasion, (highlighted by passing out my senior year at a party and getting dolls laid upon my limp body by the party goers…sure it was humiliating though that is price you pay for this American rite de passage); yet, overall, I never really drank all that much. So much so, that I doubt more than a drop of alcohol ever crossed my lips in my 20’s and damn near most of my 30’s. I am not sure what really changed for me, perhaps it was children who were getting older (no more infants) and some additional added stress in my religious job of yore – a nice cold one at the end of the day became increasingly enticing for me around this time.
During my 40’s, particularly late 40’s, was when my drinking accelerated – for a variety of reasons -reasons I really do not need to get into in this blog. Let’s just say the last 5 years or so (damn you Jason Robert Brown…you are a hack…but that is a different blog for a different day-“I could shove an ice pick in my eye, I could eat some fish from last July, but it wouldn’t be as awful as a summer listening to Jason Robert Brown’s shitty lyrics…in Ohio or elsewhere“) I have overindulged. No, I have no DUI’s -actually not even a speeding ticket in 10 years- my relationships are awesome and my work productivity is as strong as ever. Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of my drinking the past 5 years has been my poor liver…yet even liver blood tests I received back not too long ago were all normal -better than normal, in fact.
Drinking was, and is, fun. It is a delightful way to wind down from a long and productive day. Other than a cognitive awareness of what it potentially can do to my body, I have no good reason to stop…even temporarily. Outside of a drunk Facebook post or two or three or four, drinking life is good.
Yet now I am reconsidering the role of alcohol in my life, just as I have reconsidered the role of caffeine in my life: I enjoy it though I want to be addicted to nothing but the air in my lungs and the ground under my feet.
I guess I just had that voice inside me saying, “Slow down big guy…it’s a marathon not a sprint.” So, a few weeks ago, I decided to slow the hell down. I cut way back (I heard cold turkey was not a great idea) and now have not had a drink in a couple of weeks. Foregoing the evening nightcap is the toughest part of it all. Why? Because my evening nightcap became the mid-evening nightcap, became the early evening nightcap, became the late afternoon daycap. For the time being, I am opting to be sans cap.
Am I planning on drinking again? Well, I have no formal “plans” to drink. It’s not like I’ve drafted a memo that I am going to take a shot of Vodka on September 17 at 5:36pm rain or shine and cc’d it to my superiors; yet, I do not have plans not to drink, either. I want to treat alcohol the same way I treat Hostess Powdered Donettes, every once in a while it’s an amazing treat…just can’t overindulge.
Yes, I know you AA people (I love you guys BTW, you guys are awesome) claim that there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to alcohol and perhaps you are absolutely correct–in fact, you probably are correct–but, like the child that doesn’t believe the oven is nearly as hot as mama says, some things the individual must find out on her own.
Therefore, it was very strange last week when I was spending the night in Redlands and saddled up to my favorite bar, The Royal Falconer. At this time, I did something I have NEVER done in my life…ordered a non-alcoholic beer, the infamous O’Douls -the beer I once thought was for losers meandering down the sober walk of shame. The fact of the matter is that I had no idea whether or not bars even serve drinks without alcohol and, though the selection is few and far between, I have come to find out that most do. Nice. I sat at the bar and nursed my children’s drink while eating some fish tacos (Thursday night is taco night…$1.75 per…not bad) when the bartender inquired as to why I was drinking a non-alcoholic beer. I told him I have not had a drink in a week or so and am just trying to slow down.
Then the irony went down. The provider of all things alcohol to a thirsty Redlands crowd became the pious pontiff of prudence and temperance.
The bartender literally sat down behind the bar and began preaching to me his alcohol “testimony” -he has been sober for nine years–no meetings, no AA- a sermon complete with dates, times and details.
“I have no trouble serving anyone and have no judgement,” he explained, “but if I can help just one person who wants to quit, quit, I feel like I have helped the planet.”
Weird. This was like being at a nudist camp and the head nude dude is telling you to put your clothes on (yes, JUST like that). Or the priest instructing you to sin. Or the nutritionist telling you to eat more Hostess Donettes. Or the evangelical pastor telling you NOT to give your money. Or, better yet, Timothy Leary telling you to put away your acid and have some milk and cookies.
Just weird. Ironic, don’t ya think?
After a rather lengthy message, which included his mother dying of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44, the very self-aware, charismatic man offered a firm handshake (and I do mean firm, as in I will break your hand) while offering me the best of luck.
I sat at the bar and looked up at the mugs of some deceased former Royal Falconer patrons who, according to Pastor P. Bartender, essentially drank themselves to death over a period of years: A continual, stark reminder of the poison that those lined up at the well are ready to ingest. Now, I have I heard of buzzkills and boner killers before, but this one took the freakin cake. It is like sitting down and crackin a cold one with both the grim reaper and Jack Kervorkian.
This whole thing reminded me of a Buddhist aphorism along the lines of, “When you are ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”
Of course I have no doubt I will engage in the devil’s brew again, perhaps later than sooner or vice-versa. Yet, I will never forget that evening at The Royal Falconer. It could, eventually, be a game changer.
Well done, Pastor P. Bartender. At least ya got me thinking.