So Lars and I went skiing at Catamount this weekend, and it was almost a survivalist experience; if you weren’t wearing the balaclava mask with pinholes for your nose and mouth, you felt like your teeth might freeze and break off. With the help of four layers of wicking polyester fabrics and those chemical pads you put in your boots that give off heat, we were good for about three runs down the mountain.
The big mistake was drinking three Woodchuck ciders on the way home. It’s one thing to put on a nice buzz when your body is in a state of bliss (or a state university) but when you’ve just gone down a mountain with a minus-50 wind chill, your adrenaline mixes with alcohol in a way that produces some sort of ghastly toxin that made me barely able to complete sentences for two days.
My life took a turn in 2000 that introduced me to the world of alcohol addiction, and I have thanked Providence every goddamn day that I don’t have one. It’s the kind of thing you don’t take seriously unless:
a) you wake up one morning and realize that you’re an alcoholic
b) your life has been scarred by the vodka-saturated horrorshow of a close relative, or
c) you marry into it.
I certainly never took “alcoholism” seriously throughout my adult life; I thought it was totally 1970s. For me, alcoholics were either homeless guys on 45th Street or suburban housewives who also took too much Valium. If we ever thought somebody drank too much at our fraternity, or the Pink House, we all just assumed they’d grow out of it.
It wasn’t until I saw what alcohol had done to so many of my friends that it began to register, and then it took years to catch on to the code words found in A.A. (listen at the Academy Awards, there’s almost always a veiled thank-you to “the rooms”). Tonight, I watched a little mini-doc on Joe Namath, who famously freaked out in December on ESPN during an all-day binge, and I could see the horror in his eyes, and the shame welling through his pores.
Tessa and I had known each other for 13 years when we first started dating, but she didn’t know my drinking habits. On our second “date,” she asked me why I wasn’t having a cocktail, and I told her it was because of the pain pills I was taking for my back. She says that’s the moment she knew I wasn’t an alcoholic, because a “drunk” would have ditched the rules the first chance he/she got.
I have spent the last four years flagellating myself for various transgressions (which makes for some of the more popular blog entries) but I have come to realize something that actually works well for me: I have a non-addictive personality. The only thing I’m remotely addicted to is refined sugar, but that won’t get you into a car accident unless you’re hunting for the last red M&M under the floor mat while you’re driving.
Matt and all the Purple House guys used to belittle my penchant for “girl drinks,” but what they didn’t know is that I couldn’t stand the taste of alcohol, and was hiding them behind… yes, refined sugar! So I’d like to take a minute and give a shout-out to the girl drinks that got me through my 13-year sojourn in Chapel Hill, but were never good enough to make me an alcoholic: here’s to the Sex on the Beaches, the Woo-woos, the White Russians, Grasshoppers, Long Island Iced Teas and Cement Mixers that just made me 15 pounds overweight. I’ve now seen what alcoholics have to deal with, and losing weight is, comparatively, a holiday.