make that TWO sea breezes

1/25/04

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.

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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.

0 thoughts on “make that TWO sea breezes

  1. Mac Rogers

    Another thing I’ve been noticing is a milder form of alcohol damage on people who may not yet be all-the-way-alcoholics, but it’s definitely begun interfering with their lives on an hour-to-hour basis. I recently had dinner with a good friend who told me she had decided that very afternoon to give up drinking. It wasn’t just the alcohol, it was the whole world of habits that surround it that were starting to swallow her life: staying up late all the time, eating up all her time with conversations and never getting any of her work done, spending money.
    Of course, I have this problem when someone tells me about a life decision they’ve made: I start speculating on details. I started wondering aloud how she’d square things with her friends, many of whom are recreational drinkers. How would she spendd time with them? Would she hang out on weekends ordering Sprites? Would she have to throw out her bottles at home in a big ceremony. She stopped me and gently reminded me that she had made this decision mere hours ago and hadn’t worked out the specifics yet.
    It kinda made me want to give something up. But I don’t have any one specific habit that eats up all my energy. I like to spread my time-wasting around to movies, news, books, blogs, food, drink, plays, walking. There’s no one thing I could give up that would make that huge a difference.
    It reminds me of the Mar Twain story aout a sick old woman who goes to the doctor, who tells her she must give up smoking, drinking, and gambling, and she said she couldn’t because she’d never done any of those things. Twain wrote something like, “So there it was. She’d neglected her habits. She was a sinking ship with no friend to throw overboard.”

    Reply
  2. kent

    At least alcohol has a compelling narrative. Every alcoholic has a ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ tale of Too Much Fun, Hitting Bottom, and Redemption. Part of AA’s power in keeping people sober is the relentless reinforcement of that narrative.
    Cigarettes, on the other hand, is the insidious addiction of the high-functioning. You don’t have to hunt them down in sketchy neighborhoods, they don’t send you into a blissful stupor, and instead of ending up alone and crazed, you’re just that guy who smells bad. Alcoholics and ex-junkies are notorious tobacco fiends — they’ve been on an outlandish hellride through their Dopamine metabolism, but there’s one last Rubicon they can’t yet cross.
    Be thankful you’re not an alcoholic, but be REALLY thankful you’re not a smoker.
    HI I’M KENT AND I’M A SMOKER, AND I’VE BEEN STR8 FOR 9 MONTHS

    Reply
  3. Sean

    I’ve not been a smoker now since about May of 2002, which is a hell of a long time. I still sometimes get crippling nic-fits. Crippling… who am I kidding… sometimes I want a cigarette sort of, but I get over it and I’m cranky for about an hour, which is hardly news.
    Caffeine is a pretty shitty addiction. Most of my medical friends insist that it isn’t all that bad for you, but I can seriously *crash* if I don’t have a second mug at some point during the day.

    Reply
  4. Bud

    All-time fave alcoholic beverage:
    1.5 oz kahlua
    1.5 oz amaretto
    1.5 oz bailey’s irish cream
    1 oz vodka
    2 scoops of top shelf vanilla ice cream
    That’s my favorite of about 7 variations I’ve seen of the Roasted Toasted Almond.
    Omigod, y’all–you have just *got* to try this!
    As for nicotine, I found that after two years, the cravings start to drop off dramatically, and now, 6 years after quitting, I’m back to where I was as a kid: completely repulsed by cigarette smoke, ashtrays, et cet., and wondering why anyone would do that to themselves.
    Caffeine *has* to be good, otherwise I will die. That is all.

    Reply
  5. Bud

    I believe you are correct. I think we first encountered this heavenly concoction in an upscale restaurant in Morristown (it desperately wanted to be upscale, anyway).
    Ah, 1987! When the word “upscale” was brand new, when a man could still wear a pink shirt, when a 20-year-old guy wearing a pink shirt and/or turquoise pants could walk into a place, saunter up to the bar, look the bartender square in the eye and say, “Sir, I will have a Roasted. Toasted. Almond.” and not only would they give it to you (without carding you), but they’d *know* that this was a *real* MAN.
    At least that’s the way I remember it. I did drink a lot in those days.

    Reply
  6. Piglet

    You guys are making me thirsty.
    My college used to have an annual huge campus-wide outdoor party, my contribution to which was usually to fill the biggest institutional spaghetti cooking pot I could get with half gallon blocks of vanilla ice cream, pour a bottle of Kahlua and a bottle of Amaretto over it, and let it melt slowly over the course of the afternoon while people dipped their cups into it. Delicious.
    I have a story about the upside down kamikazes in the barcalounger, but that will wait for another day.
    –Piglet (wishing Ian would crosspost some of these entries to alt.society.generation-x, where people still ask about him now and then)

    Reply
  7. Ian

    Piglet –
    As Thomas Wolfe said, you can’t go home again. That place is pretty battle-scarred for me, and there might be some unexploded ordinances I’d rather not step on. That said, I do miss the quality of writing from the major players, but don’t they all have their own listserv now?
    Glad to see you’re here, though!

    Reply

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