Booze-A-Ma-Hol: A Personal History

This Used To Be Me
This Used To Be Me

I quit drinking over the summer, and while I had one or two bevvys between then and New Year’s Day, since the beginning of the year I’ve taken a hard-line about it, and haven’t had any alcohol in any form.

There were a confluence of reasons for deciding to quit: personal, medical, financial, social, etc. It’s hard to single out any one thing, or rather, I couldn’t shift the rational to something specific. There were just too many things all pointing to the same thing, and I’m a big believer in self-analysis. I guess I didn’t really need a reason to quit, per se, but in my mind it was that much easier knowing that it wasn’t just a passing desire to prove that I could, but rather a well-reasoned decision that came from within me that was informed by my entire life.

When I tell people I quit drinking, invariably there is a pause while a strange look creeps across their face. The look says, “Oh. What happened?” But the next comment is generally, “That explains why I haven’t seen you.”

It’s weird. In our culture, there is an assumption that either you never drank, you currently drink, or you have a problem and you shouldn’t ever drink. But in my case, I don’t think I had a problem: I never missed work, never missed school, paid my bills as near to on time as is possible in the US, and never blacked out or became violent. In fact, I would be hard press to remember a time that I did much of anything differently than I would when I was sober, except drive and remain conversationally coherent. Of course, none of that means I didn’t have a problem, either. But I was always of the opinion that I was a fairly pleasant drunk who really liked bourbon and the places that sold it.

I’ll be honest: I drank a lot. I pissed away so much of my income over the years that it’s hard to imagine what I could have done with that money in the meantime. (A car? A House? A nice stereo, for Earl’s sake!) I woke up with so many hangovers that it was starting to feel commonplace, and you could pretty much count on me buying something most days, if for no other reason than to restock the fridge or get another bottle of Maker’s Mark. I know perfectly functional people who drink WAY more, and plenty who drink way less, too. I guess, for me, it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. Or, rather, when I went to pour myself that final shot, I began to question if I actually wanted it, or if I was just used to the idea of wanting it.

I know, I know. Far too, “What Does It All Mean?” for someone outside of France, but it’s been interesting observing my fellow humans lately. I know one or two people who don’t (and never) drank. I know another married couple who both used to drink a lot, and now don’t for more or less the same reasons. And outside of that, it’s been really hard to find other people who don’t drink.

Nor am I only looking to hang out with people who don’t drink; I encourage it among my friends and have even bought beer and wine for the house so I could offer some to guests. But there is a certain amount of pervasiveness about drinking that is starting to worry me, and a casualness to the quantity of drinking going on around me. It would be one thing if the majority of the drinking I saw around me was your typical kind of Workin’ For The Weekend partying that I am 100% behind. Unfortunately, it seems, that is only a small percentage of it.

Yesterday while I was getting breakfast, I saw a table of PSU students at 9 AM on a Thursday each with a cocktail and their Engineering Books on the table. None of them could be any older than 22 or 23. They were actively scribbling notes, using calculators, going through texts, etc. As the waitress came by and asked if anyone wanted more drinks, there was an emphatic, “Yes,” from everyone. Then, one guy adds, “But that’s it. We’ve got class in an hour.”

Next time anyone asks me why I quit drinking, I’ll just tell them that story. I think it gets the point across much better than, “Well, I just quit.”

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