Today marks a full year since I gave up alcohol. And I'm glad I gave it up, because the risk/reward ratio had long since deteriorated far past the point of being able to justify the continued, never-ending expense, not only in terms of pocket money but in terms of mental and physical health. It's like when you continue to own that clapped-out school-graduation car beyond the point where it needs brakes and belts, beyond the point of needing shocks and a muffler and new rear speakers and a little body work, and—wait a minute, why is the heat not coming on now?
I was getting so little benefit from alcohol compared to the down side. No amount of beer gave me that elusive hey-howya-doin' social effusiveness, that tickly-giddy reach-up-and-touch-the-moon buzz I once got, way back—when, exactly? High school? College? Heck, I hadn't gotten a decent high from beer (or any other alcoholic beverage) in decades. Intoxication? Sure. Numbness? Lots. Clumsiness? Puffy nose? Eye-baggage? A beer belly? I got a lot of things from beer. But a buzz worth talking about? I can't remember when that last happened.
Let me tell you what I do remember.
I remember the many mornings waking up sideways on the bed two hours late, fully dressed in yesterday's clothes, not recollecting having gone to bed.
I remember the beer cans, everywhere: In the recycling bin. On the floor. Atop the fridge. In (and next to) the kitchen garbage. On the water closet. The back porch. The kitchen sink. My desk.
I remember the panicky midnight trips to the local mini-mart to replenish my stock of Bud Ice (which I had been sure, just two hours before, I had a plenty-big supply of, on hand). Always hoping I wouldn't get pulled over. (Yet always sure I could walk a better line, drunk, than the average person could, sober.)
I remember the time I staggered into the back bedroom at one in the morning looking for a paper clip, I think it was—and somehow I ended up on my back, on the carpet, with an office chair on my face, the plastic arm of the chair having neatly scraped away a half-inch-wide swath of epidermis from my forehead. It was just a surface wound, but there was a ridiculous amount of blood from it. I laughed at the preposterousness of the whole scene. Then I explained it away as a "freak accident."
I could go on and on. But I won't. Mind you, I had originaly planned a much longer post today on this subject, and I got about halfway through the writing of it before I found myself bored to tears. I have a firm rule, which is I never write anything that bores me. So I may (or may not) return to that piece later, when and if I think of something suitably upbeat to say about the whole thirty-years-of-beer-guzzling thing. Except, there's nothing fun or glamorous or upbeat or profound about it. I drank anywhere from two to twelve beers a day (less in the beginning; more as the years wore on) for almost forty years. The first ten years or so were sweet. The second ten were tolerable. The last twenty were stupid, and embarrassing, and (overall) hellishly unsatisfying.
I can honestly say I don't miss alcohol. I'm one of the lucky ones: I never had withdrawal symptoms. I didn't have, and still don't have, cravings. I can go out to eat and enjoy a non-alcoholic Beck's with dinner and not wish it were the real thing. I can be at a party and see other people happily trading sips of this or that merlot or shiraz and not give a rat's rectum. Alcohol is for other people now. It no longer interests me.
When I see people making jokes involving alcohol on Twitter, I smile wistfully and nod, thinking "Yeah, I remember when it was like that." It was fun for a while. Especially in the beginning. First high best high.
It's fun until it isn't. And then it's time to just move on.