I Also Do Healthy Things: Stretching and Abs

Given how many of my posts are centered around times where I did unhealthy shit, I figured it was time to come clean, and let you all know that I often do healthy things to balance out all those choices. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that my lifestyle is largely healthy, but that’s just not as entertaining to read or write about. I’m gonna give it a shot, anyway. Maybe some of this will be useful to you other heathens who need a way to counteract all the bad you’re doing to your bodies.

Stretch

This is an important one. I’ve recently taken to stretching for about 15-20 minutes every day, and it’s paid off in terms of my ability to do my job well and continue with my exercise routines. Grab your yoga mat and throw Moving Art on Netflix, and you’re ready to reset your body.

Start with warm ups: exercises that get your body moving, warming up your muscles so that when you do start stretching, you don’t hurt yourself. I start at the top and work my way down: neck rotations, circular shoulder shrugs, arm rotations, toe touches, and leg raises (tuck into chest then kicking your own ass).

Then I run through about 20 different stretches I’ve learned over the past ten years from military training, way-too-thorough online research, and yoga practices. Again, I start at the neck, work down to the arms, then I skip straight to legs, and circle back to my back. When you’re spending hours lifting kegs and crates, stretching your lower back can make a huge difference, and has allowed me to pick up extra shifts when my coworkers peter out. At some point I’ll create a video running through this whole routine (and the other ones), so you can see the whole lineup. Until then, wing it to your heart’s content.

Exercise

I had a bartender say to me once, “You could basically use this job as your workout!” I think that was incredibly misguided. If I didn’t exercise in my off time, I wouldn’t be ready for game time (during service hours at the bar). I wouldn’t be strong enough to lift that last bag of glass-laden garbage into the dumpster at the end of the night. I’d pull muscles straining against kegs. I wouldn’t be able to confidently escort that drunk idiot out of the bar because I’d be too focused on my aching lower back. So, even when I’m sore from the night before, I push myself to get at least a little bit of exercise in aside from the dog walking and wrestling I do on the daily.

What I’ve found most helpful in terms of sticking to a workout schedule is short bursts of heavy activity. Basically, I need to cram a lot in to a short time window, as my schedule is hectic and I’m often tired. So I’ve come up with ab routines and upper body routines that I can do in 15-30 minutes if I’m pushing myself, and I do those 3-4 times a week most weeks.

Abs: I have a routine that I found a couple years ago that I find to be really effective (based largely on what I know about how the body works and how much pain my midsection is in during and after the routine). I’ve modified it to be a little more taxing than the original version, but I’d recommend adjusting the numbers to fit your level of fitness (don’t adjust them too low – push yourself into discomfort for the best results).

30 Crunches > 30 Straight Leg Lifts > 30 Cross-Body Sit-Ups (both sides) > 30 Bicycle Crunches > 1 Minute Side Plank (both sides) > 1 Minute Plank > 30 Super Man Crunches (lay on your stomach and contract your lower back to lift your trunk and legs off the ground).

I allow myself about 30 seconds of rest between each of those exercises. In the beginning (and for the rest of time), focus on your form. Do less repetitions, but do them perfectly, then work your way up in numbers. And of course, remember to breathe – inhale as you release, exhale as you flex. Your lungs take up space in your abdominal cavity, the less air you have in them when you contract your abs, the harder you can contract them.

There you have it. Entry one in the “I Do Healthy Things” category. More to come. Also, I’m considering doing a 30 day keto thing because why the fuck not? Plus 30 day challenges seem to be the most effective way to get me to actually do anything/write about it. Remember that meditation thing? That went well. I should maybe start doing that again, also…

Oh Man

It has been a LONG time since I sat down and wrote anything. I definitely feel a catharsis deficit as a result, which I’ve been conscious of for some time, but then I get all in my head about how what I have to say isn’t that important or impactful and then I don’t even bother opening up my laptop. I’ve written a couple blurbs here and there in the journal I carry around, but largely that’s been relegated to to-do and grocery lists, which is a shame. I’m going to make this easy on myself and just stream-of-consciousness at you for a while to get myself back in the groove. Thanks for bearing with me.

So a little of what many of my friends are most interested in: a recap of my experience of Saint Patrick’s Day (or at least the parts I remember).

I worked at the honky tonk pub the night before, meaning I didn’t get out of work until around 5am, which is actually really good for a Saturday. We ended up closing a little earlier than usual because here in Chicago, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations start as early as 7am for some people, so most people are passed out by the afternoon.

From work I went to the key club I’m a member of (key clubs are establishments closed to the general public, but open to members; this one happens to be a bar that closed down for financial reasons, but still takes cash in exchange for booze and is usually open until around 7 or 8 in the morning depending on how busy it gets) to continue the drinking I started after my shift. I meandered around for a bit, then got into a conversation about how attractive I am with a gay gentleman, who happened to also be accompanied by a beautiful woman. A back and forth about my sexual orientation took place, I carefully toed the line so as not to immediately limit my potential to stay involved in this conversation, and we ended up chatting for quite a bit.

At some point, my plans for the day came up, and I convinced them to join me on my trip to the suburbs south of the city, as I heard that was the most authentic Irish experience of the holiday. We went back to my house to continue drinking until around 11am when we got in an Uber.

I’ll say this: everybody that I ran into was very friendly, but also seemed a little guarded. I suppose the combination of me, a gay man, and a black woman was a little too city for some of them, but maybe I just looked drunk after what was about 5 hours of drinking at that point. Not sure. Anyway, none of the bars there have kitchens attached. One had a food truck “on the way,” and the one I finally got ANY sustenance at only offered me fried cheese curds covered in ranch. It was gross and delicious, and fueled my continued search for fun.

We ended up wandering around the neighborhood for a bit. I walked up to any number of random folks on the outskirts of house parties hoping that my friendly demeanor would grant me access to their food stores, but no luck. Again, maybe if I was by myself it would’ve worked, but I wasn’t.

Finally we ended up at one house party because some dude was convinced that he knew me, and who am I to argue? We hung out there for a while, then decided to head back to my place to continue hanging out and drinking into the evening. My new gay friend grabbed a case of Budweiser that had “DO NOT DRINK – PROPERTY OF [Insert Irish female name]” written in Sharpie on duct tape, and we Ubered it away from the suburbs.

Overall, I’d say it was a wonderful community experience. I saw a great parade complete with some great bagpiping and drumming, some adorable children, and some proud men in kilts. Had it not been built up as a mecca of debauchery, I would’ve probably enjoyed it more for what it was., but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.

Anyway, cut to today. I just filled out an application to work on a golf resort in Texas. It’s secluded (200 miles from the nearest Walmart per their website) and beautiful, and the south has been calling to me lately. Am I thrilled about the average temperature being upwards of 100 degrees? I am not. That said, I do like the idea of roughing it in the desert for a while to earn the right to use a southern accent from time to time. Also, it’ll offer me and my dog the opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature while I save up for my move to the Netherlands early next year.

That deserves some explaining. I spent the better part of five days heavily researching institutions that offer Master’s of Science degrees in Psychology, taught in English, around the world. I decided that a one year program would be better (read: cheaper) than a two year program, and would adequately display my aptitude for the pursuit of a PhD. As it turns out, the Netherlands offers some of the cheapest education to students coming from outside the EU, their schools are reputable, and they have an impressive quality of life. I can use the same planning framework for this as I already put in place for Vienna, so not a huge shift there.

Biggest shift: my cousin informed me that he would be moving out as of June 1st. He got accepted to a great acting program, and that’s wonderful, but it really fucks me in terms of consistency leading up to a major move. He offered solutions like, “sublet my room out on Craigslist,” which are fucking ridiculous, and I’ll never again subject myself to roommates I’ve not fully vetted over years of knowing them. So, the question is, do I move to a new place entirely (like Texas) or do I move to a more rural area surrounding Chicago, and maintain my current jobs? It’s a tough call. I’m leaning in the direction of a new adventure, but adventuring can be tiresome and trying. Of course, that’s never stopped me in the past.

Only time will tell where I go from here. I’m trying to maintain some degree of certainty during uncertain times, but it feels like an uphill battle. I am tired, I am working a lot, I am exercising, I am not writing enough, I am constantly thinking about what I will do next, and I am having trouble staying with any given moment. I’m also sick right now, which isn’t helping my mood any.

Usually I try to leave you with a takeaway, but I don’t have one for you today. All I’ve got today is an appreciation for the time you took to read this, and the time I took to write it. Feels good.

Separately, I’m sorry for any typos or errors in this – I shan’t be rereading it for revision. Cheers!

On Drinking – Present Day

There’s a dial in my head that’s been turned all the way to “information absorption” to the detriment of information dissemination lately. I had a rather heavy night out (read: “I drank really heavily”) a while back, and it sent me into a small downward spiral, and my inner critic had a lot to say when I handed him the mic.

He asked what the drinking was worth to me. Is it worth making friends with people whose names I can’t remember? Is it worth the hundreds of dollars I could have saved that night and the weeks of catching up on bills in the aftermath? Is it worth the multiple-day hangover and depression that inevitably follow? Or the lasting effects it has on my dog when I’m not willing or able to take him outside as often as I should because I can’t fathom getting out of bed? I think not.

About a decade ago, then chief drug adviser to the UK David Nutt, MD and a team of colleagues ranked different drugs based on nine different types of harm caused to an individual and seven types of harm caused to society. Alcohol was found to be the most harmful of all drugs (including heroin, crack, etc.) to society, and the fourth most harmful to the user. Dr. Nutt was fired from that position for saying that the government-sanctioned drugs were worse than the ones the government was trying to vilify – LSD, MDMA, and THC among them.

Much of alcohol’s harm to society is likely due to its legality, and the multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns encouraging us to raise a glass to whatever day it happens to be, or for no reason at all. There are, unfortunately, no juice bars selling small hits of Molly along with a kale smoothie – at least not that I’m aware of – but maybe that’s a much better way to hang out with your friends than having a beer together.

Don’t get me wrong – I love alcohol. I love the taste of it, the feel of it, the look of it – pretty much everything about it, actually. There are also plenty of studies saying that small amounts of alcohol can be good for your cardiovascular health, prevent kidney stones, safeguard against Alzheimer’s, and boost your social and sex lives. My problem is usually with the “small amounts” bit of those studies. When I drink, I fucking drink.

My friend called herself a “freegan,” meaning she only ate meat at dinner parties or when it was purchased for her. Essentially, she only ate it when she was socially called upon to do so. I think that’s the stance I’m going to take with alcohol going forward. If someone wants to buy me a drink, I’m not going to say no, but I’m also not going to ask for one or purchase one for myself. We’ll see how it goes.

Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I seem to have the thinking and the saying parts down, but there’s still some room for improvement on the doing. I’ll keep you updated.

Alone in Chicago

On Thursday evening I made my way to an event called The Anatomy of Connection at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The focus of the discussion was on the lack of connection and the epidemic that is loneliness as we become ever more connected via the devices in our hands (or pockets or purses or on the table… whatever – stop nitpicking).

Loneliness has been linked to higher rates of mortality than air pollution, drinking, and obesity. In one of the longest longitudinal studies of health and wellness, loneliness at age 50 had a higher predictive power of death than high cholesterol. It can suppress our immune systems, lead to depression and anxiety, and in severe cases, suicide. It’s such a problem that the United Kingdom appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

Here in Chicago, a researcher had morning commuters do one of three things: engage the people around them in conversation, specifically avoid conversation with the people around them, and just go about their business as they would normally. At the beginning of the study, everybody who was tasked with talking to people thought, “Ugh, I’m gonna hate this!” By the end, those folks reported the highest amounts of happiness as compared to their counterparts.

The problem is that we all assume nobody wants to talk to us, so we don’t engage. We isolate ourselves in order to self preserve, then our empathy decreases as our defensiveness increases, and we start interpreting ambiguous social cues as negative. Moreover, it can be contagious as we all collectively avoid each other out of fear that we’ll get a weird look for saying hello or asking how someone’s doing today.

I know I’m guilty of this. I am a commuter in Chicago, and I certainly wouldn’t say I go out of my way to strike up conversations with people. I wouldn’t even say I go in my way to converse, given that folks are often pressed right up against me on crowded buses or trains. So, then what? Are we all just doomed to a life of self-perpetuating loneliness? Not if we put in the fucking effort!

M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and author of A Road Less Traveled, said that “mental health is dedication to reality at all costs.” The therapist giving the presentation noted that we have to practice what he called, “radical acceptance.” We don’t have to approve of our state of loneliness, but we have to accept that things just aren’t right in order to go about fixing any of them.

I lost my phone a couple weeks ago, and I just haven’t replaced it. There are financial reasons involved, sure, but honestly I just don’t want a phone. I find my quality of life to be higher right now. Sure, there are parts of my day where I wish I could call an Uber or text a friend right when a thought comes up, but do you know what I do? I write that shit down, I take that note home via public transit, and I reach out when I get there.

As a result of my phonelessness, I’m more connected to the situations I’m in. I’m not constantly wondering how many Instagram followers I’ve gained in the last ten minutes since my post, I’m not wondering about any event updates for that thing coming up this weekend, I’m not fretting over an unexpected phone call (most of which I just let go to voicemail even when I do have the phone). It’s relaxing. As evidence of how fucked up I was as a result of having my phone in my pocket all the time, I occasionally think I feel my notepad buzzing in my pocket. Guess what? It is not.

On Thursday night, I walked away by myself, but in my heart, I knew that I wasn’t alone in my loneliness. I think more of us are lonely than we’re willing to acknowledge (or accept to stick with the vernacular). So do me a favor, if you see me on a train or on a bus or in an airport, say hi (and buy me a drink if we’re at the airport, as I’m likely at the bar). Talk to me about your day, and I’ll talk to you about mine. Wake me up from the dream state proliferated by the screen in front of my face or by the endless stream of what-if’s I’ve got running in my head. We can do this. Together.

We’re all gonna die someday, but if we chat about it with a little more frequency, we lower our chances that that day is tomorrow. Sláinte!

Church

There’s an adorable English mastiff I saw a few times in the yard adjacent to the Lutheran church a block from my house. There’s a living quarters on the premises, so I guessed that that the dog belonged to the pastor. One day an elderly gentleman in that yard asked me if my dog’s frantic barking at his dog was playful or otherwise, and I guessed that he was the pastor.

“I’m pretty sure it’s playful – it sounds playful – but he’s a rescue and he’s so big that I don’t want to risk it,” I yelled back across the street. When I got home after that walk, I went to my whiteboard to-do list and wrote, “Go to church/befriend pastor.”

So yesterday, that’s what I did. In addition to that particular ulterior motive, I’ve been wanting to go to a place of worship lately. I enjoy the sense of community and the singing, and generally, I find church services to be a good reminder to be a good person as often as possible.

It was a windy day in Chicago, so there wasn’t anyone standing outside to indicate which door might be best to walk through, so I went through the front door. Opening the heavy wooden door was a dramatic affair as it blew open violently, and the wind rushed in along with a hurried me trying to get out of the cold. The small group of greeters standing inside looked at me wide-eyed and one said, “Well hello!”

I said hello and grabbed a program and started to walk by them, when they stopped me saying, “Do we know you?”

“No, I don’t believe you do!” I said, and I turned around and shook each of their hands (all of them were super awkward about it, but sweet, so I stopped myself from making snide remarks).

I introduced myself to the pastor, and laid the groundwork with a reminder of who my dog was. He’s loud, and a doberman with a tail, so he stands out in a crowd. The pastor remembered him and me by proxy.

The inside of the church was beautiful. Ornate dark wood carvings lined the front of the church, and behind that was a colorful abstract stained glass window. The same type of glass dotted the walls alongside the pews. The carpets were a deep red. Overall, I’d describe the space as warm and cozy, even in spite of the high ceilings and ya know… the churchy vibe.

By the time the service started, I was the only one seated in the first 4 rows, and the back of the church was only sparsely populated. Since I hadn’t been to church in so long, kept turning around to check if people were standing or sitting at certain parts. For the most part, I enjoyed my time there. The song selection was a bit dated, and I know we all love us some organ music, but if I slept less the night before before, the tempo would have lulled me to sleep.

The takeaway from the sermon was that we should more mindfully dole out small measurements of love to improve the relationships in our lives. Jesus said in Luke 6, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

To the children, it was put in terms of baking cookies, and the pastor handed out chocolate chip cookie mix packets to the children at the front of the church. My favorite part of the whole service was the audibly whispered, “YESS!” from one of the parents behind me.

After the service, I glad-handed downstairs between bites of homemade banana bread and sips of coffee. I put four boxes of Girl Scout Cookies on hold in the school office (I was supposed to go get them today, but my check didn’t go through, so I’ll go get them tomorrow – it’s only a block away after all). I walked back into the cold grayness of the outdoors with a smile on my face.

I don’t know how often I’ll go back to this particular place of worship, but I’ll definitely go get those cookies and introduce my dog to Cici (that’s the mastiff’s name). I also hope to open a philosophical dialogue with the pastor while our dogs play.

I spent a lot of time in churches when I was growing up, and the similarity between what Jesus said and what Buddha said (according to my recent readings) is striking. I mean, I always knew that, but churching it up yesterday reignited that bit of knowledge. Now I want to check out a synagogue, and a mosque, and a non-denominational spiritual center to see how everybody else is doing this whole “spread the love” business that I’m such a big fan of. Maybe I’ll learn something, or maybe I won’t, but I’ll be going in with an open mind and an open heart to see what there is to see, and spread some love of my own.

Rebranding

I’ve spent the vast majority of my formative years meandering through what seemed like a meaningless string of careers and experiences that had nothing to do with one another. I wanted to join the Navy, then I wanted to become a psychologist, then I wanted to work in politics, communications, sales, physical fitness, animal wellbeing, firefighting, comedy, the service industry… The list probably isn’t over.

I know I want to write going forward – that’s going to be a given from now on. In all the research I did on becoming a comedian or an author, so many of those who had already made it asked their audience, “What is it that you want to tell the world? Who are you? What is your brand?” I’ve been struggling with that ever since. Like… Why should anyone listen to me talk about my meditative practice? Why should anyone be willing to lend their precious time to me for the sake of reading what I’m writing? Entertainment? Yes, obviously I’d like to be entertaining, but shouldn’t what I’m saying have some substance?

I think it should. That’s why I’m choosing to pursue this degree in counseling psychology in Vienna. I mean, sure I just really want to move to Europe, and Vienna is calling to me, but that’s why I want to reignite my passion for the field of psychology – because I think I can actually fucking help people. I think all of my failings and falling down and getting back up can actually mean something if I put some time and energy into figuring out their links.

When I was in college, I tried acid for the first time. I was just doing it for the sake of trying it, and it was a small blip in what became years of recreational drug use, but even then I knew it was something special. I read Electric Koolaid Acid Test and I became enthralled with the history and emerging science of psychedelics. I realized that there was something sitting on the edges of our consciousness that these drugs allowed us access to, but I got caught up in the powerful current of doing drugs for fun, and it took me WAY farther downstream than I thought it even could. But now, MDMA is being proven to treat PTSD and more and more research is showing there to be some therapeutic value in these substances I was captivated by (not cocaine, though).

Since high school I’ve been a strong advocate for physical fitness and eating well (mostly). I set up training sessions for my friends and me, organized trips to the park to climb on jungle gyms or throw around medicine balls, researched ad nauseum how different muscle groups worked together, and how to maximize each of their potentials. I’ve continued reading articles through to this day about the advances we’re making in kinesthesiology and nutritional science – how we can fine-tune what we’re putting into our bodies to reach new potentials.

I’ve always been an avid hiker. It’s been one of the most frustrating things about living in Chicago – I haven’t hiked once in the last six months, and I’m pretty sure it’s driving me mad. I’m a proponent of hiking because of the physical aspect, yes, but also because I believe strongly that immersion in nature can have such an unspeakably positive effect on our emotional and mental stability. There is no substitute for being five miles into the wilderness, and basking in the sunlight while you look out on rolling hills and vast mountain ranges, and absorb the energy of the life around you.

Still, there is no substitute for being surrounded by people you love, or people you don’t even know for that matter, and laughing together – unencumbered by social mores and time and space. Going to church and singing with 300 other people, voices harmonizing (or just being kind of shitty, but at least together) is an experience we should all have regularly. Having a drink with friends or making new ones at a bar in a new city can be just what I – what anybody – needs after long hours grinding away at work. We are social creatures, and socializing nourishes us in ways that nothing else can.

I want to study what it means to be a whole human being. I want to become one, sure, but I want to help others find whatever wholeness they can. I think that all of these things are a part of it, each as important as the last. We must all look inward and outward for pieces of the pie (mmmm, pie…), and each of those pieces will help us to paint a more full, rich picture of the people we ought to and can be.

That is the future I’m signing up for. That is the future I’ve been signing up for all along. And dammit, I’m really looking forward to that pie.

On Drinking – The Early Years

Yep, you guessed it. An entire blog post about water, juices, and sodas.

Sorry, no. Alcohol. I love alcohol. It has inspired some of the best and worst times of my life, and our relationship is far from over.

I was about eight when I took my first sip of Guinness. My dad used to throw these amazing Saint Patrick’s Day parties – we’d pack the house with decorations and food and alcohol and people, he’d hired step dancers to perform in our living room, we’d do a big singalong complete with sheet music where he’d play the guitar, and when I was old enough, I’d play the drum (not just me, but it was nice to feel included). I don’t remember liking the taste of the beer, but I also don’t remember being repulsed by it. Maybe it was the beer itself or maybe it was just the idea of being a part of the adult crowd that made it palatable.

I was fifteen the first time I got drunk. I was a camp counselor at the time, and I finally got invited to one of the house parties my coworkers were throwing while their parents were out of town. I wanted to prove I wasn’t just a nerd, so I committed rather heavily to drinking that evening. The first drink I poured myself was a screwdriver (the only drink I had really even heard of, yet alone made), and I filled the red Dixie cup about 3/4 with vodka and topped it off with a little orange juice (no ice). I also had at least one beer. Then someone said, “I bet you can’t chug the rest of what’s in this Jack Daniels bottle!” Turns out I could.

Overall I’d say it was a fun night. I saw my first set of pierced nipples at the same time that I saw my first pair of breasts. And also my second pair. Funnily enough, one of the owners of those sets is now happily married to the brother of one of my best friends. Anyway, at some point I got a call from my mom and what I thought I said while I paced along the tile floors in an attempt at a straight line was, “Hey, Mom! It’s so good to hear from you! I’m having a great time, and they said I could totally sleep over tonight, so you don’t need to come get me!”

Apparently, what I said was much more along the lines of, “Mom! Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom… IIIIII’m sssso good righ- now! You *hiccup* you don’ hef to come *hiccup* get me.” She was immediately on her way.

The drive home was rough. I was playing a lot of Dance Dance Revolution at the time, so when I closed my eyes, I saw a lot of streams of arrows and flashing lights. I had her pull over because I felt nauseous. I leaned out the passenger door for a bit before she got tired of waiting and insisted I drag the top half of my body back inside the car so she could keep driving. I vomited many times after getting back home. I did not understand why my mother, who up to that point in my life had always been very helpful when I was sick, was unwilling to lend me any sympathy that night.

After that, I swore off alcohol for good.

By 18, I was drinking fairly regularly. My friends and I would often skip school for the sake of just hanging out at home with some beers and cigarettes or weed. Generally, we utilized one of two methods for getting our alcohol. We shoplifted, which we had down to a sort of science. We’d go in, find one of the bottles on the back of the shelf that an underpaid grocery store attendant had missed, and after facing away from the cameras or moving to another isle, we’d slip it into our pants – usually the crotch. Then We’d buy something else so as not to raise suspicion by just walking back out the front door.

Or occasionally we’d have someone else buy it. One time, we stopped on the 101 freeway to help out a dude who was pushing his beautiful sports car along, hazards flashing. He had apparently run out of gas, so we pushed him all the way to the nearest gas station. He said he’d buy us whatever we wanted at the store. He drove some of us there and showed off just what his Porsche could do. I think we got up to about 120mph in some fairly heavy traffic. When we got to the grocery story, we loaded up a cart with about $250 of beer and liquor, which we then used to throw a rather impressive party at a hotel.

Quick aside on the hotel party. We rented out a two-story suite at the top of a hotel, then we slipped the gentleman who showed us the room an extra couple hundred bucks to keep the surrounding rooms empty, so we didn’t bother any other guests. At some point, we found my friend passed out in the closet. Concerned we said, “If you can here us, just raise your hand a little, man!” His fist shot triumphantly up in the air and we all cheered.

In college, the drinking got significantly heavier. The gas station down the street from the school was a notorious shithole, and they didn’t card. So I got the vast majority of my beer from there. I got my hard alcohol from my classmates, who employed fake ID’s or just were legally allowed to purchase it. We had hard alcohol handle chugging contests in our rooms that spewed out into the hallways of the dorm.

One time a friend passed out in one of our rooms, so we collectively picked him up and took him to my room where we used up multiple Sharpies on him. One of my friends drew and filled in black socks on his feet. He got the vast majority of it off by the next uniform inspection, but he missed a couple dicks behind his ears, which made for some very funny explaining while trying to maintain some semblance of military bearing.

Sometimes we would drive up to the nearest state college, where a friend of mine from high school went. We got so shitty on one trip that my roommate kicked a hole in somebody’s door and stole a toaster. At some point in the evening, I gave my keys to a friend because I was clearly too drunk to go anywhere. The next day, he was nowhere to be found. When I went back to my car to see if he had slept there, I saw all of the windows rolled down. The car was FILLED with vomit. His shoes were overflowing with the stuff. It was on the seats, it was on the steering wheel, it was on the fucking ceiling, but he wasn’t there.

I vaguely recalled him saying he was going to sleep in the bushes so we were going to split up to search the bushes nearby. Then I had a crazy notion, and popped the trunk of the car to find him in the fetal position, squinting against the bright morning sun. We cleaned to the degree that we could and drove back to our campus with our heads out the windows.

Some times were less funny. Sometimes I woke up in my bed with no recollection of getting there. Sometimes I’d drive on the wrong side of the road. Sometimes I’d crash my car. Sometimes I’d say things and do things that I very sincerely regretted the next day and for a long time after. Sometimes people I thought were friends would get violent with me out of nowhere. Sometimes I’d sit alone in my dorm room and drink by myself in the dark. And sometimes it was great. Box of chocolates.

The first few years of my relationship with alcohol were not all vomits and giggles. I was only 19 at this point in the story, so it was still mostly fun and fancy free, but it hasn’t and won’t always be that way, I’m afraid. Alcohol’s a hell of a mistress, and she can be fickle.