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.

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.

Sitting and Breathing: Day 26

Oof. Last night involved a lot of drinking. Well… The last two nights, I guess. Saturday was particularly hectic at the rooftop bar, so the whole staff drank together after we closed. Then I saw one of my coworkers at the bar on ground level, and he convinced me (it did not take a lot of convincing) to join him and the two ladies he just met at a late-night spot.

I spent much of my time hitting on the wait staff and ignoring the two women he brought with us. Interestingly, both of the ladies I was interested in had neon-colored hair – one was lavender and the other was lime green. Finally one of the two that my coworker was chatting up snapped and insisted that they go back to their hotel (they were staying at the hotel on top of which was our place of work).

In the Lyft on the way home, the one who snapped kept making drunk, biting commentary, and I found it very funny. She was, however, not trying to be funny, so her friend got mad at me for continuously chuckling at how ridiculous the situation was. I excused myself and made my way to the train station to go home.

I got home when the sun came up on Sunday, went right to sleep, and got to work only slightly late yesterday afternoon. I dutifully stood in the doorway of the pub until around 8pm (taking only brief pauses in professionalism to chat up the attractive campaign manager for the alderman who was having a fundraiser there), then my manager and I had a few drinks after clocking out.

Well, it was karaoke night at the pub, and my thought was, “I’ll just sing one song, then I’ll get out of here.” I sang California Love by 2Pac, but the words were wrong on the screen, which distracted me, and fucked up my performance. I couldn’t leave on a bad note, right?! So I signed up for another one. A few more drinks later, I was flitting around from table to table buying shots for small groups of customers with my employee discount.

At one point my coworker thought, “Man, Sean knows everybody in here!” Then he listened in on one of my conversations and realized that I didn’t really know anybody and I was just starting conversations with people at random. Before I knew it, the bar was closing and it was time for me to go home.

Fastforward to today: after tending to my rather severe hangover with some greasy Colombian food and strong coffee, I decided I had better do that whole meditating thing I’ve been doing lately. Luckily, today’s meditation was on quieting the inner critic, which was serendipitous because he’s particularly loud on days after some drinking goes on. The goal was to focus on a recent negative emotion (I chose regret), and sit with it and work through what it feels like and what comprises the list of associated concerns.

So I played out the worst-case scenario: I get fired from this job. I don’t think it’ll happen (my other coworkers drink rather heavily, so I’m in good company there), but what if it did? Well, I’d be down to just two jobs. I’d up my availability at both of them, and I’d be just fine. The takeaway from any real deep diving on failure is, “Life keeps going.”

Again, I ended up crying during the meditation. I’m finding that I spend most of my days when I’m upset just being marginally upset. I hold the emotions on the fringes of my mind while I focus on getting things done, and they just sort of sit there gnawing at my awareness the whole day. Meditation gives me the opportunity to stare them directly in the face, take them in fully, and profile them so I better understand them.

So much of my time is spent trying to be or look happy that I don’t get the opportunity to sit with my feelings, and it turns out there are a lot of them eating away at me. It’s relieving to confront them. It’s so very necessary to feel. Ultimately, I’m more happy because I let myself be sad or angry or whatever more fully. Meditation doesn’t make me emotionless, it helps me be at peace with the fact that I’m going to have unpleasant emotions sometimes, and that’s okay.

I could definitely stand to drink a little less, though. I’ll give you that one.