Gingerly stepping back from the brink

I still remember that fall-off-the-wagon drink. It was at the finish of the first Belgian Waffle Ride. After three years of abstinence it was the best thing I’ve ever had, before or since.

The way the cold ale rolled down my throat was unforgettable, every nerve in my body poised and prepped and quivering to receive that alcohol buzz, the buzz that turned into a roar, and the roar that turned into obliteration. That was 2012, and a lot of bottles have been emptied since then.

My life with alcohol was never very exceptional. Everyone in my family drank. Everyone except me. We never had DUI’s, or drunken family punchouts, but there always seemed to be a pretty solid buzz going on almost anytime after five o’clock.

Alcohol didn’t mix with me because I didn’t like the taste; it was pretty simple. When I lived in Germany, the first day there a friend got me drunk on Kolsch and the next morning I vomited all over the bus stop. So, no more Kolsch. Then a friend invited me to her vacation home in Bernkastel, and she introduced me to German white wine. That, I liked. I was 25, and had gone through college never having had a beer or a hangover.

When we moved to Japan in 1992 I gradually started drinking sake, and then wine, until I became like my Texas family. After work I’d flip the buzz switch, sit back, and get my obliteration on. It never took much. After one bottle of wine I would be blotto. Compared to heavy-hitting drunks, I’ve always been a lightweight.

Then I quit drinking for five years. It made my friends upset, and my wife even more so because when I’m sober I’m neither fun nor nice. Booze seems to be the only thing that brings out the fun in me, so after five years I began drinking again. Then I stopped for three years. Then … Belgian Waffle Ride, 2012.

That’s when I realized how perfectly bikes and beer complement each other. Some of the best days of my life have involved an arduous pedal followed by great beer. The exercise and dehydration accelerate the onrushing obliteration; it’s not Billy Joel’s “slowly get stoned,” it’s the body-wide thirst that screams “Love me with a hammer.” But looking around me, there appear to be a whole lot of people who know when to stop, as well as those who have simply stopped once and for all.

I really love alcohol. It makes me happy, it lets me forget, and most of all it makes me tolerable to others, until of course the inevitable happens and I’m sloshing around in some public place needing to be dragged out feet-first. Last night was one of those nights, and I got to put on a show in front of my 22-year-old son. I do remember there was pizza, and I do remember drunkenly howling that the U.S. Constitution only has 21 Amendments.

The next morning my son said, “Dad, I have a question.”

“Sure.”

“You’re almost 51, right?”

“Right.”

“And you’ve got lots of experience drinking, right?”

“Right.”

“And you know that if you drink ‘x ‘amount of beer, it’s going to result in ‘y’ behavior, right?”

“Right.”

“So why don’t you make sure that you stop drinking before it gets to ‘x’?”

“Well, it’s pretty simple.”

“What is it?”

“I have a drinking problem.”

“That’s not all you have.”

“No?”

“No,” he said. “If you’re willing to make the effort, you also have a drinking solution.”

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37 thoughts on “Gingerly stepping back from the brink”

  1. My parents taught me to never drink alcohol for the effect. That lesson has served me well. I love good wine and beer, but almost always with food, and the occasional vodka shots with appetizers, or the after dinner cognac, port or cordial, though almost never when I’m alone. Of course sometimes I have enough to get buzzed and I’ve had my share of way too much, but that’s never the reason for drinking and is rarely the result. I drink for the taste of the drink, for the enhancement of the food. It’s all about the taste buds. I don’t ever drink because I’m down; never for the purpose of altering my mood.

    It was a simple lesson. Just another example of how critical perspective is.

  2. Our families were cut from the same bolt of cloth. I could never stay awake long enough to be a proper drunk, but Dog knows I’ve tried. Always considered myself fortunate in that regard, even if I did wake up with a MagicMarker mustache and shaving cream on my head. Just because the fun knob goes to “11” doesn’t mean you have to jam that loud every time. Save the lampshade for special events:^O

  3. How can I help . You don’t know me but … Know that I care . I will be at Loma Linda for 2+ months of cancer treatment . Thanks for reach out . Let me know if you want to talk/meet or ride ?

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. We all slip at something, glad your son is there for you. I’ll never forget the piece your wrote on the army vet outside the back entrance to the court house. Along the same lines of how you offered that vet something special it’s now your turn to receive something from the community around you.

  5. Smart kid. I like that, drinking solution. Been sober almost 30 years, wish someone had woke me up sooner.

  6. I know, you were confused by the mysterious bike-booze paradox.
    Any problem one has in cycling can be solved by more bikes.
    Of course.
    It’s crazy, but this philosophy somehow doesn’t carry over into booze.
    A booze problem isn’t solved by more booze.

  7. I suspect you felt an odd combination of shame and pride during that moment with your son. Your honesty about your own struggles is a refreshing break from the Facebook spin most of us give our own lives. Respect.

    1. Thanks, Todd. Lots of shame, but happiness that somewhere along the line he’d gotten the right message and wasn’t afraid to deliver it.

      Best to you!

  8. Your story saddens me and makes me reflect upon my own life. I tried to get sober my way (unsuccessfully) for 13 years. I could not do it alone. Now I’m 17 years sober and life is good, though far from perfect. I understand. Your honesty could be a wonderful and promising new beginning. Give yourself a break. 🙂

  9. Wow. I am fortunate, I grew up with no alcohol and never drank. (Well I did get drunk once in Athens in 1978 and swore never to do that again and never have)

    When I lived in Israel in the 1970’s, NO ONE DRANK. Not a religious thing, but Jews in general don’t drink that much, though that has changed somewhat.

    Even in the military, in three years there, I never saw any alcohol, and we all know how soldiers in other armies love to drink. I personally feel that I have an intolerance for it, as I don’t like it.

    I also don’t like seeing people get drunk and the lack of control.

    I was a distance runner for many years, and there was always a lot of pressure to drink, but it was easy for me to refuse.

    I see way too many people drink way too much because of societal pressures. Wise son of yours.

  10. Pingback: How time flies | Cycling in the South Bay

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