My Intervention(s)

This year I gave up drinking. I quit my lifelong addition. Or my adult life addition—it didn’t really start until I was fourteen. And it didn’t gain any consistency until I was off in college at seventeen. For twenty years I was a heavy drinker—a drinker focused on getting drunk. But as I settled down with marriage and home ownership, I began to drink moderately at times—for relaxation and a bit of a buzz.

Enter kids: They are now thirteen and ten. Babies and hangovers don’t mix. So no more drunkenness for me—at all. But I continued to drink daily, until last year. Two or three drinks every night. Not intoxicating, just relaxing, not problem drinking, but certainly a problem. I obsessed over alcohol. I anticipated those nightly drinks for most of each day. The drinks I put off until all my daily responsibilities were complete. And then I’d settle down with a book and a glass of wine. And then another. And then I’d be done, mourning the realization that alcohol was off limits for the next twenty-three hours.

Eighteen months ago, I gave up weekday alcohol—Sunday through Thursday, seltzer instead of wine. I was hoping to break a habit. Break the obsession. All I did was create longer periods of anticipation—days instead of hours. Six months ago, I gave it up on the weekends too. I gave up alcohol altogether.

With alcohol no longer playing a leading role in my life, I feel more comfortable taking an honest look at the decades of drinking and drunkenness. Especially the drunkenness. At times I’ve wondered why no one ever intervened.  No one sat me down and said “Jeff, you have a problem. You need to stop drinking so much.” In retrospect, I think my feelings are a bit hurt by this.

Recently, Stephen King tweeted something about throwing up on his glasses. Stomach virus? I don’t know. King has a lot of non sequitur tweets—they seem to be extracted from the middle of a conversation. This tweet included the phrase “this hasn’t happened since my drinking days.”

I knew exactly what he meant. And at that moment, I realized that I did have an intervention. Hundreds of them. The universe sat me down again and again and said: “Dude, you’ve got a problem with alcohol. Time to quit.” The universe sent me my wake up call, repeatedly. Which I chose to ignore.

I used to see these anecdotes as funny drinking stories.  Now I see them as pathetic at best. At worst, they are self-loathing, and often suicidal. I want to chronicle these stories. If Stephen King and I can bond over soiled glasses, maybe someone reading my experiences will see a bit of themselves and make some positive changes.

~ ~ ~

Freshman year of college, morning of my final final exam of the first semester: I woke up and I couldn’t find my glasses. I looked all over my dorm room for them, becoming increasingly certain that I lost them at some point the during party-night before. Finally, I gave up looking and started the process of beginning my day. Step one, clean out the trash can I vomited in before bed. And there they were, my glasses bathing in an inch of puke. Pizza, beer, and whatever dinner reminents held on through the evening without fully digesting.

~ ~ ~

Five years out of college: A long day in Baltimore using my friend Brian’s house as a base. All afternoon at the Preakness Horse Race, drinking beer on the infield. A night out in downtown Baltimore for a fireworks display, bar hopping, and shots. I immediately lost my friends – wandered off for a better view of the fireworks. Three hours later, all of my cash converted into alcohol and consumed, and I still hadn’t found my friends. I met two women out on the town, a mom and her daughter, maybe forty and twenty years old. They came out to meet “sailors.” They got me instead. They bought me drinks for the rest of the night, and they even gave me cab-fare to get back to Brian’s house in the Baltimore suburbs. I found a bar that was still serving, and I drank my cab fare too. Hitchhiking back Brian’s house I got picked up and mugged – sort of. I didn’t have anything to steal so the guy kicked me out of his car on the highway. I found a McDonald’s and placed a collect call to Brian. He came an got me, along with my brother and my girlfriend. They’d been looking for me all night.

~ ~ ~

Eight years out of college: A keg party at a friends’ swanky two-floor apartment in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. A couple of us decided to track our intake by keeping tally marks on the back of our hands with a permanent marker. With my hand mostly covered, I tried to “surf” down a flight of uncarpeted stairs on a bathroom scale. I broke the scale, I can’t remember what happened to me.

~ ~ ~

Twenty three or twenty four years old: my gin-phase. I started the night at Bennigans with my two roommates. I ordered a double shot of Tanqueray. Someone, feeling generous (or mischievous) poured me a goblet; essentially a fishbowl of gin. As the night progressed, smaller an smaller chunks of memories are available. Hours later, in a biker bar, we hooked up with a large, muscular biker and went back to his house to snort coke. The next day,  my pissed off roommates shared stories about how I made fun of his heavy-metal posters, chastised his confederate flag decorations and ultimately fell over his parked motor cycle, knocking it to the ground.

~ ~ ~

Riding home from a bar with my friend Mike, he said something that insulted me. I smashed his passenger-side window with the beer bottle I was drinking from.

~ ~ ~

Drunk, I gratified the entire dining room in my rental house with black spray paint.

~ ~ ~

Drunk, I mummy-wrapped my head in duct-tape. Don’t try this!

~ ~ ~

Out at a party with a group of friends—Don, his roommate Joe, and my friend Hannah. We were traveling as a pack. Hannah was my girlfriend’s roommate, but I don’t think my girlfriend and I were still dating at this point. The party hosts were my age, twenty-five, but more mature: nicely dressed, clean living spaces, not drunk. I don’t recall how we got invited to the party, but we didn’t fit in. Party banter was about MBA programs and gas mileage and mortgage rates. We took off to drink at Joe and Don’s house. Riding in the backseat, Hannah and I argued. It was a flirty, pretend argument on a stupid topic. Arguing just to ague. After we parked, Joe broke out a bottle of gin—he didn’t have much beer. That was my last memory of the evening. I woke up around noon the next day, naked, sleeping on the concrete basement floor. No one, Hannah included, could or would tell me what happened.

~ ~ ~

For a few months in college, I had a girlfriend who attended a different school about twenty minutes away. One night, deep into a fifth of gin, I called her and asked if she wanted to come over and hang out. Listening to me slur this request annoyed her. She suggested that since she had a car, she always had to make the effort to hook up. Maybe it was my turn. If I wanted to see her, I should come to her. This was her ploy to end the conversation, to shut me up. Instead I took my gin and started the walk. All that remains of my journey is a series of snapshots in my memory – hopping fences to take shortcuts through back yards (in a town where gun ownership is the norm); being lost, turned around, and confused; lastly lying in a ditch on the on-ramp to the highway that passes her college. This is where my girlfriend and roommate found me hours later.

~ ~ ~

Don’s thirtieth birthday. An early indoor soccer game deep in the suburbs, and then downtown for drinks at Club Soda—a subterranean beer and pool bar on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest DC. Lots of beers, no dinner, and already dehydrated. We hooked up with a group of nurses who just finished up a twelve hour- shift. I woke up in my car, still parked on Connecticut Avenue, the major commuting thoroughfare into DC from Montgomery County, Maryland. Rush hour was just starting. I drove home, took a shower, and headed off to my office job.

~ ~ ~

New Year’s Eve, my first year out of college. I spent a week visiting my friends Brian and Lisa in St Petersburg, Florida. We were out at a bar, ringing in the New Year, except we needed to head out at 11:40 to make my 1:00 AM flight back to National Airport in DC. In pre-9/11 years, airport arrivals could be cut tighter than now. The year wound down, and we kept buying one more round. As midnight struck, we grabbed a warm bottle of Champagne serving as the decorative table center piece and ran out of the bar. Instead of going straight to the airport, we dashed out to the beach for one last look at the ocean. We opened the Champagne and chugged it down.

Arriving at the airport, I learned my plane was already taxiing for takeoff. A simpler time in the airport industry, they held the plane, I ran across the tarmac, and I climbed aboard up a portable staircase. I grabbed the last seat on the plane and ordered a Bloody Mary. My punk-rock-fashion phase. A wrinkled, unbuttoned cotton oxford over a band t-shirt; holes in my blue-jean knees–years before these could be bought in a store; and a pair of combat boots acquired by attending one session of ROTC in college—the session I attended simply to get a free pair of combat boots.

Walking out of National Airport at dawn, I learned that the DC metro system wasn’t operating until 11:00 AM. The interstate taxi fare well out of my comfort zone, I spent several hours trying to hitchhike up to Rockville, MD. No one would pick up a bedraggled kid, clearly staggering the line between drunk and hungover.

When I made it up to Rockville in the early afternoon, my body and brain had been pushed too far. I couldn’t remember which metro station I parked my car. Three were possibilities, and I got on and off the train several times looking for something that seemed familiar. On the abbreviated holiday schedule, this took hours. At the Rockville station, mid-afternoon, with two or three groups of tourists standing around to witness, I curled up, fetal position, on the metro platform and threw up for a good five minutes. No one offered help.

~ ~ ~

A few years out of college, I spent an evening packing for an upcoming three-day bike trip with a friend—and drinking a six-pack of beer. I accurately decided that the two doses of mushrooms I bought for the excursion were more than adequate, so I ate a third of them. Packing slowed to a crawl. Mid-way through the buzz, my friend Chris dropped by to introduce me to his new girlfriend. I offered them each a beer, and tried to be a good host. They left without completing their beers, Chris apologizing to his girlfriend for my behavior. “I don’t know. He usually isn’t like this…” I never saw Chris again.

~ ~ ~

1980: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1981: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1982: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1983: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1984: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1985: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1986: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1987: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1988: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1989: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1990: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1991: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1992: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1993: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

1994: Woke up in bed around 8AM with no memory of how I got there. The last image of my night was embarrassing myself with sloppy drunken behavior. The next twenty minutes of my life spent with my head in a toilet bowl in a useless but uncontrollable attempt to purge any remaining poison still undigested. Back to bed for seven hours, head pounding, not asleep, wishing for a different life.

~ ~ ~

Spent twenty-two years struggling to drink responsibly, with greater and greater success. But also with the anticipation of my next drink always lingering in the back of my mind. Now I’ve quit. Yes, I miss it. I miss the flavor, the relaxing buzz, the camaraderie of being part of the tribe. But I don’t miss the internal conversation. “When is my next drink? Can I have another drink? Did I drink too much?” That useless discussion is now over.

Struggle

 

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5 thoughts on “My Intervention(s)

  1. Thx – I’m already losing my cravings: “Yes, I miss it. I miss the flavor, the relaxing buzz…” Three months ago I would have written what the F^@# is the point of life if I can’t have a beer or a glass of wine. So it’s getting better. I like the title Quitter. I think I’ll get myself a bumper sticker!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a collection of stories! I’ve never experienced anything like this, nor has anyone close to me. So thank you for sharing, and congratulations on giving it all up – that can’t be easy.

    PS: where has your post about the moon (and its phase representations) gone? I really enjoyed it but couldn’t find it anymore when I clicked to see it on your website 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry to say those stories are just a sampling, but definitely includes many of the most dangerous. What it doesn’t include is the most embarrassing. Or the most relationship damaging, etc.

    The Moon piece was a book teaser. It’s part of my book of essays titled Fragments (available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback- https://amzn.com/B01DS7RIR4). If your not into buying the book, send me an email and I’l email you the moon story. But I think the ebook is a pretty good good value. Jeff

    Like

  4. Good writing. Yeah, you’re one of us. Sometimes a good memory isn’t a good thing. I could never remember all the fucked up stuff I did. Time for some Nature Therapy.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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