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Archived Entries from June 2012


Twenty-One Days

Well, I think it has been long enough that I can finally talk about this in the open.

I wasn't a partier in high school. Didn't go to parties. Didn't have parties. Just didn't party. Mostly that was because my parents were really strict. I was focused on school, college (Stanford or MIT!), and the future. The my world got turned upside down my sophomore year when my mother died suddenly of leukemia that nobody knew she had until about a week before she passed. (This was the 1980s, not the 2010s...).

I'll try to go easy on the melodrama, but yeah, my life changed a bit. I still remember senior year when Roger Peto and I spent Honors AP Biology first period getting bitched at by Ms. Dorsey for something to do with Coach Newton and the track team. And we decided to take the day off, grab a case of Coors (which he bought in his York High School Cross Country jacket from Liquor Country on North Avenue in Northlake), and sat at my house and tanned ourselves and drank beer. My dad was out of town. We even passed our second period teacher, AP Calculus instructor Mr. Eide in the hallway after the bell had rung and we were walking away from class. We nervously said "Hi Mr. Eide" and he briefly looked up and said "hi guys" and we went right on by and out the front door of the school.

Well Stanford and MIT didn't happen, and like many in the rest of my class of 600 students, I ended up at the University of Illinois. I moved into the dorms about a week before classes started and my roommate, Bud, and I went out the first night and walked over to a party that was being held in the parking lot between Aggers (Alpha Gamma Rho) and Delta Chi over on the corner of First and Gregory. They had a big burly guy at the entrance (the entire place was surrounded by that orange snow fence stuff). I told Bud "they aren't going to let me in--I'm only 17 years old..."

It didn't matter. They just wanted to make sure we were students. So in we went.

There was a live band playing in the back of the parking lot that was shared by the two frat houses. Next to the stage was parked a beer truck where 3 or 4 of the hottest girls I have ever seen where pouring big 24-ounce cups of beer. (And I went to a pretty big high school, and had known some pretty hot girls, but this was ridiculous...). I stupidly asked "how much?" and was told that the beers were free (she may have well have ended that with "idiot..."). So we each got two beers, and went over and leaned our backs against D-Chi and watched the band. At one point I looked over and about 10 feet from me was a uniformed Champaign police officer. I was scared to death for a few moments and thought I should drop my beer and hurry out of there (but that would look too obvious) before it was explained to us by another partygoer that the police were off-duty and just there as security.

So my first night at the University of Illinois I stood leaning up against a fraternity house, watching free live music, holding two 24-ounce cups of Miller Lite that I didn't pay for, all while only 17-years of age. And I thought "so, this is college..."

And much of that WAS college, unfortunately. I joined a fraternity of my own (not that any of this is their fault). I started working at a bar (not that any of this is their fault either). I'm actually sort of surprised that I made it four-and-a-half years before I finally realized I had done nothing but party and kinda forgot to go to class for an entire semester and dropped out to work at the bar full-time.

I drank a lot. Beer. Jagermeister. "Dead Nazi" shots. Mmm. Beer. Stayed out late every night. Had Bamba almost every night.

One night I met the cutest redhead you'll ever see and she asked me to dance and we slow-danced to "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton. Soon after that my relationship with the girl back home was over for good.

Betsy and I got married and I started running another bar, and fortunately for us, we rented an apartment right upstairs. Brought beer home every night I worked. And nights I didn't work sometimes I'd call down and ask a waitress to bring up a pitcher or two. There was always beer. And shots. What's that crap everyone drank at Office II? Oh, Sambuca. Blech.

Well the redhead and I got married, with no great career paths marked ahead for either of us. Papa intervened and sat me down and did the Jedi mind trick that he does and told me to go back to school. Fortunately for me, I had left the big U on good terms and they were nice enough to allow me another shot at finishing up my degree. The talk with the dean maybe wasn't quite as pleasant as I make it sound--there was definitely a little bit of "get it done..." in there. So back to school I went.

Which was a good thing, because right about that time we managed to become pregnant. Funny how stuff like that happens.

This story is quickly getting significantly longer than I meant for it to be, and I'm sure in the six or seven years I've had this blog that I've told the "story of us" once or twice before, so I'm going to skip forward a few years.

My love of beer grew over the years, even if there were some years where Old Milwaukee was all we could afford.

As we became more successful financially, I decided that I liked red wine too. I really like red wine. But I'm not drinking another Merlot. Heh.

Then I met bourbon a few years back. Maker's Mark. Then my cousin turned me on to Eagle Rare (which Binny's in Champaign has--if you are a bourbon person, give it a try--it's fantastic).

Then I ran into Scotch. Don't let ads fool you--J&B and Johnny Walker suck. That blended crap is terrible. Single malt is the way to go. And yeah, it's more expensive. Personally I'm a fan of The Glenlivet.

Okay, I'm getting tired of writing this story. It's too melodramatic. Maybe I'm too used to 120 word updates on Twitter now or paragraph-long updates on Facebook. (Which is also why I used to blog two or three times a day for YEARS and now if I can get a post in once a month I'm lucky--poor blog...).

Here's my point: Over the past 20-25 years I drank a lot. I mean a LOT. I drank with friends. I drank by myself if nobody else was up for it. I drank on weekends. I drank on weekdays. I suffered through hangovers at work in the morning most days. I pissed away a lot of money that could have been spent on a lot of other things because I spent it on booze instead.

My dad thinks I drink too much. My in-laws know that I drink too much. I'm sure that all of them consider me an alcoholic. "Oh, I can quit any time I want," I always said. "Oh, I'm not addicted to alcohol." That's what they all say.

I would guess that over the past five years I've probably gone a total of 15 days without having a drink. And there's no "having A drink" with me. It's lots of drinks. Bottles of wine. Over a dozen beers a night. And oh that so delicious Bourbon and Scotch.

Here's where the story finally gets interesting, for anyone that is still awake...

June 9th I played golf, had beers while playing golf, probably had more beers when I got home, bottles of wine with dinner, more beers after dinner, etc., etc., etc.

June 10th, a Sunday, I woke up and thought to myself "this has gotten out of hand." We have two teenagers. I am 42 years old. I am 50 pounds overweight. I'm spending $500 a month on beer, wine, and liquor.

I *love* happy hour. I love beer. I love drinking! It's fun! I love the social aspect. I love how it makes me feel. I love it just a little teeny tiny bit too much.

So I stopped. Twenty-one days ago I stopped. Just like that? Yep, just like that.

I talked to my therapist two days later on Tuesday and told her what I had decided to do. She told me that any physical addiction would be evident within 48 hours. Two days had come and gone. No shakes. No cravings. No booze. Then three days. Then four. Then a week.

I told her that I don't want to quit drinking. I just want to be a normal drinker. Normal drinkers don't drink seven days a week. Normal drinkers go to happy hour and have 3 beers and then go home. Normal drinkers have a couple of beers after a round of golf and then get something to eat and call it an evening. What I did was far from "normal" drinking.

I asked her if I could go from being the drinker I was to the drinker that I want to be. She told me "I know what you want me to tell you, and then there's the truth." She knew that I wanted to hear that I could just turn if off like a switch during the week and immediately go to being like my dad when I was a kid and have two bottles of beer while grilling dinner on Saturday and that's it for the night. Or split one bottle of wine with dinner and be done. "You have to quit," she said. Not forever, but for a while. Probably a long while.

And I knew that was going to be the truth.

I see my therapist, who is also an addictions counselor (which I knew, and which is why I asked her about it) every other Tuesday. When I talked to her two-and-a-half weeks ago I told her I didn't want this to become the new focus of my sessions with her, but I needed her to keep me honest. I just needed someone to answer to.

I can't tell you how anxious I was to have my appointment this past Tuesday. The first thing she said in her office was "well?" She absolutely was stunned when I told her I hadn't had a drop in those two weeks. She said it doesn't work that way. Especially not after all those years. I guess I'm just lucky. Or more likely, stubborn.

I didn't want to write about this after three days and be like "woo hoo! I'm sober!" Today is three weeks. I think it is safe to say now that I can do this.

And not forever. I don't want to do forever. I just want to be like "normal" adults who "enjoy responsibly" and don't drink a case of beer a day. I'd like to build up a nice collection of good wine for special occasions and quit with the crap in the box. The Bourbon and Scotch will have to go into hiding for a long time as well and only take a peek out of their dusty cabinet once or twice a year.

Who knows how that part is going to play out. I'm not there yet. I'm not going to be there a long time. For now, I'm content with total sobriety. It's kind of nice, actually. I go for a long walk every morning. I've started doing push-ups and sit-ups. I've lost 12 pounds in those three weeks. (I also stopped drinking pop back in April and my total weight between both of those is down 23 pounds).

I have work to do. There's no doubt about it. But I have suffered no ill physical effects from quitting. The first weekend was tough, just because I was so used to sitting on the deck with a beer (and then ten more). But I'm getting used to it. I'm not in rehab. I'm still at home. Still going to work.

And we're probably not talking 70 days. Unlike the late Ms. Winehouse, I will spend 10 weeks, and more. My gut tells me it may be a year. Who knows. I'm not worrying about when I get to have my next drink. I'm just glad that I'm able to not have any and that I haven't had to check into rehab to do it.

And I don't write this because I want a pat on the back from anyone. I'm not doing this for anyone to be proud of me. Or because I felt pressured by anyone that thought I drank too much. Or that *gasp* I am an alcoholic. And the only reason that I talk about this publicly is to keep myself honest. And so that people that know me will understand when they offer a beer and I politely decline. Nobody needs to tiptoe around me. I'm the last person on the planet that will ever look down on someone for having a drink, or two, or twenty. I just needed to stop.

I did this for me. And my family. I'm Michael. And I'm not an alcoholic, even though I pretended to be one for twenty-plus years. It's getting easier. I actually don't even think about it much on a day-to-day basis.

Okay, I'm going to run down the street and play some golf and see if I can't get the rain faeries to unload some of their moisture onto my poor garden, and more importantly, onto Papa's fields.

Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012, 11:51 am
Mood: Content | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Hello, Blog

Hi Blog. Sorry that I've been a bad friend. You're my Data. And my Lor. I didn't use some software that some kid made to create you. I wrote all the code for you myself.

It's not the best code in the world. But it is our code. I don't fight with Microsoft curly quotes.

I've had some crossroads to deal with lately, not all of them fun.

I no longer think I will retire at UIUC. I think when the kids get to college age that the redhead and I will have some decisions to make.

Illinois, the state, sucks. Michael Madigan is an arrogant s.o.b who has way more power and control than the President of the United States. Screw this recall of the goof from Wisconsin--we need to get rid of Michael Madigan.
I am essentially going to have no pension, no health benefits after retirement, and no half-priced tuition for my kids.

I think we're outta here.

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2012, 3:41 am
Mood: Argumentative | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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