Yeah, it’s that time. To walk along a well-traveled path. Or, at least, one I’ve written about before. It’s time to open it up a bit and tell you about where I’ve been, what’s going on now, and where I hope to be in the future.
I’m pretty certain that I’ve spent the last couple of years wallowing further and further into a pool of mud. Or maybe quicksand. There are a lot of causes for the wallowing and the muck, but there is one cause I’m going to cover here because it’s a shame something I enjoy so much has led me to where I am now.
I love beer and beer has become my enemy.
For years I had a two beer a night habit. Yes, occasionally on weekends, I imbibed a little bit more, but for the most part. Two beers. A night. Even when I spent five years brewing my own beer and always had dozens of bottles of beer in the cabinet. Two beers. A night. Even then, I had a craving for the amber liquid. I can remember twenty years ago, driving home from work and eagerly waiting the feel and taste of a cold beer sliding down my throat. It has been my constant companion for almost thirty year.
Somewhere along the way, a few years ago, that two beer a night habit started to grow. It began first on weekends when I cooked. Drinking beer became a part of cooking and since I typically make things that take several hours to prepare, well, it’s pretty hard to stretch two beers out over several hours of cooking and then eating the meal. So, on weekends, two beers a night turned into four or five, six or seven. Typically on both Saturday and Sunday. And when I started doing that, even during the week, sometimes two beers a night became three or four.
Why? Well, besides the fact that I love beer, in truth, it became a crutch. It became a salve for the wounds that came my way — whether it was stress from work, unhappiness at home, anger at the difficulties of parenting, dissatisfaction with this, annoyance at that — beer became the thing that allowed me to put up a wall when I got home. I drank, never to the point of incapacitation — although I’m sure you might wonder about those weekends when I was cooking.
And, here’s the key thing. For years, I never felt the impact the next day. And I never drove drunk. I never drank during the day — it was entirely an evening habit. And, so, there was no reason to stop. It was all good. I was running and healthy and it was under control. It wasn’t affecting me at work. Wasn’t affecting me at home. It was all good.
Until it wasn’t. In the last year or two I’ve lost the ability to metabolize alcohol the way I did for decades. I could no longer claim that I didn’t feel it the next day. I really, really started to feel it. I know that there are other causes of this, but for far too long I have woke up in the morning feeling absolutely horrible and I have spent a lot of days listless, un-motivated, wanting nothing more than the comfort of a nap or two.
For the last few months, I’ve tried to kick the habit this way. By Sunday night I’m disgusted with myself and say I’m done drinking beer. I then get it done for the next two or three evenings with no beer. But I start to feel better, and right around Wednesday or Thursday I can’t resist the craving and I have a beer or two and by the weekend, I’m back to four or five and on Sunday I’m disgusted with myself.
Last weekend, my youngest son was at the county fair with his steer.
His name is Bullseye. The steer. Not my son. (By the way, along with some neighbors, we bought Bullseye — in a couple of weeks, about 100 lbs. of meat will be stocked in our freezer.)
Anyway, because my son was at the fair, the rest of the family was there for most of the weekend. I just wasn’t interested in going. I had better things to do. Like the two naps I took on Saturday and the three I took on Sunday. Yes, are you beginning to see the problem? I spent the weekend wallowing. Again, it’s not just the beer. There are other things at play. But, I do know this. I had to do something about two things.
Last Saturday was the last day I had a beer. The last day I had a Pepsi. For seven days now, I’ve been caffeine and soft drink free. More importantly, it’s seven days without a beer. I’ve passed a few tests during the week. The cravings late in the afternoon as the end of the work day approaches and I imagine that cold beer sliding down my throat. That there are three beers in the fridge right next to the bottles of lemonade I am drinking now. That I almost stopped and got a pizza to take home for dinner on Thursday — what usually means having a couple of beers while waiting for the pizza.
Tonight will be a huge test. We’re going out with friends to celebrate the Queen Midget’s birthday. There will be beer and wine there, consumed by our friends. We’re having pizza and they have Peroni on tap. And I will not have any. I cannot.
I know there are a lot of people who would say that I just need to take it day by day. To wake up each morning and commit to this for that day. I cannot do that. Instead, I have to make the commitment that this is permanent. Day by day means that there is nothing wrong with having a beer today, because it is only one day and I can always get back on the right side tomorrow. Problem is that once I have one, it is hard to stop. And the reality is that it now only takes one or two beers for me to feel like crap the next day. So, I can’t imagine this as a day to day struggle. Instead, it is that I have chosen a completely different path for the rest of my life. One without beer. One without alcohol. One in which …
I feel better and will accomplish more. And that’s why I’m writing this.
I have felt better the last weekend than I have in a long time. Months and years have gone by since I have felt as good as I have over the past week. More energy. More motivation. More desire to do things and get things done.
A couple of weeks ago, a fellow blogger and writer suggested we co-write something. He sent me his contribution a couple of weeks ago. I worked on it over the last week including last night and early this morning — two times of the day when I have been completely incapable of writing for far too long. And I wanted to. I was eager to put the words together and finish the thing to see how it would all end up. I got a few small tasks done around the house today as well — things that have needed to be done for so long and I just look at them and say “nah. not interested.” I’m newly motivated to get back to Northville Five & Dime — to conduct one big, final edit of the thing and then seriously consider whether there are two more novellas for the characters. The writing door has opened a crack and I don’t want to slam it shut again because of what’s at the bottom of a bottle of beer.
This week has been a change for me. I have turned a page and started a new chapter. Things are definitely not perfect. There are still those other components to my life that will continue to cause me to ride the roller coaster of life. But, I’m pretty sure I’ve solved one of the problems. Now, I just need to pass the test tonight and look forward to what I can get done tomorrow.
Thanks for reading and thanks to those friends and acquaintances who have conquered addiction and shown by their quiet example that it can be done.