I tasted my first Coors (3.2, for those old enough to know) around age 17. Tasted weird. Smelled worse. I drank it with friends so it went down fairly easily. The Paramount bar allowed 18 year olds to come in and play shuffleboard and mini bowling while having a cold one. It was easy and fun. Rarely did we get out of control. I quickly earned the alias “Two beer Chester,” as my modus operandi was to show up with one dollar (50cent beer). College would come and it was a Christian one. Alcohol was not allowed so we had to get creative to get any. It wasn’t the focus and wasn’t binged or even routinely consumed. Take it or leave it, you know. After college it was off to Columbus, Ohio chasing Miss and my first real job at IBM. What I missed at college, I quickly saw ever present after work – Alcohol. These dudes could drink. I stuck to my discipline of two beers. No bigee, at least most of the time.
By age 25, kids were arriving. Miss and I were busy and getting busier. Alcohol was increasing but still not routine. Somewhere in my 20’s I discovered wine and began to have it with dinner on occasion. Travel and client dinners were slowly increasing as was alcohol consumption. It was still nothing routine and rarely excessive. Take it or leave it, you know.
When the kids left the nest and it turned into just Miss and me, the wine at dinner time became one of my favorite past times. She would cook and I would sit at the island, talk, and take a few sips. Another glass with our meal and two glasses of wine became more routine. She rarely had more than a few sips. I began to think about wine. This was a first. I looked forward to it, you know. My enjoyment increased and slowly my consumption went along for the ride. Again, rarely was it more than two glasses a night. However, a handful of years ago, I began to enjoy a Manhattan too. This was a treat when we went out. I would have a Manhattan and then a glass of wine with dinner. Still two drink Chet. Cool.
I was now in the alcohol routine.
Having a drink was becoming an everyday affair. Habit. Mindless. I got this, I kept telling myself. I told myself I could quit at anytime. Alcohol and me were good friends now. Fact. Fast forward to August 1, 2021. I’m enjoying a Kentucky Mule at Muirfield with Jordan’s friends. He’s home sick with Covid. We’re on a rain delay and having a quick lunch before finishing the back nine. The Mule is a combination of beer, whiskey, and ginger. Tasty. After a couple more hours of golfing, we return to the Clubhouse to add up scores and settle bets. Another Mule. I’d finally played well so I decide to have another. If you’re keeping score at home – this is my third Mule. Granted the first one was a few hours earlier, but it’s still three not two. Arriving home, Miss said I looked kinda blank. She would tell me later she has seen that look before whenever I’ve had one too many. I don’t puke, don’t get nuts or angry, and don’t turn into the life of the party – I go blank. What’s up with that? The next day I couldn’t remember much after my arrival back home. This alarmed me. I was embarrassed and kinda taken aback that I was losing some semblance of control. I’m a control freak. Love control. Why, I asked myself, would I allow myself to consume something designed to loosen my control? No. Good. Answer. So I stopped drinking for ten days. Nothing. Didn’t miss it. I hadn’t gone without a drink for ten days in twenty years plus. Drinking, I had to admit, had become habit. Alcohol and me? Thick as thieves…
After the ten day hiatus I returned to a couple drinks/day for a few days. My mind was not made up about alcohol and me but I was thinking about changing my mind. So, I had a drink and then nothing for a few days. This went on for a week, when I decided to phone a friend, not to talk alcohol but just to catch up. After a few pleasantries, he starting talking about his relationship with alcohol and how much it had changed the past few years. He credited a book This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace. Told me it was amazing and thought provoking. I’ve read fifty books on addiction and thought this might give me insight for working with my clients. So, without thinking, I ordered it on Amazon. Kinda coincidental my conversation with my friend, huh?
The book would arrive the next day and I devoured it in two. Went back and reread it. Annie asks the reader to think. She wants you to get to the root why behind your drinking. I laughed at the irony. I’m always making my clients write about why this, that, and the other thing. Alcohol and me? I. Did. Not. Have. A. Good. One. I was simply following American culture and drinking along with everyone else. What the hell? I was sleepwalking. Does this sound like an integrity gap? Does this sound familiar?
I didn’t know why I drank. It was a mindless habit that had been increasing almost imperceptibly. I mean I was aware of my desire to enjoy wine with meals, but wasn’t conscious of my craving. I was craving the comfort and routine of knocking the edge off. I was enjoying the short lived feeling when alcohol first enters the system. Does. Not. Last. After reading her book, my desire was front and center. I had to admit my drinking was not serving me well. So, I stopped. She calls it spontaneous sobriety. I’m not sure what to call it that’s any better. I’m not sure when I’ll have another drink but the desire is gone. I don’t think about it as 5bells comes along, I used to. I don’t think about it when Miss fires up the cook top, I used to. I don’t think about when thinking about Mexican food and a Margarita, I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I still think about it and still sometimes kinda want the sensation in my veins. I’m awake now. I’m consciously making a choice. I know why.
I now think alcohol is an addictive substance.
I now think alcohol is a lot like the “pitcher plant.” (Thanks, Annie). I now think about why would I mindlessly pour poison in my mouth. I do think about why would I lose control EVER, when I love control. I do think about why would I allow a mindless habit into my CORE when I do most everything else by well thought out design. I was drinking alcohol by default. Dumbass. So, I don’t know about you, but this relationship with alcohol was a dance with the devil. I’ve been dancing for 45 years and I don’t really like to dance. So, I’m not. I may someday. It will be a conscious choice if it happens. I’m thinking about it now. Clarity is coming. You see, friend, you are what you repeatedly do. What habits are you mindlessly marrying? Why? Here’s a bit of my discovery. This could be huge. It has been for me.
You don’t change habits of the heart until you change your hearts desire.
Slow down and reflect. Think. Get crystal clear on your why. Go five levels down. This was not a story of an alcoholic, you know. This is a story about alcohol and me. It’s not really dramatic. I didn’t like the way my relationship was revolving around an addictive substance, in fact, one could argue, the most addictive substance to Americans. You see, 87% of us Americans drink. Most of us are slowly increasing intake. Some are increasing intake to liven up the party. Some to numb the pain. Some for social shits and giggles. Some for, you know, whatever. What matters, friend, is that you consciously choose. Alcohol and me. If you’re an American there’s an 87% chance you have a relationship with alcohol. Is it serving you well? Are you a better man or woman when you’re drinking? Are you choosing wisely? Could you take it or leave it? Are you keeping the right secrets, you know? Slow down. Reflect.
No why? No way. Know why? Know the way. Thanks, God, for using your most holy creatures to wake my sorriness up. Together we transform. Always together. Makes sense, huh.
Live hard. Love harder…