My last sip is not going to be an exhaustive treatise on the health effects of alcohol on the body, nor will it be a warning to any of those who like to partake in it, whether socially or to excess. I am not writing this to judge, I least of all have the right to do so. I am not here to offer my opinion, only my point of view to those who are ready and willing to listen. These are the facts, the ones I can remember through the haze of alcohol induced memory gaps of during and after my long relationship with “the drink”.
Many of you may know from my blog, some time before I ever started writing, I served in the United States Navy for twenty years. I joined at the young age of nineteen, right out of high school. What you will not know is that contrary to popular belief and mental images of what sailors look like, with their ability to consume large amounts of alcohol and ornate tattoos, I didn’t have my first drink until I was twenty-two. Even with the fact that my father, who also served in the military drank until I was around sixteen, didn’t have sway whether I would start drinking or not. Through all the port visits and parties, I still refrained from indulging in it. I never felt peer pressure to consume a glass here or there. After working hours were spent like any other, barely out of my teens, young man in my position would be doing, I chased women. And the best places to find women at that time was in bars and clubs. As you know, put in the position with “bad apples”, no matter how fresh it tries to stay, it will eventually begin to spoil. Not to say that people who drink ate bad, but trying not to drink in a situation where most everyone is, without having the self-control or fortitude, is bound to fail.
MY FIRST DRINK
My first drink was during a birthday party for one of my fellow sailors in a bar in Singapore, and if I remember correctly, it was a shot of rum. Ever get the feeling that you are in a group of people who accept you and you don’t want to ruin the mood of the party? That’s what happened that night. At least twenty people were about to have a celebratory toast and there was me, with a shot of rum in hand. That’s the first time I felt pressured to drink, and not wanting to be a wet blanket, I took the shot. It was the most terrible thing I had ever tasted, it was as if someone had mixed battery acid with the heat of the sun. After that first horrible drink something strange happened, all those who knew I didn’t drink and saw me take my first shot, seemed to welcome me into some strange brotherhood with pats on my back and more shots. I had suddenly become the “tourist” in the land of alcohol. It seemed that every five to ten minutes someone was buying me another type of drink to try. And as you may know, the more you drink the less the burning effect, and less the inhibitions. Even the after affects of vomiting and hangover seemed to be a rite of passage and at the time, I have to admit, it was really fun.
I understand that, at least for me at the time, drinking was a way of connecting with friends, to socialize with strangers, and to alleviate the shyness. But in hindsight, I noticed there was a change from wanting to needing a drink. It was a way to deal with the stress of work and life itself. Years later my wife and son are in the picture, I did my best not drink “that much” at home, but still finding a myriad of excuses to do so.
After a while my son and wife knew to stay away from after I had a few drinks, not that I was a violent drunk, but I would speak harshly to my wife and yell at my son for the most medial things. I have to admit that I even stormed out of the house to go drink after and argument, or realize that I was down to my last beer only to drive intoxicated to the store for more.
There were also a few times where I either showed up to work drunk or had to leave early because I wasn’t “feeling good” due to a hangover. All this with the mindset that the world was against me and nothing was my fault, how else was I going to deal with this onslaught?
Don’t get me wrong, now that I think about it, there were plenty of warning signs along the way, but at the time my brain was too dulled with alcohol to be aware of my “spider senses” all the time. For instance, I used to go to one of my favorite bars and drink. It was that type of place where there was a pool table and a few televisions with a selection of sports events showing. At first, I didn’t notice it, but after a many visits , I realized it was the same people, “the regulars”. I am not judging, but for the experience they seem all one dimensional. Granted, I didn’t know them away from the bar, but it seemed that there was no real ambition in their conversations. You had the one guy with all the advice, the old woman trying to re-experience her younger self, and the one who hated everything and everyone but is lonely. And there was me, tittering on the precipice of anger, confusion, and lose. There was a time where I though, “what’ the point?”, the only thing that kept me from throwing away everything including my life, was the thought of the life my son would have without me, either from taking my own life or causing someone else to loose theirs.
THE 3O DAY CHALLENGE
Yes, I believe not only by the strictest definition, I was an alcoholic but I was over weight. Not saying I was morbidly obese, but going from the military regiment to daily drinking after retirement didn’t help at all. I found myself sweating while just sitting and watching television, out of breath after short walks, and unable to get my wedding rind on and off my finger. Not to mention the custom suits I had made, now are custom fit to a body of a much smaller person. The clothes aside, it wasn’t until I realized how much my health and family where suffering that the wakeup call of change could be heard.
One day while watching Youtube videos and drinking, which was my favorite past time, I saw a guy who lost weight while refraining from drinking for thirty days. I needed to loose weight and I figured that this was the one thing that I have never tried. So I started the challenge, I didn’t put too much faith into it, after all, I have been drink since I was twenty-two.
The first few days were rough, I had a routine of drinking around 12pm and passing out by 11pm that sane day. I could feel the urge to drink, the ideas popping my head from drink to the store and pick up a six pack. Going shopping with my wife and fining myself in the alcohol section. It did get easier and one the biggest things I noticed was the amount of “extra time” I had throughout the day, time to catch up on things around the house, and most of all time with my family. I was no longer so inebriated or hungover from the night before to enjoy time with them. I didn’t read a riot act or a big announcement when I quit, i didn’t even tell my family.
Much better sleep is another factor that I didn’t realized was missing. I would simply black out after drinking, but a night sleep with rest is wonderful. Waking up is also much easier, I simply get up when my body is no longer tired and I sleep through the night.
Along with the time and sleep improvement, the money that I have saved has been something new. Of course I can’t say that it is enough to buy a car or anything, but I money left available that hasn’t been spent on drinking. My family has been, without a doubt, very supportive, but I have lost a few “friends” in the process. I realized that the people I was hanging out with, were only acquaintances due to the fact that the only thing we shared in common was drinking. Apart from that, they we didn’t have any of the same interests, and I found some of them very annoying.
I started this blog to help and inspire people to make the changes they want in their lives. For me, drinking caused me to become clouded and lose focus. This paragraph was to be titled “Starting Over”, but I changed it due to the fact that, I am not starting from scratch. Life is full of detours and misdirection, but one of the best parts about it is that you never have to start completely over. It’s like having auto-saver on your life, if you mess up or go down and a road that led to nowhere, you can always reset and begin from where you left off.