A change for the better

Friday night in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The local drive-in theater had switched its weekly double feature to two movies that I had no interest in seeing. That’s really not so hard to do, anymore. I begged off from the drive-in outing that my wife and other relations were planning, and, as a result, I had the summer cabin all to myself. There were two dogs around to keep me company, at least.

Two years ago, the last time I was here on Cape Cod–and every other time that I’ve ever been here in my life–I know exactly what that would have meant. There would have been a trip to the local liquor store to pick up a 12-pack of Corona and a lime. And I would have spent the evening working through as many of those 12 bottles as I could.

My guess–one based on decades of experience–would be that two (or maybe three) bottles would have made it to the morning unopened. Finishing off all 12 would have been a distinct possibility, too. I wouldn’t have thought twice about doing this, either, because I wasn’t getting behind the wheel of a car. With my apologies for the golf analogy, knocking back the better part of a 12-pack over the course of four or five hours was about par for the course.

But over the past two years, things have been different. I decided that drinking for more than a quarter of a century was finally enough, and that cutting alcohol out of my life was the right thing to do. And, other than a couple of incidents in 2011, I’ve held to that. By the time I leave Cape Cod next weekend, it will be a full year for me without any alcohol. I’m already thinking of it as Y W/O B (or Year Without Booze), part 1. Last night, if not exactly the one year anniversary of my last drink, was certainly the emotional climax of this process.

The last time I went a full twelve months without introducing any booze into my system would have been in the early 1980s. It’s not quite 30 years, but just about that long. I was probably not even seventeen before going out on the weekend meant obtaining, and consuming, any form of alcohol that I could find.

The hard truth is that I never missed a chance to have a drink, all throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of this century. Did it affect my life? I can’t think of anyway to suggest that it didn’t. How could anything that’s done over the course of so many years not have an impact?

A year after giving up drinking, I don’t feel too much different, physically. I don’t even think of this as “sobriety,” to be truthful about it. But psychologically, I feel so much better than I ever have. I’m also setting a positive example, I hope, for my children to follow as they get older.

I’m happier not knowing exactly how much money that I’ve given to various brewers, distillers, bars, restaurants, package good stores, and other social and business organizations for my fleeting bursts of intoxication over the years. Now I’m doing other things with that money, instead. Even if I’m just putting it all into the gas tank, it’s a financial boost, just the same.

This is not, in any way, meant to disparage anyone who decides that drinking is the right thing for them. I’m not a sermonizing dry-drunk, and I don’t want my motivations misunderstood. I loved drinking, for reasons I can’t understand and won’t even begin to explain, but I eventually changed my position on it. I adapted, or evolved, or let the winds of changes blow until they knocked me off my long-established course. It happened, and I’m willing to share that with anyone who happens along into this space.

As for how long this will last, I don’t have any idea. Maybe I’ll start drinking in a responsible manner someday, and maybe my last drink is now behind me. But last night’s absence of drinking–which once would have been unimaginable for me–certainly feels like a move in the right direction.

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