It’s now 12 to 1

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I still remember the first time I got drunk, back in the summer of 1984. Between then, and the last time I drank in the Summer of 2011, I consumed more alcohol than I would ever be able to quantify. I never got arrested or got into a fight or lost a job over alcohol, but it was a constant in my life. It’s a constant in our society, and big money is involved on all sides of this.

But I never once, in all the 27 years that I was an avowed “social drinker,” considered myself as an alcoholic or a drug user. Good things called for alcohol, and bad things called for alcohol, but as long as I didn’t throw up on someone’s carpet, everything was fine.

And then one day I got it into my head that I didn’t need it anymore. I never needed it in the first place, really. I had spent untold sums of money, and done untold damage to my body internally, and I had nothing to show for it but some drinking stories. OK, lots of drinking stories. But that’s not enough, given everything that I’ve donated to the distillers of the world.

I didn’t need therapy of self-help, but I admire those who seek it out for themselves. It’s not easy to give up the most widely-used drug in our society. All the cool kids drink, you know. Those social pressures rarely have to be vocalized, either. As Christian Slater’s character in Heathers pointed out, if you haven’t got a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a dress.

I’ve now been wearing that dress–metaphorically speaking–for all of 27 months. And that was an important number to me, since my drinking career lasted for 27 years. For every month I’ve been off of the booze, I once spent a full year on it. For every dry month, there’s a wet year that goes with it. And everyone will tell you that 12 to 1 is a serious mismatch. Some would even call it a rout.

But I feel great, in a way that I never did in the late 80s, or the 90s, or the aughts, or the first year or two of this decade. Watching TV doesn’t mean a beer has to be in my hand. In fact, I’ve pretty much given up TV watching, which I also feel great about.

I can now go into a restaurant or a bar, order a diet Coke, and feel like nobody cares what I’m drinking. The truth is that nobody does care, and if they do care, they need to think about more important things than what I put into my body.

I’m not saying, directly or indirectly, that drinking is bad. The whole “sermonizing dry drunk” label does not apply to me. Alcohol was a long-time companion for me, but it was never my friend. And now I can live just fine without it.

I wish I had never started in the first place, but teenage culture and alcohol go hand-in-bottle. Just like nobody starts smoking after they turn 18, it’s silly to think that nobody takes a drink until they’re 21, either.  By 21, you’ve already developed a taste for it, and you don’t have to worry about getting busted for it anymore. That was my experience, anyway.

My teen years and college days were like an alcoholic training camp, and by 21 I was ready to turn pro. And it wasn’t until my 40s that I realized what a dumb move this was. The damage has been done, and the money isn’t coming back, but at least I’ve earned the right to celebrate my new direction in life.

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