My drinking years—the latter days

When I started college in 1967, my new friends were light drinkers, so I became a light drinker. When I transferred to another school three years later, this situation continued, not because I had grown in virtue but because I wasn’t ready to make my own decisions based upon my own values. I’m not even sure I had values, although I was certainly overwhelmed by feelings that pointed in the direction of values. For example, I felt that the universe had special plans for me, and that they would be realized without any great effort on my part. I also felt that everything I had ever heard about God was a lie, including his existence. You will note that the first feeling necessitated belief in an extremely powerful entity that controlled my destiny, whereas the second feeling denied the existence of that same entity. So have I ever lived, unable to go in one direction but equally unable to go in another.

A month after I finished college, I began to feel tired and feverish, and dropped from 165 pounds to 130. My doctor concluded that the problem was imaginary, and since I believed that doctors were geniuses, I kept going back to him for another try at being taken seriously. When I finally turned yellow, I was thrilled because I figured that this would get his attention, and it did. I probably had hepatitis, and I probably got it from a girl, but liver testing was still primitive, so I can’t say for sure. In any event, I got well while lying around the hospital awaiting a diagnosis. Maybe I needed the rest. My illness had forced me to quit my first teaching job; I had no prospects and no place to live (I was still in the dorm); and I was getting married in three months to Peggy whom I had met two months earlier.

After my illness, I got drunk so infrequently and my hangovers were so horrific that I probably remember every occasion. On one of them, I drove my father for a visit with my sister and her cotton-ginner husband near Tallulah, Louisiana, some hundred miles distant. We three men took a one-night camping trip upon which we mostly drank. When the two of them went back to drinking the next morning, I told my father that I either needed to sober up, or we needed to plan on spending the night at my sister’s. He said we could stay, but when nighttime came, he wanted to go home. I reminded him of his agreement, and he said that, by god, if I wasn’t man enough to drive, he was. When I objected, he set out walking—or at least it looked a little like walking. While my sister and brother-in-law went to fetch him, I prepared as best I could for our drive across the battlefields of the Old South.

My last drunk occurred in the early eighties when Peggy and I stopped off somewhere on our way to an overnighter with Peggy’s teetotaling parents some fifty miles distant. My first trick was to stagger into their house and vomit on their bed—the evening went downhill from there. Doris and Earl no doubt rued the day that their daughter met me, but as my mother used to say about my sister's husband, “Well, at least he doesn’t beat her.”

That night was the end of my heavy drinking, not because I was overcome with shame—which I wasn’t—but because I couldn’t handle the hangovers anymore. I’ve rarely had more than three drinks at a time in the decades since then, and seldom that many. As I write, I have wine, beer, and even some 190 proof (leftover from a marijuana tincture) in the pantry, but I long ago lost most of my interest in the effects of liquor. I don't miss it.

24 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've probably acted as a moron more than once on alcohol, but it was really the only thing that gave me much effect. the biggest effect of marijuana is just to make me sleepy. I'm sure it's a matter of one person's biochemistry as opposed to another's.

Mad Mind said...

I stopped having more than one at a time long ago. I found that being the only one who would get up with the kids in the morning made me feel miserable. It just wasn't worth it anymore. I've been happy with that decision ever since.

Kay Dennison said...

I can relate. I look back to my 60s college days and can honestly admit that I majored in beer. I'll spare you the gory details. It took me a long time to outgrow it. I rarely drink at all these days.

Snowbrush said...

"the biggest effect of marijuana is just to make me sleepy."

You know, Charles, according to the U.S. government, today's marijuana is three times stronger than the marijuana of twenty years ago. About this, at least, they are telling the truth. What difference that might make in its effect on you is unknown, but I just want you to know that you're effectively comparing baby aspirin to Percocet when you're discussing the marijuana of yesterday. One-hit pot used to be legendary; now it's the norm.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

'alcohol just makes me act like a moron. '

You are not alone there!

The Elephant's Child said...

I miss marijuana. I used it a lot while I was at college but after my second dose of glandular fever in a year I wanted to puke any time I smelled marijuana. If I smoked it or ate it I did puke.

Watching my mother who was an alocoholic put me off that too. I do drink wine but very, very rarely more than one. Afraid of turning into my mother I think.
Apparently marijuana is good for MS pain too. I do get the odd twinge of jealousy when you tell us the difference it has made. I am glad that you get the relief, I would just like some as well.

Sidney said...

I tend to drink only on weekends and limit it to gourmet beer or the occasional martini.

PhilipH said...

I would like to try a funny-ciggy but the availability is scarce. I hope to find somebody who can supply a small amount before I am "past it" - so to speak.
Alcohol. Yes, I guess a huge majority have tried it. I am now a very occasional drinker, and, like you Snowy, I can no longer imbibe more than a small amount.
I have one lasting memory of being on duty at RAF Hospital Wegberg in Germany (1953/4) unable to get home on leave that Xmas. Had a real mad session in my quarters with four other chaps, drinking a lot of spirits: Steinhager (a sort of gin in a stone bottle) Scotch, Rum, and other stuff. All I can recall is tipping the remains from each bottle into a flask, shaking it up and swallowing the lot. I was 19 - and stoooopid! Could've died. Was like death warmed up for the next day. It put me off getting pissed ever again, which is good. It means I can ENJOY the odd tipple.

Kendal said...

I haven't drank in over 17 years. When I think of the stupid things I did, well they are not pleasant memories at all. Now when I see people drinking I feel sad for them, not the social drinkers, but the ones that are staggering all over the place.

Then ecstasy took alcohol place. We didn't do it often, Reggie on the River, the Renaissance faire. It was fun for awhile, but then that to stopped.

It's no wonder my body started attacking itself. I'm paying for a lifetime of abusing my body. Like you I knew something was wrong, but all my Dr did was treat the pain. Finally when we got transferred to Federal Way I found a Dr who sent me to a specialist and I found my answers. I try to take care of myself, eat better, exercise, but the stress of J not finding a job and the UE benefits are gone at the end of this month.

Anyway thanks for sharing your story Snow.

Beau's Mom said...

I love your writings, although I don't envy the life you lived in order to be able to write about everything I know nothing about.

My dad gave me my first taste of whiskey when I was eight years old. He said "Do you like it?"

I said "YUCK!"

He said: "Remember that taste. If you ever WANT to drink, come to me and I will let you drink at home."

People would now turn him into CPS, but his intelligence rivals that of present day watchdogs.

The taste was so revolting that I never drank and didn't consider it a big deal like the friends I had who thought they were getting away with something.

And here I am at age 62 and just want something of value for my physical maladies. But thanks to the moral watchdogs, I must fear for my life if I ever find even a dab of marijuana to try.

Myrna R. said...

I find your experience with drugs interesting. I'm sorry I can't relate. For whatever reason drugs including alcohol, have never attracted me much. I do drink wine though.

I thought of you the other day. I'm on jury duty. I was not selected though. Probably because I know many people in law enforcement. And also possibly because I said I think marijuana should be legalized. The trial was for a drug dealer.

Have a great week. Enjoy Valentine's with Peggy.

Cloudia said...

Recent studies on Psilocybin showed that one dose could cure depression for 6 months or more!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

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Snowbrush said...

"I find your experience with drugs interesting. I'm sorry I can't relate."d

I'm not sorry; I'm excited and even a little honored that you're interested.

"Recent studies on Psilocybin showed that one dose could cure depression for 6 months or more!"

I know, but you need to take a moderate to high dose of it to get that effect, and no one should do that on their first use of the drug because its impact varies so much from one person to another. Also, you get stomach cramps and throw-up, plus it can induce a potentially permanent psychosis (the drug trip is itself a temporary psychosis), so you want to put your toe in the water for sure before taking a flying leap with this baby. If I could start out slow and work my way up with it in a protected setting with people whom I trusted to the core, I would do it, but I've had marijuana put me over the edge so many times that I'm reluctant to make a return to strong hallucinogens without a lot of backup.

Snowbrush said...

"My dad gave me my first taste of whiskey when I was eight years old. He said "Do you like it?"

I said "YUCK!'"

Mine did that too, but after the yuck, I had the thought that drinking whiskey was a very sophisticated and adult thing to do, and I was bound to get on with doing it.

Putz said...

i don't and never have drunk alcohol, i do induldge in chot hotlet buttermilk, love milkshakes and just recently dropped cola's from my life both sugar free and sugar

Deb said...

Wow, what an experience you've had. I can only say this: my very last hangover made me realize that yes -- I can die from this, which is why I stopped binge drinking and just stuck with my wine with dinner or an occasional drink. My last hangover almost made me call 911. What more could I have said other than, "I need a drip - I drank too much." They would have laughed at me. From that awful experience, it has scared me to drink in excessive, so I can't. I won't. I don't. Thankfully for that last hangover, I know I'm in control. I'm glad you came out okay and learned from it all. Most either learn from it all, or end up worse off, sadly.

Thanks for sharing this. I needed to read this. :)

ladyfi said...

I have a wee nip of whisky every now and then, or maybe a glass of champagne at New Year... but that's all. I don't miss it either.

Zuzana said...

I used to drink a lot more when I lived on my own. It was the a way I relaxed and would wind down.;) Today it is obvious to me that it was also a way to forget my troubles. Although I never really got too drunk.;)
Today drinking is to me more about sharing occasionally a bottle of wine with someone special. Not any longer about forgetting something, but about remembering it.;)
xoxo

rhymeswithplague said...

I may be crazy, but didn't you have another post up and didn't I comment on it and hasn't the whole shebang now been removed?

Snowbrush said...

"didn't you have another post up
and didn't I comment on it
and hasn't the whole shebang now been removed?"

Yes. Yes. Yes. I was uncertain about it, so I saved it as a draft not knowing that all the comments would be lost. I also chopped the end off this post because it seemed to me to take off at something of a tangent, but I'm still not happy with it.

Kerry said...

Alcohol is a dangerous companion. I have to watch myself.

Brianne said...

Yes, we've all had a hard row to hoe. Our reputations have preceeded us on too many occasions; yet we remembered nothing of the sort. Youth is wasted on the young? Or, really, was it just the damn drunken episodes and hangovers that could have been avoided? It is as we get old that we try so hard to shake that habit or try to help others do the same... But, you do have some stories to tell! Today, may you have a different high to relax in. Peace.

Ed Pilolla said...

drinking stories can be funny, especially buried in the past. this sentence, the jewel, cracked me up: my first trick was to stagger into their house and vomit on their bed-- the evening went downhill from there.
that's just good writing.

Snowbrush said...

"my first trick was to stagger into their house and vomit on their bed-- the evening went downhill from there.
that's just good writing. "

Thanks, Ed, I really appreciate that.