“God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, Courage to change the blah blah blah.” How many times have I said this prayer? How did I get here in this room with these delinquents and hooligans? I came from a good home with good morals and yet here I sit listening to a group of degenerates compete against each other to see who has the most tragic origin story. In tragic irony I always bring a flask with me to get through this mandated torture; I could never get through this sober. If I really try to recall I can’t accredit any one person for my drinking. Even from an early age I knew full well that drinking alcohol was “bad”, but is it? There are so many stigmas and social connotations mixed in with the act of drinking that to actually say drinking is bad with conviction most likely means one of following three things, either you have had healthy but reclusive life void of trauma, bad parents, and negative influencers (most likely the offspring of a pastor or any other religious leader,) you have had a terrible personal experience that has forever put you off from the whole idea of alcohol consumption, or you have never had a sip of alcohol in your life. Fortunately, I at one point was a part of each one of these groups and yet here I am; a high functioning alcoholic married to the idea that drinking alcohol is one of the most profound life choices a person can make. This Is going to be a long and dreadful meeting and I’ve got nothing better to do so I’m here to tell you about how learning how to drink changed my life for better or worse.
It started the same way most habitually learned things start; keen observation at a young impressionable age. Mom’s glass of wine, Dad’s fourth tall can of Budweiser, and James Bond’s “medium vodka dry martini stirred not shaken” were my sources of what I believed drinking should look like. At weddings we kids would pretend the sparkling cider was our champagne and apple juice was our scotch whiskey. It was so casual, I don’t think anyone in my family believed drinking alcohol was anything to be cautious about. At every family function it would just be a necessary element required for merriment; the essentials on our party shopping lists were: balloons, cake, food, and beer, and the other three were flexible. I remember my dad and uncles asking me to run over to the cooler to grab them a beer, and I would run as fast as I could, excited to be of service to the grownups. I lifted that cheap white plastic cooler lid, and rummaged through the drinks; one third of the cooler consisted of sodas, (which us kids were limited to only one to drink with our food) and the other two thirds of the other cooler consisted of crappy beer of which most of the adults were about three or four cans deep. It wasn’t a complex or something to think about it was just a way of life; just like school or growing up in general, eventually at some point we would graduate from one side of the cooler to the other. I ran back to bring the beer to the grownups and they’d thank me with a pat on the head or a hug and if I was really fishing for gratitude, I’d crack it open for them. I Loved to please them and I knew that the more of those cans they had the happier, louder, and funnier they got. Sometimes just to capitalize on my momentum I would take sips from their beer hoping they would catch me and yell at me in a comedic way, and I’d run off jauntily, feeling accomplished for having made a grownup laugh.
I wish I could recollect the first time I had a full real drink to myself, but after sneaking so many sips off of various people over the years and becoming acclimated to the bitter, once disgusting taste of alcohol, my first drink went by unceremoniously. I do however remember the first time I got drunk. ‘Twas a night like any other, my 13-year-old self procrastinating on my evening’s homework doing literally anything else to keep me away from my backpack. In walks my sister with her then boyfriend (my now brother-in-law) carrying a case of Coronas and a bottle of Silver Patrón. “What are you up to?” she asked, which was very out of the ordinary given the fact that I was born to be her archenemy and typically she would just ignore my presence, but tonight she came to me with a highly intoxicating olive branch. “Nothing!” I warily exclaimed, still skeptical of her intensions. “Wanna come with us to the Jacuzzi?” she asked “Okay!” what are you doing you idiot? It’s obviously a trap, but I hastily changed into my swimming trunks and joined the couple in the Jacuzzi. The evening was the perfect cold, plumes of vapor rolled off the surface of the water, and the night sky was full of constellations; I dipped my feet into the scalding water, shock from the heat shot up my legs to my lower spine. My sister turned toward me, three unsealed beers in hand, “here take one.” I looked at her hesitantly for a moment, then I snatched a cold one from her grip. I lifted the beer up to my lips ready to take a swig and my sister stopped me. “Wait wait wait!” My sister turned towards me again and handed me an empty shot glass, she then proceeded to fill the glass with Silver, nose hair curling, Patrón. On the surface I looked calm and ready, but my mind was shitting bricks. I’ve had a shot or two before but never one this big or this full, my sister filled this thing to the brim; it looked like a damn infinity pool. My sister, lime wedge in hand, then turned towards her boyfriend and myself one last time “Okay ready?” fuck no I thought, “Yeah cheers!” We tilted our heads and glasses back and down went the poison; the burn was delayed by a few seconds, just long enough for my brain to tell me okay bye buddy see you in the morning! The rest of the night raced by. I remember getting out of the jacuzzi and tripping over an ice bucket, but regaining my composure like a champ. My sister and her boyfriend kept telling me I was going to sleep really well, but when I crawled into bed and all I could think was oh shit my ceiling is spinning really fast. I closed my eyes and the spinning turned into a gentle rocking that lulled me to sleep. That night is among the top five fondest memories with my sister.
Fast forward about eight years or so and we happen upon the scenario that landed me into this shitty situation where I now sit in the back of a room with my laptop writing about the very thing that this meeting is about; Alcohol and its effects on our lives. The day I was arrested for driving under the influence (that’s a DUI for those of you who don’t know how to reconstruct an acronym) happened as stupidly as any incident could happen so I’ll keep it brief. I remember it was my friend Anthony’s birthday that night and I refused to go because he was hosting his festivities in the heart of a downtown club area that was riddled with cops, on a Friday night no less (plus I hate clubs). I received several phone calls and texts from people who were celebrating with him telling me that the birthday boy was a wreck crying, vomiting, and asking about where I was. I didn’t want to leave him high and dry so I drove down to the club to pick him up. Now this is where things got stupid on my part. Whilst at the club I found the birthday boy with bottle of cheap vodka in hand guilting me into taking a birthday shot with him. I saw the bottle and realized I wasn’t going to be able to leave until that thing was empty and he had nothing left to drink, So I did what any logical alcoholic would do, I bottomed up the bottle at drained the last three or four shots into my system. Keep in mind that by this by this age I was already a pretty seasoned drinker so four shots was a cake walk. The birthday boy cheered and then slung on to me like a wounded soldier “Let’s go I’ll drop you off” I told him. I ushered my friend out of the club Saving Private Ryan style, and after several minutes of heaving I tossed him into my car. We must’ve been about five hundred feet away from the freeway entrance when my jackass of a friend slurs, “I’m gonna throw up.” He then opened the car door while we were in motion. I slammed on the breaks yelling “Anthony stop!” and pulled him back into the car; lo and behold two cars behind me was a California High Way Patrol squad car. The red and blue lights of liberty flashed behind me, I pulled the car into a gas station, and parked. I turned to look towards Anthony my eyes exhausted from the night’s bullshit and said, “Anthony were going to jail.” The cops tapped on my window, did their physical sobriety tests (all of which I passed), they then proceeded to the breathalyzer which dinged me at a .08 on the dot.
Wow, writing this really makes me relive the feelings, the frustration, the disbelief, the coldness of the hand cuffs around my wrists, and the uncomfortable plastic seats in the back of the CHP squad car. I remember thinking at least we’re going to jail together but nope. I watch handcuffed from the back of a squad car window as my friend Anthony stepped out of my car on his own and got to go to the hospital where he had a cozy bed and breakfast with an IV drip in his arm to alleviate his hangover, whereas I got to spend the night in a freezing cold drunk tank. The cops took my pants and shoes, and there I sat with about nine other lost souls wishing I could have another bottle of that cheap disgusting vodka to make this night disappear. There was a single wall-less toilet in the center of our drunk cell that was probably riddled with more disease than the floor of a beach bathroom; I figured I would never go to jail again after this experience so might as well make the most of it. I got up from my dreary little cell corner, walked over to the toilet, pulled my boxers dawn, and with the spotlight shining on my member and myself I took the most cathartic piss of my life. I knew this bad time had to come to an end somewhere and it would later become a story for others to enjoy or shake their head at.
That’s what drinking gave me, stories, probably some of the biggest stories I have in my collection. Some of these stories are bad and some are good the interpretation is up to you, but one thing they all share is that they are all impactful moments that never would have happened had I not learned how to drink. That’s what drinking gave these people in my AA (alcoholics anonymous) meeting, even though everyone here is fighting for the title of saddest sob story drinking brought them here, and gave them an audience. Even though I dread the psychological narcissism that is being fed here there is no place I’d rather be than in this seat sipping from my whiskey flask in the back of this room listening to stories about abusive parents and cheating girlfriends. Go ahead judge me, Ernest Hemingway is famously accredited for saying, “Write drunk, edit sober.” So, I’d like to raise my whiskey flask in recognition, here’s to my childhood influencers, here’s to jail and my shit friend Anthony, here’s to Ernest Hemingway, and here’s to me thanks for all the impactful memories, cheers, you sons of bitches.