Gingerly stepping back from the brink

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I still remember that fall-off-the-wagon drink. It was at the finish of the first Belgian Waffle Ride. After three years of abstinence it was the best thing I’ve ever had, before or since.

The way the cold ale rolled down my throat was unforgettable, every nerve in my body poised and prepped and quivering to receive that alcohol buzz, the buzz that turned into a roar, and the roar that turned into obliteration. That was 2012, and a lot of bottles have been emptied since then.

My life with alcohol was never very exceptional. Everyone in my family drank. Everyone except me. We never had DUI’s, or drunken family punchouts, but there always seemed to be a pretty solid buzz going on almost anytime after five o’clock.

Alcohol didn’t mix with me because I didn’t like the taste; it was pretty simple. When I lived in Germany, the first day there a friend got me drunk on Kolsch and the next morning I vomited all over the bus stop. So, no more Kolsch. Then a friend invited me to her vacation home in Bernkastel, and she introduced me to German white wine. That, I liked. I was 25, and had gone through college never having had a beer or a hangover.

When we moved to Japan in 1992 I gradually started drinking sake, and then wine, until I became like my Texas family. After work I’d flip the buzz switch, sit back, and get my obliteration on. It never took much. After one bottle of wine I would be blotto. Compared to heavy-hitting drunks, I’ve always been a lightweight.

Then I quit drinking for five years. It made my friends upset, and my wife even more so because when I’m sober I’m neither fun nor nice. Booze seems to be the only thing that brings out the fun in me, so after five years I began drinking again. Then I stopped for three years. Then … Belgian Waffle Ride, 2012.

That’s when I realized how perfectly bikes and beer complement each other. Some of the best days of my life have involved an arduous pedal followed by great beer. The exercise and dehydration accelerate the onrushing obliteration; it’s not Billy Joel’s “slowly get stoned,” it’s the body-wide thirst that screams “Love me with a hammer.” But looking around me, there appear to be a whole lot of people who know when to stop, as well as those who have simply stopped once and for all.

I really love alcohol. It makes me happy, it lets me forget, and most of all it makes me tolerable to others, until of course the inevitable happens and I’m sloshing around in some public place needing to be dragged out feet-first. Last night was one of those nights, and I got to put on a show in front of my 22-year-old son. I do remember there was pizza, and I do remember drunkenly howling that the U.S. Constitution only has 21 Amendments.

The next morning my son said, “Dad, I have a question.”

“Sure.”

“You’re almost 51, right?”

“Right.”

“And you’ve got lots of experience drinking, right?”

“Right.”

“And you know that if you drink ‘x ‘amount of beer, it’s going to result in ‘y’ behavior, right?”

“Right.”

“So why don’t you make sure that you stop drinking before it gets to ‘x’?”

“Well, it’s pretty simple.”

“What is it?”

“I have a drinking problem.”

“That’s not all you have.”

“No?”

“No,” he said. “If you’re willing to make the effort, you also have a drinking solution.”

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