ALCOHOL AND ME
Never mind proper grammar…‘me vs. I.’
It’s about me.
Alcohol and me.
A marriage made in heaven, till heaven turned to hell.
And it’s about a story to tell; so predictable, yet still so unique.
Unique to me; my story.
We were fast friends for more than fifty years.
And I certainly am not here to proselytize; no empty soap box rhetoric from me either.
If nothing else, I am consistent.
As consistent as the day is long.
I loved to drink, period.
I liked the taste, the smell and the ambience.
The social aspect.
Everything about it, really.
I knew from an early age that it very well could kill me.
And it almost did…
When I was an eighteen-year-old freshman in college, I looked in the bathroom mirror, an ice-cold bottle of Schlitz Draught in my hand, and prayed to God that I wouldn’t become an alcoholic.
You see, I knew it then; I liked it too much.
And my tolerance was too great for my own good.
No future in it, really.
But that didn’t deter me, and it most certainly didn’t stop me.
Nope, I thought I knew better.
I was convinced, actually.
After all, I was always in tip-top condition–that was forever critically important to me.
As central to my being as consuming alcohol was.
Exercise was an obsession, a compulsion…and the great panacea.
Eat too much?
Drink too much?
Not a problem.
I’ll sweat it out, in some form or fashion, early tomorrow.
And I did.
And then, I’d do it all over again.
For more than 50 years.
There but for the grace of God go I.
I’m a very lucky man, indeed.
Because were it not for God recently instilling his raw fear in me by ensuring that I look death square in the eye, I wouldn’t be where I find myself today.
It’s remarkable really.
Not ever did I envision this unfolding as it has.
Lightbulb moments led to it, none bigger than when I knew I would meet my maker if I didn’t change my behavior.
Never before was I willing to accept this notion as real.
Others around me were accepting of it, but I was not.
Then the lightbulb shone.
And it shone brightly.
No soft, warm or natural white light here.
This was a searing, white-hot, suffocatingly blinding light which could morph into a volcanic molten eruption, seemingly upon command…
My brother died.
And I was soon to become a grandfather for the first time.
A window appeared.
A narrow window of time, but a window just the same.
This was it…finally.
I had an opportunity to do something momentous.
Please, make no mistake.
During my drinking life I had voluntarily stopped several times, for lengthy periods.
But in the back of my mind, I knew I would drink again.
Forget about the well-documented inherent progressiveness of the disease.
That meant little to me.
It would be different for me.
Or so I thought.
At long last I came to grips with the inescapable fact that I couldn’t win.
And I was losing big.
Not today, anyway.
I’m better off without my lifelong partner.
And as importantly, so are those around me.
It took a long time to chip away at that rock hard shell of selfishness which embraces every excessive drinker.
The trick is to keep chipping.
Neither Rome nor teetotalism were built overnight.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in November 2023.]