Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fell Off the Wagon This Weekend...

You know, I once had a serious problem with booze. We're not talking about the kind of drinking one might call "social", but with the kind one typically associates with "Jesus Christ, this guy has a Death Wish" drinking. I pretty much spent my 20's in an alcoholic swirl, and looking back on it all, I'm surprised I even lived through it. Back in those days, it was nothing to put away a fifth of Canadian Club, or spend a day with my Best Friends -- Jack, Jim, and Old Grandad. Once I had discovered the Joys of the Margarita (the straight-up kind, with a salted glass, and not that girly, frozen shit), I can promise you that I had nights where how I managed to get home safely was a complete mystery -- it's almost as if I just pointed the car in the right direction and it found it's own way home. I once actually set a Tavern record and downed 18 whiskey highballs in one sitting...and still drove home that night.

Yes, there was plenty of drunk driving in those days, too (no accidents, though). In fact, I can tell you that I was given Field Sobriety Tests on at least four occasions -- and passed every one of them with flying colors, garnering little more than a warning to be careful, and I can't tell you how in the world I managed that. Every time I was under the impression that THIS time was the one where they finally would nail me, because even I had to admit I was fucking soused. A night on the town routinely came with a minimum $300 bar tab, and I was on a first-name basis with about 50% of the bartenders in New York City. Drinking all night and then pulling a 12-hour workday tomorrow, with little more than 20 minutes of sleep and a shower, was not uncommon.

Of course, back then I didn't know about depression and obsessive compulsive disorders and their connection to/with alcoholism, and whatnot. I just felt jollier and more confident when I was plastered -- not to mention that I had suddenly became incredibly charming to the ladies -- and I was able to pull it all off. They call that being a "functioning alcoholic", and my level of "function" must have been off the charts. Until that one evening when I was about 27. That night is still a blur. All I remember is that I awoke, in the driver's seat, in my driveway, with the engine running, my foot on the brake, and the car in gear. I have no idea how long I had been sleeping in that precarious position. That and the intense pain in the middle of my forehead, like someone had driven a nail between my eyes, was enough to convince me that this was probably a good time to stop drinking.

And I did. Mostly. I never got totally smashed again, and I (almost) never went past four drinks a night ever again...except that week where I managed to keep an English country inn in business practically all by myself. But there was a wedding involved in that one, so...I pretty much kept booze, except for the occasional beer, or (more rarely) two or three drinks here-and-there, out of my life. That was before 9/11, of course, when the boozing started all over again, but was quickly reigned in once more because Vodka and Tonics don't play nicely with Xanax.

I hadn't had a serious bout of drinking for perhaps six, maybe seven years...until Saturday.

I was invited to backyard barbecue by one of my sister's neighbors. It turns out that I had been invited because I make the best fucking sangria you've ever tasted in your entire life. And it's true: I can make a sangria that would make a Spaniard cry and curse his Mother. The ladies at this party had a taste for Sangria, and one of my sister's friends remarked that "no one does it like Matt...call him!", and off I went to mix up five gallons of the stuff for them.

That's where it started. One of the problems with making a really good Sangria is all the tasting you invariably need to do to get it just right. Particularly when you use my recipe, which calls for a generous dose of brandy. Anyways, as soon as I showed up, I was handed a beer, which somehow became six or seven. Then it was Sangria, again, another six or seven large cups. I should have stopped right there, but they broke out the schnapps and assorted liqueurs, and I was pretty much wasted and not even thinking about it. I must have done another four or five shots of Who-The-Fuck-Knows after that. The walk --more like a zig-zag stagger home -- thankfully short, must have looked like an old-time game of Frogger to an outside observer.

And for the first time in perhaps 20 years -- I was sicker than hell. Puking like a dog. Heaving so heavily that my abs still hurt two days later. Totally useless the next day, too, and unable to even look at food. I spent my 4th of July on my living room couch, gulping water and thinking "right now would be a good time for the Douchebag Police to come and shoot you, and put you out of your misery, Dumbass." I was ashamed of myself, and mightily pissed...I should know better. My nephews saw the whole thing, and they thought their drunken Uncle was something funny. Some example I set, huh? The oldest decided to be a wiseass and ask me how my old behind handled my hangover. That made me even more embarrassed and pissed off. They look up to me, and I love the shit out of them; they should not have seen any of that. I let them down.

The next time someone asks me to make them some Sangria, I'm telling them to take a long walk on a short pier (I'll just give them the fucking recipe and wish them luck). I was offered a beer today -- temps hit high 90's, and, boy, would that have been good! -- and politely refused. I'm thinking I'm going to need a month to recover from Saturday, and I'm not taking anything harder than a Coke, if I can help it, from now on.

I'm getting too old for this shit.

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