A Drinking Story


What’s Your Story?

Mine runs something like this: I had a great childhood, though I grew into an anxious adolescent. By high school, I was pretty much OK. Going to college, however — that place of higher learning — changed that.

I hadn’t experienced much of the drinking culture in my small hometown. Instead, I jogged and played tennis and painted and went to movies. I was shocked at first, and then gradually drawn in to the almost nightly ritual of going out. The habit of drinking instead of doing other things was formed here, as was the feeling of being truly lost. The two went together, although I couldn’t see it at the time.

If life can be described as navigating a river, then I started to hit the occasional rapid. Sometimes it was exhilarating — flailing about in the raft, trying to get myself back into the flow of the river, and sometimes it was scary, not knowing what might happen next. Sometimes, without warning, I was thrown from the raft completely. Then life became more like survival.

Still, for most of the journey, I traveled with everyone else on the river, especially with other fun people with floating coolers. You can go a lot of places with these people. You can tie your raft to theirs. You can ride the rapids together. You can befriend them, marry them, and have children together. Then you won’t feel so alone — so afraid when the next rapid hits.

So the end of the story goes like this: I went in way over my head eventually, and began to experience some near-drownings. But as is the nature of addiction, I was less afraid of the dark swirling water when I had alcohol flowing through my veins. Soon, I had to drink during the calm parts of the river, just to anesthetize myself from the stress of being out of control. I was no longer sure where I was headed. Part of me didn’t care.

But as luck would have it, I began to link the rough waters and terror and loss of control with the alcohol itself, and not the river. I began to see what a mind-game the whole thing was — drinking to prevent or survive the effects of drinking. I recognized this, and could talk a good game about why I needed to quit. But I didn’t quit for long.

After decades of living like this, slowly making my way downstream, I could see the foreshadowing of how one might die while drinking on the river. It would happen sooner or later, either by declining health or by being flung one last time into the cold, rushing water. And on some deep level — one that barely registered in my wine-addled brain — I knew the choice of how the story ended was mine.

23 thoughts on “A Drinking Story

  1. So true! It’s like there is a societal denial about what alcohol does to the body and soul. I’ve had several friends quit smoking but only one has quit drinking. (Not counting the friends I made through sobriety.) I now just say “no thanks” when someone offers me a drink. I don’t really give them time to ask questions because I launch into what I do want. “Tea would be great.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your analogy, a river is always constant and yet never the same. It is different for everyone even if they travel the river at the same time. Some of us travel the same parts of the river over and over – it too is the same but yet different. Far, far downriver, if we are bold enough to imagine, there is the inevitable waterfall that awaits those of us foolish enough to continue. The waterfall is silent through most of our journey, however, when we first start to hear its dull roar in the background, we aren’t even sure what it is. As we get closer and closer, the dull roar gets louder and louder, but we can’t see the relentless pounding of water onto the boulders, we can only hear its deafening crescendo drowning out any other sound, including our own screaming. We must end this journey, or the journey will end us.
    Peace and strength,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “We must end this journey, or the journey will end us.” So true! I used to think this was an exaggeration, but as I’ve been reading, heavy drinkers (meaning more than one drink a day!) are much more likely to die young of cancer or other related diseases. To me, these people should be labeled consistent drinkers instead of heavy drinkers. Dear God! They call that heavy drinking?
      As you pointed out, the journey is deceptive. The waterfall is always somewhere in the future. You don’t have to deal with it right now. You tell yourself you’ll change before it’s too late. Then you find out it’s getting later and later.
      I love the deafening crescendo because it really is like a house of cards. Pull the wrong one out and your life implodes.
      Great comment, George!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! I love the similarities of the stories pre-sobriety! I can see something of myself in all of them. I like your thoughts that you were less afraid of tihngs with alcohol flowing in your veins. I would add that I was more afraid of NOT drinking than almost anything. Powereful elixer! Thanks for your posts…they encourage me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure I would have been in great, drunken peril as a teenager had I gone river tubing 😬. Somehow I do remember skinny dipping in the pitch dark en drunken masse…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hee hee! That’s hilarious. I’m just picturing this masse of drunken people running for the water. I went to a sandbar party, where after drinking all afternoon, we were stranded as the tide came in, our boat having left us there. It was actually kind of scary.


  4. Wow, this is an amazing piece of writing! So descriptive…I especially love the paragraph about drinking in the calm parts of the river. Perfect storytelling, my friend!

    Oh, and not to minimize the value of the story being told. I love your story:)


  5. I enjoyed your post. My favorite takeaway is
    ‘Heavy drinking should be called consistent drinking’ —because we all know where
    Consistent drinking leads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joy! I was a consistent drinker for a long time before it became a real “problem.” But consistency is key when it comes to creating those pleasure pathways in the brain. It took a while to undo the whole process. : (


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