Years ago watching M*A*S*H I learned the expression "on the wagon". Though it sounds a bit strident, it's been an effective description of my life for a while. A little over two years ago I decided that getting into the jars at home some evenings and weekends was a bad idea for my bottom line and my waistline, and probably opened the door to real dependency down the road. So I packed it in, at least at home, August a couple years back. I had a roommate subletting my spare room at the time who was, and is, a guy who likes to blow off steam when he's not at work, but he kept it to his room so it wasn't the issue or temptation I thought it would be.
Oddly enough, he had some friends he remarked were just coming off a year of self-imposed sobriety, and I started wondering if I could do that. I'd noticed, since giving up drinking at home, that I was making a real effort to get friends to go out with me. I started wondering if that was more about giving myself an excuse to drink. So, just before Christmas, I decided to see if I could go a year without. I knew it was likely a friend of mine from New England would be visiting and would want to just relax, so I built in a no-fault hop-off-the-wagon-then-get-back-on exemption. He visited Labour Day weekend, and I had five beers, and that was it. I was worried it would be the start of getting back into old habits, but it wasn't. It went to plan. Actually, it was kind of surprising because, truth be told, I didn't really enjoy it. I didn't say anything to my visitor, but it wasn't as fun as I'd expected. I was a little puzzled by that but I figured it was just some kind of anomaly.
I've had a lot of issues with feline health since then that upset me and keep adding to my debt. Twinkle and Max have died after short, serious illnesses. Bonnie's had a couple of issues just in the past week or so that concern me and have been moderately costly, though she herself seems fine... they're just things I've noticed that have required upsetting her by dragging her to the vet and having little bits of her cut off and sent away to be examined. Anyway, it's been enough that lately I've really been itching to just have a few relaxing drinks. I nearly caved while visiting a friend I was helping move, but I knew I had to drive so I figured, nah. This weekend, though, I decided it was time to exercise my right as an adult to choose.
I told P-Doug I'd like to get together at the Bishop and the Belcher and just have a few beers on Saturday. I was thinking three or four pints over the course of the afternoon. It's always been a great place to relax; sunlit, quiet, comfortable, and there are games. We actually played Trivial Pursuit for the first time instead of just firing the questions back and forth. Anyway, his beer consumption's really dropped off since mine went to nil; I don't think I've seen him have more than two pints at a sitting in about two years; so he was fine with doing the driving.
So, there I was. I ordered a pint of Blue. Start with the familiar. I was really waiting for that "DING!" and the whole "aaahhhh" feeling when I took the first gulp, but I didn't really get that. That pint lasted about 45 minutes, I guess. About 2/3 of the way though I started getting that soft, kind of mellow feeling, but it went away again. I thought, that wasn't so hot. I'll order some more interesting draughts for the next few. Next I went with Keith's Red, which I've always considered one of my faves, though it's a bit heavy so I only like it a pint at a time. Got into that one, and it was half way through it that the revelation came.
I'm not enjoying this. I'm really not. I don't like the taste of this. In fact, it's medicinal. It makes me think of mouthwash. It's heavy, and I feel a little bloated. Did I ever really like this, or was this something I just endured to get to the euphoria?
And that was it. Told him I wasn't really getting anything enjoyable out of the beer, and I was switching to coffee. He polished off his pint, ate the orange wedge that came with it, and ordered coffee too.
I'd had it in the back of my mind that if it went well I might excuse myself once, get a small 6 oz bottle of rum, and treat myself to a Sunday afternoon just relaxing with a few Cuba Libres and old episodes of From the Earth to the Moon. Suddenly that looked like a sad waste of a day on a few levels. I ended up going out, videoing a few country roads that will, soon enough, be four- and six-lane suburban thoroughfares, and then driving down to P-Doug's place to help him clean up his leaves, and talking politics with him at a Tim Horton's over coffee for a couple of hours afterwards. No regrets at all; I got a couple of somethings done, even if they were for other people, now and in the future.
Well, I can't say I'll never drink again. I can think of some social occasions where I will, and I think I'd still do that $10-for-four-4 oz-beer-samples thing in Kitchener in the summer. What I can say is that, at least for the moment, I'm disinclined to. You might think that would be a kind of happy thing, and I guess to some extent it is, but I also feel like I've lost something I used to have in reserve. You know, anytime I really wanted to, I could just phone up booze and it would come over and give me that nice warm hug. That I could just hit that button whenever it suited me. The button's still there; drink enough and it'll do the trick, I'm sure... but it's harder to find the button now and more to the point, it's become a disagreeable chore actually punching it. I hopped off the wagon again, didn't care for the feel of the road, and decided to go back to riding. I'm rather surprised that I seem to have lost the taste for it, but there it is.