Friday, July 11, 2008

Ah, Belikin

I'm doing pretty well on my goals this week, except for the drinking. I've met my workout goals, which makes me think I should up the goal to 4 per week. I probably should wait and see how it goes over the next few weeks though, so I don't set myself up for failure. I've watched less TV. I've read more. I'm still working on the negativity and the complaining about other people, though, especially in traffic. If Thumper is paying attention in the back seat, he's going to learn some real doozies of curse words to bust out on the Grandmas some day.

But really, drinking seems to be the toughest one for me. I don't [like to] think of myself as an alcoholic, because I function just fine. I don't miss work. I don't go into rages or beat my wife [because she'd kick my ass]. I get up every morning at 6:30 to take care of the boy. I mean, it has its negative effects on my life, but it's not ruining me. And I sure do like it.

I've been watching Alpha Dog on the treadmill the past couple of mornings, and there's a fifteen-year-old who goes to a party as a kind of guest of honor. Everybody knows him, everybody's his friend. He drinks, he smokes, he loses his virginity to two girls simultaneously after a rousing game of skinnydippin' Marco Polo. I watched it and thought, "That kid's doomed. He's going to spend the rest of his life chasing that moment, going from party to party trying to get it back, and it'll never be the same. But he'll keep on trying."

My first drink was a teaspoon of schnapps that Biggest Brother brought back from a year-long trip to Germany. He was eighteen; I was six. I remember that it was the most horrifying taste I'd ever had in my mouth. I thought that if this is what drinking is, I'm never going to do it. Why would anybody want to pour that toxic acid down his throat?

When I was fourteen, though, I took a two-week trip to Belize with my father and two other Boy Scouts. That trip was an [at the time] under-appreciated experience that really did open up my eyes about a lot of things. I learned that much of the world cares passionately about soccer, and we're the only ones who call it that. I learned that people live in crushing poverty and work back-breaking jobs. I learned that chicken necks in the stew can be a luxury brought out with pride and generosity for guests. I learned that treasures of the past aren't always preserved in museums; they sometimes rot away in the jungle far from the eyes of people. And the ones that are preserved in museums and private collections are sometimes there because they were stolen away illegally, for money. I learned that capitals can have dirt roads and open sewage canals. I learned what a junkie was.

But I also learned that not all nations have a drinking age. My father and I stayed with separate host families, so when the father of the host family asked me at dinner my first night if I'd like a beer, there was no one but me to say no. And I didn't. Belikin Beer was everywhere, and I drank as much of it as I could. And it was a wild time. I recall going to a party with my host brother, a party in a field on the edge of town. The people were so friendly and accepting of me. The music was pounding and joyful and alive. I remember lots of reggae and "Feeling Hot Hot Hot" sung by somebody other than Buster Poindexter. I remember saying no, thanks to the ganja and being afraid that people would laugh at me, but they didn't. I recall being told that I got my companions and I kicked out of a nightclub, though I don't remember that at all. I remember running through streets laughing while someone far behind us yelled and yelled about how he was going to shoot the white boys up with heroin, shoot them up right in their heads.

There were so many things about that trip that we did sober that were the best times of my life: swimming in a blue hole in the jungle, with no one else around; picking burlap sacks full of oranges, then eating them in the back of our broken-down truck, waiting for help and reading Oscar Wilde aloud to each other; hiking to Mayan ruins and watching the Belizean Boy Scouts hack up a huge python with their ubiquitous machetes; playing pool and drinking Coke from glass bottles; watching A Cry in the Dark in Spanish at the movie theater, along with a variety of kung fu movies. But to be honest, it was the drinking that really capped it for me. I felt more outside of myself, more a part of the world. And of course I [thought I] was doing it without my dad knowing, which had its own appeal.

So that was the beginning. I came home that summer and immediately fell in with the younger siblings of Big Brother's cool friends and the party circuit. By fifteen, harder drugs were in the mix, though it took me to seventeen to overcome my mother's warning that, because of the pneumonia I had when I was two, I'd die if I ever smoked. By the time I got to college, drinking was a well-ingrained habit. I used it to decompress during the days that I worked full-time and went to school full-time. I used it for the same purpose through some particularly rough marital troubles in the late '90's. And I can use just about any excuse at all to worry about it next week, or next month. So by the time I got to the point in my life where I don't think I need or want it as much, I'm pretty well-conditioned to do it anyway; there's an excuse.

Thumper woke up with a cold today, and he's way off his usual eating and sleeping schedule; there's an excuse. And if you drink on Wednesday and Thursday, you might as well drink on Friday; there's an excuse. And if you drink on Friday, Saturday's a goner, too. So I guess I'll applaud myself for my successes, not beat myself up too bad for my failings, and just keep trying. Now who wants a drink?


anniemcq said...

I love the story of your first drink(s). What a great experience to have (the whole trip) at that age. what a gift.

As far as quitting it a relaxant or anesthesia?

Just askin'.

Living In a Girl's World said...

My first real drink, other than the sips of my dad's beer when I was a little kid, was the summer I turned 14. I spent it with my dad's youngest brother (only 13 years old than me)and his family. They told me that they didn't mind because they were there and would keep me safe from myself. I don't drink regularly, maybe a glass a wine in a week. I have found that the stress of being full-time mom and wife, part-time worker, and (now) part-teacher, this stress, is sometimes abated with a glass of wine or a marguarita, and I can breathe again and be the person I know I am underneath the stress.

But, I can't have too much. I have an inner ear issue that messes with my equilibrium and it gets exacerbated by alcohol and too much caffeine, so I have to be careful.

I, Rodius said...

@anniemcq: sometimes one, sometimes the other.

@kirsten: one is never enough.

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