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My relationship with alcohol

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The short answer (tl:dr): my friends who drink think I'm extremely moderate and my friends who don't drink are incessantly worried about me. That said, I'm going to need to mostly give up drinking for health reasons, so I am just sorting out my relationship with the grape, the grain, the potato, and the cactus.

My relationship with alcohol

Taqueria el Poblano

This morning on 1A, while I was getting ready to visit my primary care physician for a 12:15 appointment, the second hour was a rebroadcast about drinking, A Public Radio Listener Walks Into A Bar: Your Stories About Drinking Alcohol (Rebroadcast). I was showering at the time and decided to write a series of short TinyLetter essays, crosspost to my blog, that would deal with my relationship with my primary vices and challenges. Since this show was on today and my parents were heavy drinkers, I thought I would noodle on my relationship with alcohol: 

The long ramble (tlr): I like drinking a bottle of Malbec or peppery Zinfandel once or twice a week. 750ml, beginning with dinner and then spanning the night. All in one extended sitting. Maybe, once a week, I'll drop by Taqueria el Poblano and, only if Thomas is there, I'll drop in and order a Tomtini from him. 

Tomtini is just a dry gin martini made by restaurant manager Tom. Two olives. That's a once-a-week or a once-a-month kind of thing. It's always based on the serendipity of seeing his white hair and mustache through the storefront as I walk past (and if the bar seating isn't too packed). If Earth Day Jason is there, I might get a tequila, sometimes two, but I am mostly a one and done.

One warning sign I have for myself is that I don't like to keep any wine, beer, or liquor in the house. But, that's also true with food. If I want a drink, I need to go out to buy one bottle of wine or one Tomtini; however, I do that with food as well. I am a human Cookie Monster. That might be closer to my mortal sin. Actually, deadly sins, as they will end up killing me, which is why I am writing this post and the series over the next few weeks.

I feel like I have Pride, Envy, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth under control, be it through discipline or through just getting older and having youthful hormones slowly abate—but Gluttony! Oh, Gluttony! Remind me to reach out to my dear and lovely friend Carrie Gress to ask her which Saints to pray to about Gluttony and how I should engage Our Lady when it comes to my Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Cookie Monster ways. All I know is that Saint John Vianney has a lot to say about the subject:
The saints never indulged themselves in the pleasures of good cheer. Their pleasure was to feed on Jesus Christ! Let us follow their footsteps on this earth, and we shall gain the crown which they have in Heaven.
Tough love! I think I need tough love. At today's doctor appointment, my Nurse Practitioner, Alice Greenwood, told me, in no uncertain terms, that 1) my gluttony is probably something I should get counsel on 2) if I chose between coffee and wine, I should choose coffee (I'll be doing a post on my relationship with coffee down the road), 3) that losing a healthy 45-50kg would probably be the best gift I could give to myself, and 4) the Gluttony is probably just a symptom of other stuff that a counselor would be really helpful with. Nurse Practitioner Greenwood, if you read this, you're very cool. Tough enough love; a firm enough touch: I hear you.

Now that I have worked through all of this, I think it's Gluttony first and an alcohol thing second. I have a friend who periodically abuses alcohol (he's been through so many deployments in service to our country) and, as penance, often will go cold turkey for six-months or a year; however, he has never overeaten. He routinely eats like a bird, never clearing his plate, leaving some very tasty bites behind. My friend Mark Harrison is like this, too.  The daintiest of portions, the pouring out of a stale bottle, the corking of a half-unfinished bottle of beer, and then holding on to prize bottles of whiskeys or a rare or prized bottle of wine for years or for a worthy event to celebrate. Neither Mark nor my other friend suffers from any version of Gluttony; in fact they're both extremely Proud and Lustful. So, I guess we all got our own cross to bear.

My friends who don't drink do drink, but they never casually drink the way everyone I know in the UK and Europe casually drinks. These are friends who haven't ever even opened the bottles of scotch I've gifted over the years. My experience of what heavy drinking is in the US and abroad is so confusing. For a woman, according to the show, one drink⁠—one glass of wine⁠—every day make her a heavy drinker. That said, I just checked the NIH's NIAAA and they define "low-risk drinking" as:
For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have AUD.

I don't know. When I lived in Germany and the UK and traveled throughout the world and Europe, going to the pub was extremely normal. When I spent a summer in Finland, every dinner was initiated with a pre-meal shot of vodka. Dinner often came with wine and then maybe an after-dinner drink. And, of course, pub life in the UK and the Biergarten life in Germany.

I mean, don't restaurants make most of their revenue from wine, beer, and liquor?  That I even have local places, including L.A. Bar & Grill and Taqueria el Poblano, is a hint towards having a problem. They're both my favorite places to grab a cheat day bite. I am usually there between as early as 4PM or maybe six or seven, and then off in an hour.

At the end of this ramble, I am no longer sure if I have a drinking problem or if I drink realistically (based on what people tell their doctors and pollsters versus what they actually do at home). I guess seeing the way people drink on TV is telling but not realistic; and, if you go to a bar, that's where the drinkers are; so, of course, drinking is normalized when you're out at a restaurant, a pub, or bar. 

Given the choice between abusing my health with alcohol or coffee, I will choose coffee every time. If I need to give up coffee and alcohol in order to hold onto a normal sinus rhythm and long-term health, I will do; though, unless I can get my head, heart, and body all sorted out, I can almost guarantee very human slips and fails. I ache to want to say that that won't be the case and, as of now, I am stopping drinking, full stop, and will, from now on, neither overeat nor will I indulge in Gluttony.  I don't know if that's a promise I can make; I don't know if it's a promise I even want to make; however, it's a goal I, indeed, want and need to aspire to, starting today.

So, what do you think? Am I in denial? I mean, both my parents drank way too much. My dad was never a mean drinker, but, after 5PM, he would sip on cheap plastic bottle scotch and ice all night long while smoking Viceroy gold cigarettes. Or, haging out with his staff and models and friends at the Waikiki Yacht Club or the swanky top floor bar with all the Cougars and Manthers. My mother, on the other hand, was a terrible, dark, and haunting drinker, as was her mum, I am told. 

My dad introduced my mum to the drinking life when they started dating in Manhattan and it became an addiction; and, the further she was from the NYC high life, the more she fancied her Tanqueray on the rocks.  I am my mother's son; I am my father's son. Am I, though, an alcoholic? Actual bread is more of my daily bread than beer, wine, or liquor. I actually go to L.A. Bar & Grill more for the Grill than for the Bar. 

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day—for actual life and death health reasons—I need to get as close to zero as possible. And, when it comes to eating, portions, and food, the asceticism of the kind that Saint John Vianney recommends may be my new religion. Inshallah. 

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L.A. Bar & Grill

Thanks for reading this far: 1,517 words! I appreciate you!

Oct 21, 2019 04:35 PM