The last time I got hammered was Valentine's Day, 1991. No, it's not nearly as romantic as it sounds. I got hammered all by myself, on the most desolate and lonely road trip one could imagine. You can read all about that right here: Late Night Letters to the Moon, cause this post is not about that particular excursion. It's about getting hammered, in general.
The first time I got a little hammered was over at my soon to be step-mother's house for dinner. Only I didn't know it. Either one actually. I didn't go over there with the intention of catching a buzz and I had no idea she was to be our new step-mother. At the time I figured she was merely dating Dear Old Dad.
And she had this lovely blond daughter, whom I endeavored to pick up after I caught a buzz. Only she knew we were gonna be step-siblings, so she wanted no part of making out with a soon to be brother. Or a drunk for that matter.
I caught a buzz that first time drinking a little glass of suicide. You know, mix a half dozen kinds of alcohol together and then guzzle. I probably only had about three shots by volume, but it was enough to set this fourteen year old's hair on fire.
I only did suicides a few times. I mean, drinking suicides is like playing with puke fire. It seemed much easier on my teenage constitution to down a six pack of Burgie. Or a couple tall malt liquors.
Then came the age of cocktails. Mine was Tanquerey and tonic. With a twist. Mmmm, thirst quenching good.
And of course wine. Chardonnay and Cabernet. What can I say?
And then of course Cognac.
Drinks before dinner, wine with dinner, after-dinner drinks. Rode that train all the way into my early thirties. And then, a few life situations and inebriations landed me pretty much towards the bottom of a quite hellish barrel.
At that time I was drinking a half gallon, or handle of Popov vodka every single day. Got it in the cheap plastic bottle so I could squeeze it out quicker. Mixed that up with lemonade. Drank that until the fateful bus trip to the desert. My liver, at the time, was the size of Montana.
I have a lot of wonderful memories of the early hammer years. Actually, I have a fair amount of decent memories from the later hammer years. In between the puking and shaking.
But now I have been waking up pretty much every single morning feeling good for about twenty-six years. Hell, that's a longer span of time than my hammer years were.
Do I miss having a cocktail? A glass of wine? An ice cold beer?
No, not really. After all this time I've learned to live life and have a ball, without alcohol. There was a time I thought I'd never have a good time without it. Now I can't imagine life with it.
I still enjoy the aroma of alcohol. I use it in baking and cooking all the time. I can also take a real deep inhalation off an open bottle every once in a while and feel that permeation all the way down to my core. It makes me smile.
It also reminds me a very special moment with Dear Old Dad. He'd had a couple of strokes and was interred at a local nursing home. On one of our visits I smuggled in a little airline bottle of Jack Daniels, his favorite. It wasn't hard to smuggle in, you know, I just put it my pocket. The first thing he did was take a whiff, and the glow that came across his face bespoke of warm, golden memories from days gone past.
How can I get away with this? Inhaling and baking and making very dirty Martinis once in a while for my lovely wife? It's not an issue. Hasn't been for decades.
Did I join AA? No, I decided I'd rather become dependent upon myself rather than a group of other suffering individuals. Nothing against the group, they've helped a lot of people. Just not for me.
I have done some internal work. Read a few books. Dug in the dirt. Read a few more books. Identified a few detrimental issues then screamed and howled at the moon. It will still be an ongoing process, forever, but I am usually quite happy and at peace most of the time. Unless I'm in a car behind a moron who flips their turn signal on just as they begin their turn. Or never.
I was behind a gal the other day that turned on her blinker a long hundred yards before she started slowing to make her turn. I wept. I wanted to follow her into her driveway and get on my knees to thank her. Only she'd probably think I was a little crazy, call the cops and they'd shoot me fifteen times. Cause if they're gonna shoot once anymore they're gonna empty their service revolver. Then reload and fire again.
Whatever happened to just "winging" an unarmed suspect?
I still have a few sideline life diversions. Like cookies for instance. And gardening. Chickens. Writing. I've also been known to spark up a little alternative tobacco now and then. But I could walk away from all that tomorrow as long as I was able to keep one thing.
Some of you older readers may remember the "I found it" bumper stickers from the early seventies. I think they were mostly religious in nature and soon spawned a number of follow-ups.
"I smelled it"
"I concocted it"
"I ate it"
I think my favorite, on the bumper of a convertible sports car driven by a pretty blonde, "I fondled it."
Although I'm not a religious guy, I do believe in God or a higher power, a spiritual essence de la orange. A group of lizards sittin around playing video games. I know there's some sort of bright, burning, mystically energetic and frolicsome force that blazes out there though, because I have danced in the bright white light. I swam in the vast ocean of serenity; a seeming endless dream.
Or was that the acid?
I love a good mystery.
I have also been fortunate enough to lose pretty much everything in my mid thirties, so I have that going for me as well. I was able to keep my record collection, which I later sold for $50.00. And some clothes, which I later threw away cause they didn't fit anymore. It felt pretty lousy at the time, but as I continued further down the road I was on I discovered all that crap was meaningless anyway.
So what's the one thing? What have I found that's so dang important? Why that would be the love, laughter, and tears shared with family, friends and maybe complete strangers.
Sunsets are nice too.
Grandchildren are even better.
Looking deep into your lover's eyes. That right there is what's important, that's the Good Stuff. The rest of it is irrelevant.
Sure, go on out and pursue the grandeur. Toys are fun. Why the hell not?
But don't forget the good stuff. All the grandeur, memory foam and flat screen TVs will fade away some day, and all you'll be left with will be the only thing that matters anyway. Bright, burning, shining, love.
Unless you're Dick Cheney. Cause that dude is one loveless, evil looking son of a bitch.
Getting hammered was easy, and for a time seemed to quell the questions. But it always seemed there was something missing. Alcohol could only fill the hole in the soul for so long. Only when I gave it up and let it all go did I really find what I was looking for. Pure. Sweet. Simple. Love.
Happy Valentine's Day.