Sure, I’ve liked to drink since age 16, have done it regularly, and maybe stepped it up a bit since COVID like so many others. But when old best friends take notice, and suggest changes, maybe it’s time to pay attention. Eric is almost my size and has a goofy sick sense of humor that exceeds even mine. We were inseparable in high school and have remained friends ever since, despite Eric’s travels chasing bank compliance problems. It’s been a joy since he moved back to Ada, near Grand Rapids, about a decade ago and stayed put. With 3 children, (at least) 5 grandchildren, there’s little time for Grandpa Eric to socialize. When his wife of over 40 years Jean (I was their best man) died last spring, Eric, after a mourning period, emerged with a new honey, Kathy, a former U of M clinical psychologist. It was a date at the Red Hawk with them in Ann Arbor that prompted Eric’s observations and suggestions
As Eric said : “Needless to say seeing an only marginally coherent Bob scarfing down appetizers in a manner that would have raised the eyebrows of a caveman was discerning.”
To which I replied:
Every now and then, you emerge to show you really are my best friend and not just another goofy very tall guy with similar interests and sick sense of humor whom I enjoy hanging out with. I still remember the Abraham Lincoln letter from high school when you expressed concern over my weekly beer excursions with Shorty, Shutesie, and Jerry Mayes. Of course, you followed along the same path of debauchery not long after which I took to label you hypocrite in my mind, not that you ever stopped being a friend. We both emerged from all that nonsense to have pretty successful careers and you with the wonderful family but me just with a wonderful wife. I’ve loved the effects of alcohol ever since tasting it in that bar near the White House that Pecker Paul took me, Sam, Linda Darai, Pam Burns, and Jeannie Van Allsburg on that fateful domestic exchange trip winter of ’69. It didn’t take long upon return to the ‘burg to arrange dial-a-beer and my drinking buddy mates. Several months into it Johnny Mac called me into his office to confront me with his knowledge I’d been going out on a drunk every weekend and wanted to know why. I told him I liked it, kept doing it, and kept getting straight As, so he didn’t bother me any more, at least about that. My habit never affected my job performance, and only only once drew any attention, when a fat nurse told my chief she smelled liquor on my breath as we ascended the elevator to clinic one Monday morning (totally false). I had a DUI while helping teach a course in Maryland in ’94. When I got caught up into the whole opioid over prescribing thing, as part of my rehabilitation they threw me into a state program mainly designed for impaired physicians. Total abstinence was required. Every morning, I’d have to dial a number to see if I had to submit a random pee test at employee health. The tests could detect any exposure to alcohol within the previous 5 days. I couldn’t even use hand sanitizer as the absorbed alcohol would turn my test positive. I figured out I could still get a beer if I went on vacation and quaffed more than 5 days before my return to AA. Those were magical times. After 7 months of this, my Case Manager called me to say they determined alcohol was not part of my problem and I could cease the abstinence and random pee tests. I’d stay a total of 2 years in that program, but only having to put up with the required counseling and reporting. So I drink because I enjoy it. A lot. Connecting with my bio parents has been revealing. Dad (Dick Ike) liked his beer, but took a dim view on our Barton Lake excesses. My bio-mom is half Irish and loves alcohol in all forms but is no lush. One of my bio sisters has had several DUIs. Bio-dad was a bon vivant who was especially fond of wine. He and my mom met while carousing in the bars of Pt. Austin after the war. We gather by his grave in Toronto yearly to pour a little of his favorite pinot over, consuming the rest ourselves. So it’s in my genes, doncha know. But I’m becoming aware of the consequences of my habit. I’m disgusted with the 50# beer gut that came on when my knee arthritis knocked out from under me those daily 4 mile walks that had been keeping it down. I think you know of my bipolar diagnosis (established ~2000) and the lithium keeps me out of the gutter but my motor often runs high, so I think the alcohol is a bit of self medication there . “A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient” – Osler. But I pay: naps when I’d rather keep going, hangovers (but n-acetyl cysteine is great!), and embarrassments to friends and loved ones. So, you’re right. It’s time to cool it. I’ll see what I can do.
PS. Kathy’s abstinence was mainly weight-control related. But she was a little concerned about all she was downing. Her folks were wine and martini loving bon vivants, so we both sort of have that.
PSS. Curiously, marijuana has not been hard to kick. After my 12/23/14 bike injury, I qualified for a Michigan Marihuana card. While I enjoyed the high so familiar from my college days, it didn’t do too much for my pain. I have quite a stock of “edibles” (like Hooch likes), but don’t indulge anymore as they always make me lose half a day. There’s too much going on in my life in which I want to participate and I don’t want to miss out
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