Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Thirst

Ok, kids, here's fair warning that it's time for a serious post, so if you would rather come back another time to look at pics of me trying to sew a Renaissance Faire costume for Jelly, or hear about the awesome homemade Mac 'n Cheese I made for dinner last night, I understand.

My first drink was most likely as a toddler, slipped to me by either my father or one of my uncles, who still think it’s hilarious to give small children cigarettes, alcohol, and crystal meth (ok, fine, everything except that last one). It was the 70’s, and taking pictures of babies in stupid-looking hats with a stogie was acceptable, even encouraged. This is what the world was like before people had Frontierville to keep them occupied. My second drink was nipped from a crystal decanter my dad kept on the formal dining room table. Strictly for ornamental purposes – the crystal was lead. And the alcohol was scotch. I shudder thinking about it, but I felt very naughty at the time, dancing around to my Paul Lekakis single on the record player when I was suppose to be watching my youngest brother and sister (who, thank you very much, have very fond memories of those impromptu slightly-drunken-lead-poisoned dance parties).

I got a little more serious about the whole thing when I started waitressing, and everyone in my small town assumed I was of age. I had a few drinks now and then at the odd corn roast, but it was the street dances where I really threw down (I had you at ‘corn roast’, didn’t I?). And, more often than not, threw up. I was young and underage, and only knew to order what the big kids were drinking, which was usually Rye ‘n Coke. It was the wilds of Ontario, remember, so it was either that or Molson Canadian.

My parents have always been very lenient about us drinking; my house was the place to get loaded before hitting the bars. My dad was usually right there doing shots alongside us (and sometimes, still sitting there when we got home). If you can inherit a taste for the bottle, I definitely got it on both sides. The folks have likewise always been very responsible drinkers, and encouraged the same. My dad had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule when I was in high school that I never fully appreciated; if I got into a situation at a party and needed him to come get me, he wouldn’t yell or force me to spill the details, no matter what. I only had to call him on two occasions, but it was a very smart rule for a parent (whose kids were largely terrified of his wrath) to make. I plan to do the same thing with Jelly, who hopefully will likewise be terrified of me beating her senseless if she does something stupid.

At the tender drinking age of 19 I went off to college. My roommate and I may not have had money for luxuries like bread and shampoo and schoolbooks, but we had a fully stocked bar. I learned that I really wasn’t crazy about beer, but oh man, I loved the girl drinks. If it required a blender, fruit, umbrellas, and no less than 14 assorted exotic and overpriced liquors, it was put in my watering hole. It was during my second year of college that I learned Drinking Can Be REALLY Bad. There was an incident involving stolen cocktail glassware that could have been even worse than it was (we liked to shove highballs in our coat sleeves, and there was a fall, and lots and lots of broken glass very close to important veins). There were other incidents, too, although less life-threatening; some curling iron burns, some green pastrami that definitely should not have been consumed, exclusion from several local establishments.

After graduation I found myself in the fine state of NC, and my then-roommate enjoyed the drink just as much as I did. Because we worked in daycare and made approximately 75 cents per day, we did a lot of ‘pre-drinking’ to save money at the bar. If you know NC you know that nothing is convenient; we had a drive that was taxi-prohibitive, which, if you’re smarter than me, you’ve already figured out meant a slightly buzzed drive to go clubbin’. And, as logically follows, an extremely drunken drive back home. How do you know you’re too drunk to be driving? Take my quiz and find out.

  1. You can’t find the car in the parking lot, and have to wait until everyone else has left.
  2. You have a designated ‘pull over and vomit and/or urinate’ location in a nice suburban neighborhood halfway home.
  3. You have to evade a police checkpoint, not because you’re worried about failing the breathalyzer (which you totally would), but because you have a large ceramic burro in your lap, stolen from the nearby Mexican restaurant.
  4. You think it’s a good idea to follow other drunk strangers to their house for a make-out session, and steal frozen chicken from their freezer.
If you are nodding your head sagely, thinking ‘Yes, yes, I have done all these things’, well, I am kind of embarrassed for you. You may be seeing a pattern here of drinking and stealing stupid things. I am much better about that now. Mostly.

Around this time was also when I had my first official blackout. It was very scary for a control freak like me. I could remember bits and pieces, but there were whole chunks of time that were just – gone. And there were some extremely regrettable activities that occurred during that obliterated time. I swore I wouldn’t drink that much ever again.

The next time I drank that much again it was at a work function. I was in charge of Sales Training at the one company I worked for, and a big part of that involved taking the team out to party. This was my first introduction to expense-account-drinking, which takes things to a whole new level. It’s almost like you have an obligation to drink – everyone else is doing it, it’s free, the stupid Sales people are utterly unbearable to be around if you don’t. There was some dancing on the bar, and I left both my driver’s license and credit card there, and there was an embarrassing Marriott glass elevator encounter with one of the male reps, Mark Who Was Totally Hot.

Then. I drove home.

I woke up the next morning, fully dressed complete with shoes, in my own bed to the shrill sound of the phone. I had made arrangements to meet one of my employees before work at the local automotive shop, where I was planning to leave my car for an oil change appointment. It was now 3 hours past that time. My recollection of the previous night’s drive included lots of grass and gravel under my tires, trees very close, and the occasional missed stop sign. Then, nothing. It was the last time I ever got behind the wheel drunk. I was very, very lucky.

In the early days of living with the guys, we’d occasionally have a few drinks but nothing too crazy. Loud and I went out a few times, but nothing like what I use to do. Now that I’m a mom I’ll go out once in a blue moon and have, well, a Blue Moon or two, but I am very aware of my limits if I’m driving.

I tell you this story because I think about drinking a lot. There are a few bottles of wine cold in the fridge right now, an icy bottle of Limoncello in the freezer, some Amaretto above the stove with the tea, and some reds on their sides in the dark of the pantry. If you wanted rum I could offer you 5 different kinds; vodka, 3. Liquors cover the common fruits (apple, banana, blueberry, melon, orange, cassis, raspberry) and the not-so-common fruits (lychee, guava, kiwi ), nuts (hazelnut and cashew), plus coffee and chocolate and honey. There are several schnapps including root beer and butterscotch, after-dinner aperitifs including vermouth (both sweet and dry), port, sherry, madeira, and marsala, and staples like brandy, gin, sloe gin, and tequila. More exotic temptations, ordered online, range from Pimms to Green Tea, Pink Lemonade to Sweet Tea. There’s beer for visitors, champagne for just in case, and convenient pre-mixed beverages like canned Bloody Caesars and frozen individual daiquiris. I’m pretty sure there’s Southern Comfort and Jack Daniel’s in there somewhere, plus I keep a little Glenfiddich around for my dad. And that doesn’t include the mixers and accessories – various juices, soda and tonic waters, nice fat green olives, swizzle sticks and straws, colas and flavored sugar and salt rimmers, fresh citrus.

I think there are probably people who worry about how much I drink. I think there are probably more, now that they’ve read this list. The truth of the matter is, I very rarely indulge. There’s something about just having it that is comforting, like I’m totally prepared for a mass Pina Colada emergency (yes, I have both the frozen Bacardi canned mix as well as coconut milk and pineapple juice). When I’ve had a really tough day, I can tell myself, ‘Ah, almost quittin’ time, I’ll really throw back then’. What usually ends up happening is, well, not that. Maybe a small flute of ice wine, on the extremely rare occasion I make it into the tub without Jelly and Dora. I think that my past experiences make me very nervous to drink by myself with Jenny in the house, and that’s a good thing; I know that one perfectly frosted dirty martini isn’t going to make me pass out with all the stove burners on and a ‘Welcome, kidnappers!’ sign on the door, but I know that sometimes when I have one, I would like another one. And another.

I hear the stories about the soccer mom loaded at three in the afternoon, smashing the minivan. My friends joke about putting away a bottle or two of wine by themselves to unwind. When I burned my hand quite badly Sunday afternoon, my first instinct was not to reach for the painkillers but for a Cosmo (which ended up being very smart, since holding the icy glass was the only thing to give me relief). I’ve never been tempted by drugs, and hate taking even prescription medications. I’ve heard that alcoholics sometimes force down the drink, but it’s not like that for me; I’m not compelled by it, I’m driven to it. The promise of a warm, fuzzy feeling, the satisfaction of clinking cubes and a flavorful refresher, the hope of a happy distraction. I sometimes think that if things were a little bit different, my drinking might be more like my nail-biting; always present, impossible to control, shameful, and unhealthy. I struggle with how to model responsible, sensible behavior to Jenny. But I think a good first step is talking about it.

Anyone else really, really like to drink, but doesn't? Anyone who doesn't really like to drink, but does? Lemme know. I promise I won't be judge-y on this one. Everyone wants to escape something.


MommieV said...

My drinking was very out of control the summer that I got pregnant. It had been gradual - mostly due to dating guys that liked to drink, and liked for me to try to keep up so they didn't look so bad. Then I figured out how awesome drinking was to unwind from work stress, and I got the point where I was drinking heavily just about every day. Until I saw two lines on the pregnancy test.

I went through a stage when Caitlin started sleeping through the night this past June where I would drink a few beers after she went to bed, knowing I had lots of time before she would want to nurse again. I worried that I would have to fight the urge to go back to binge drinking, but after a couple of nights, I realized that it had lost its allure.

When I bought the new fridge, I bought beer and wine. I agree with what you're saying about the comfort of it being there. It was weeks before I opened the bottle of wine, and the beer is still in there, but it just makes me feel better to know I have it if I want/need it.

I was way worse with the drunk driving than you. I got pulled over at 3 am with an open container in the car. And expired tags. The cop must not have noticed - I guess I didn't smell - because he let me go with just a warning on the plates. My poor guardian angels.

Stephanie said...

Remind me to show you the picture of me--at 3 yrs old--drinking a "toddler beer" in Germany. As in real beer with low alcohol content.

My drinking stories are loud and embarrassing--I've danced at a bar with male identical twins...and took one of them home. I've driven beyond wasted so many times that I am scared to drive my own kids at night for fear of there being another idiot like me somewhere else.

I made it through an alcohol checkpoint at Ft. Bragg, only to be so drunk that I didn't go down far enough and had to make it through again.

I have more. Lots more. But it's embarrassing and once I had kids, the idea of a hangover really lost it's appeal. Well, except for that time on the front porch of a mutual friend's house, but I made my DH came pick me up. So puking in the bushes is a little less... naw, it's still embarrassing to puke in the bushes at 32.