Wednesday, May 15, 2013

No. 386 – Wake Up

Performer: Mad Season
Songwriters: Barrett Martin, Mike McCready, John Baker Saunders, Layne Staley
Original Release: Above
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

I never was interested in trying drugs when I was younger. First, I knew that my parents would kill me if they found out; and second, I didn’t want to go to jail or overdose. I guess that viewing of Go Ask Alice in junior high worked.

That didn’t change as I got older and could imbibe in the very legal drug of alcohol. The thing that really put the brakes on any real experimentation was Mom. Being the child of an alcoholic, I knew I was susceptible, particularly as I started to drink more after I got to Flint. I got absolutely hammered a couple of times on beer and Jack Daniels where the next day, a Sunday, would disappear to sleeping off my hangover.

A funny thing happened when I got to Columbus: I found I didn’t need JD. I didn’t go out like I did in Flint, and I didn’t drink by myself at home. The heavier drinking that I did in Flint, it seemed to me, was more a result of the environment than any hereditary condition.

Then, slowly, over a few years, my drink became wine. When Debbie and I would go out to dinner, we always split a bottle of wine with dinner—same thing on our Sunday dinners at home. After Debbie and I broke up, I still would open a bottle of wine for my Sunday dinner, but now I didn’t have anyone to split it with. Well, no sense letting this go to waste, so I started finishing the bottle myself.

When I drink, typically, I have a nice off switch—my stomach. If I’ve had too much, and I mean too much beyond merely being drunk, my stomach tells me it’s time to stop or it’s time to start getting sick. I hate getting sick, so I almost always stop.

For some reason, one night in 2002, my off switch got stuck. I killed one bottle during dinner and wanted more to watch a spate of movies after The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Before long, that bottle was empty, too. Still, wanting more, I got a beer. It was like I could hear myself say, you don’t want to do this, but I wasn’t interested in listening.

Finally, I did—probably out of boredom more than anything else—and I wasn’t too terribly hungover the next day. The next Sunday I was back to one bottle—and one bottle only. I figured my one binge was no big deal, because I didn’t drink every day. Dinner five nights a week was at work; no drinking there. Sometimes I’d have a glass when I got home; a lot of times, I didn’t.

When I left for Cleveland, I was concerned, because I knew that I’d have my evenings free and certainly the potentiality for loneliness and self-pity to trigger more binges. But then another funny thing happened: I stopped drinking wine. Well, not completely, but not like before.

My additional off switch this time was my wallet. In other words, I didn’t have the money I used to to buy wine. I had to nurse my collection, and anything new had to be cheap. Wine became a precious commodity. In my year in Cleveland, I might have gone through a full bottle in a single night once … maybe.

OK, so I’ve consumed mass quantities of beer, JD and wine, and I can take it or leave it. I’ve concluded that whatever my addiction is, it doesn’t seem to be booze. (And my recent discovery and love of tequila hasn’t changed my opinion.)

But … I know I’m an addictive personality. I can get locked in and do things like play games for hours to the detriment of other activities. It used to be video games, then Sudoku and now Angry Birds. But like with alcohol, it’s fairly short runs, and then when I’m done, I’m done.

So … what’s my poison? It’s out there; I haven’t found it yet. Maybe it’s absinthe. Maybe it’s prescription drugs. Maybe it’s street drugs. I’ve had far more opportunities to indulge in Chicago than ever before, but I haven’t. Part of that is I like that I have a reputation as a tee-totaler (when it comes to drugs) who’s cool with others doing them.

But part of it is, I’m not interested in “just trying” something and inadvertently finding the thing that destroys my life, like it did Mom. I have enough things that elevate me—music being a big one. No high can be worth potentially flipping the wrong switch.

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