At my doctor's yesterday, when I mentioned that I had problems with alcohol but had been sober for over 6 months (I don't think I used the word "alcoholic" incidently, my avoidance of that word never fails to amaze me), he asked me a little bit about my history with booze, specifically when I started drinking.
As incredible as it seems to almost-35-years-old me, I actually started drinking when I was 13. I was 13! Jeez! Fun fact: the first time I ever masturbated, I was drunk from stealing hard liquor from my dad's liquor cabinet one afternoon when he was out running errands (I was also reading a terrible novel by Piers Anthony about alien insects that killed people by entrancing them with sexual pheromones and then sucking them dry of all fluids. I have never told anyone this in my life, so there you go, loyal readers).
I remember carefully pouring myself glass afer glass, moving from one bottle to the next like a bumblebee, trying my best to make it appear that absolutely no alcohol was disappearing while still trying to get as buzzed as possible. My parents were divorced and my dad re-married by then, so I only had a chance to get drunk every other weekend or so. I loved that warm, buzzy feeling, and would just lie in bed and let the room spin or watch TV and while away the hours.
By the time I hit high school, I was already a pro at secret drinking so that when I had my first chance at "public" drinking - at a New Year's Eve party with a few friends when I was 16 or 17, I held my liquor the best. While a friend was puking his guts up after "only" three tall-boys (and it was some brand of "Ice" beer, so 6.5%?), I drank all 5 of mine without feeling the least bit sick. That night, my mom insisted on smelling my breath when I got home: I didn't get in trouble then, but she must have known I'd been drinking. I don't think she knew for sure though that I'd long been nipping from her bottle of rum that she kept beneath the kitchen sink. She herself drank so rarely that a single bottle would last her months.
As a young adult in my early twenties, I discovered a great little hole-in-the-wall gay bar where I learned to play "bank card roullette". The way that game is played is: if you get paid by direct deposit early Thursday morning, you hit your regular bar Wednesday night as soon as you get off work. You run a tab, drinking as much as you like. Sometime after midnight, you begin to test your bank card, trying the machine every 15 minutes until it actually goes through. When it does, take out some extra cash after settling the tab, buy everyone (and yourself) an extra round of drinks to celebrate and then stay put until closing time (or later, if you know the bar's owner and he lets a few of you stick around until dawn drinking free booze from his private stash), then stumble home, picking up poutine and chicken fingers at the local all-night diner on the way. Doing this for two or more years ensured that for every paycheque, my first "bill payment" went to my alcoholism. There were a lot of bounced rent cheques back then.
And so it goes.
I'm reminding myself about these moments, and a few others that I choose not to divulge, because when things are going well, it's easy to forget that I have a problem. It's also easy to forget that for over twenty years, I've been trying to live my life with one hand tied behind my back. If I hadn't already been an alcoholic before I graduated from high school, would I be a doctor now? If I hadn't spent so much of my money on booze instead of bills, would I be a home owner now? Would I have a family? Where would I be?
Two thirds of my memories are influenced by my drinking, whether I know it or not. I have a long way to go, a lot of new memories to pile up, before I can say I've lived a full life. Right now, I can (honestly or dishonestly) lay a lot of my mistakes at the feet of my drinking. I've only just begun to make mistakes as a sober, rational adult.
Time to reaffirm: I will be sober for the rest of my life. I will never drink again. I have too much living left to do, and time is shorter than I'd like it to be. So there.