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Entry date: 1-12-2022 - The Conundrum - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I feel like I have been dancing around this drinking thing for a couple of days now telling stories about times when I drank to excess before turning 21. Sure, there is some funny stuff (at least now), and many people can probably relate to getting reckless occasionally with the beers and booze, but why am I thinking about this so much right now.

My relationship with alcohol has always been something of a dangerous walk between handling it and not handling it. Luckily, I was born with one of those little voices in the back of my head that usually tells me when to go easy, even though the more I drank, the quieter that voice gets. I learned at age 18, while living at what we called “The Polka Dot Pad” that I could get out of control if I let myself. The main focus of those living at that apartment at the time was getting drunk.

For several months, I lived on ramen and Milwaukee’s Best, and it took a toll on me. Sure, I was eighteen and that’s what 18-year-olds sometimes do, but if I’m being honest, it was really unhealthy. I knew it at the time, too. I remember sitting there, at times, in the polka dot pad knowing I was treading in dangerous territory. The more I drank, the more I wanted to drink. Vicious circle.

I partied pretty hard from 18 to 21. This was not a secret although I thought I covered my tracks better than I probably did. When I finally came clean on everything in the spring of 1992 and got sober, nobody in my family seemed too surprised. The breaking point for all chemicals was when a friend of mine told me he had a bunch of morphine and I considered getting into it.

I looked myself in the mirror and decided that was a decision I simply could not make. I also realized that I had to stop using everything. During the almost six years I was sober, I realized that I was able to handle alcohol the best when I didn’t use it on a regular basis. A few beers here and there, the occasional “party on” mode, and having alcohol in the house is fine, but if it becomes a regular, daily thing, the alcohol starts talking to me louder and louder.

Lately I have really been thinking a lot about how my brain works and it has become clearer to me that I mask the voice in my head that asks for alcohol in ways that seem like they aren’t dangerous. As many are aware, there is better choices in the beer world than ever before. I have been sampling a lot of them. I like shopping for beer a lot. I think about it a lot. Too much.

Honestly, I am not sure where I am going with this but as I look at it, I realize I have to make a difficult choice and I don’t really want to do it.

On one hand, I can keep going the way I have been going and take my chances. Being aware of the possibility of things getting a ton worse if I let them is something I have lived with and managed fairly well for the past 24 years since I decided to end my sobriety. On the other hand, though, I have to reevaluate this plan and consider that I should stop drinking all together or put in a much more regimented system.

I like systems. I am a creature of habit. Some of my habits are good and some are not, but I do like a nice pattern. Since the beginning of this year, all twelve days, I have been making what I consider smarter choices when it comes to the beer… but…

I do not feel good about it. I’m not sure what I’m feeling right now. I am trying to put my finger on it, and it feels like this is a good place to talk it out with myself.

One of the major pieces of this whole thing is that the beer I like to drink is expensive. In some cases, very expensive and while it is not like we are destitute, I shudder to think of how much money I have spent this year on beer without even spending a lot of time in bars.

Maybe I’m just kind of cheap?

That is a big part of it. I don’t like spending a lot of money on myself. I am much more comfortable with smaller amounts. A new shirt here, some new pants there. I do like to live well, but I am getting much better at making sure I’m living within my means. Especially with a mountain of student loans to pay.

Being a teacher sucks, sometimes, especially the pay, but our bills are paid, and I do like having a good beer or a nice meal here and there. I feel like I’m rambling a bit, but it is helping. The money the beer costs is a big part of my worry right now because of how many good beers I have sampled in the past six months.

I feel like we are moving forward financially, and I want to continue it, so I have to be willing to cut back and cutting down on the beer is an easy choice. Being healthier is an easy choice. I know I have gained a few pounds thanks to the rich stouts I’ve been enjoying, too. I do not think I need to completely stop but cutting back is a wise choice right now.

Looking back over this meandering blog, I realize two things: It sounds like I am rationalizing drinking and I need to dig further into this story. There is a lot more to unpack here and I think I need to do it with as much detail and honesty as possible. Some of this is not going to be easy to write, for sure, and some of this is going to be hard for people who might read it.

One thing I never want to do with this is hurt anyone.

See you tomorrow.

One of my happy places.

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