Me and Big Al

The time to quit drinking. <span class="picturesource">Victor Juhasz</span>

So I walk into my doctor’s office the other day and say, “Hey Doc, I’ve been feeling iffy for the last couple of weeks–I feel like I’m turning into a moth.” He looks at me and says, “Well you shouldn’t be here, you need to see a psychiatrist,” and I say, “I know…but your light was on.”

I thought if I were jovial enough I might be able to slide another dodgy physical past the medical vice squad, but my blood work results were in, and The Doc had the look of a coroner. It was going to be a struggle to get away with a few nods and promises this time. “Seriously,” he says to me, “these numbers belong in Cooperstown. Just how much are you drinking?” It was the question I didn’t want to answer, but I sucked it up and told him anyway. I was glugging a bit more than a bottle a day, but on the bright side I was doing it very quickly. “Of wine?” he says. “Uh, not really,” says me. “Bushmills, Jameson’s, Redbreast, cleaning products…you know, whatever’s handy.”

The Doc sighed and said, “David. A bottle a day? Have you ever considered getting some help?”

“No,” I said, “I can drink it all myself.”

That was the last of the joking, and the last of the drink, too, but the real reason I quit is my 6-year-old daughter and my wife, the Two Who Must Be Obeyed. The night before, I was in my usual half-man, half-mattress position, horizontal in the recliner with an almost empty bottle on the table beside me, when my girl clambered on me, held me by the ears, and put her forehead on mine. Then she grinned and said with the wisdom only children have, “Dad, you need another bottle.” She Who Must Be Obeyed Sr. just looked up from her book and smiled at me sadly.

“Holy crap!” I thought, rather like St. Paul on the road to Damascus after his wee donkey suddenly exploded. “I do need another bottle.” So I sent her to get me one (no point in quitting if you’re only halfway to where you need to be) and resolved it would be my last. The following day was the longest of my life, and the morning after it, I woke up with the strangest feeling. For the first time in 25 years, I was hung under. I tried to shave, but I had the yips. I started on the right side of my mustache and then tried to even it up on the left, but it was clear that if I didn’t stop trying, in about five minutes I’d look like Adolf Hitler.

That I’m an alcoholic can’t possibly be my fault. I reckon it was the damn golf that did it to me. It takes about three and a half minutes of actual swinging time to play a round, so what the hell else was I supposed to do with the other four and a half hours, huh? A curse upon the roving beverage cart that wafted miniature whiskey bottles past my cavernous nostrils every other hole, and a pox on the idiot Scot who had the first thought of something to do after chasing a sheep into a sandy hollow. Now how am I going to explain why I’m ordering a Bushmills on the rocks, hold the Bushmills? But wait. I can tell everyone I have to quit because of the Irish curse. Like every green-blooded bogtrotter, I have the inbred ability to hurl a vat of whiskey down my neck without collapsing like a deck chair. By the time I quit I had to be into my second bottle to get a buzz, and the last time I got truly drunk the price of Irish Distillers stock went up 14 percent.

I have a lot of friends who have over-gargled themselves to the stage at which I now find myself. One good thing about it is the quantity and quality of the stories they have to tell about their years spent cuddled with a bottle. Like PJ, who got obliterated one night in Dublin and was walking down the banks of the Liffey when he lurched to a stop beside an old man. He offered him a swig from his bottle but there was no reply, so PJ got humpy, threw a punch, and promptly passed out. A few hours later he woke up covered in starling turds with a broken hand, lying under the statue of Patrick Kavanaugh that he had attacked. “There’s no such thing as a recovering alcoholic,” he tells me. “You’re either drunk or you’re not.” Right now I’m not, and though I can’t be certain of how I’m going to do, I’ll tell you this: I will never drink again…today.