BY: G. S. | ROYAL OAK, MICHIGAN – July 1993
After a little sobriety, some of the craziness of the drinking days gets to be funny. It feels good to laugh about it, but it’s bittersweet humor with an edge of pathos, and lunacy not far below the surface. When someone bristles at the word “insanity” in Step Two, I remember that I did, too–and I think of this episode.
A few months before I stopped drinking I took my first physical in years. I took a bunch of tests, and my liver put some bad numbers on the board.
Did I drink? the doctor asked.
Some, I said.
He said he wanted me to limit myself to two ounces a day, or risk serious damage to my liver. Would that be a problem?
No problem, I said.
I didn’t want to blow out my liver, but I didn’t want to give up martinis, either. So I tiptoed up the edge of the limit the doctor had set: Each day I took my bottle of gin and my measuring cup and poured precisely two ounces for my single, skimpy martini. I felt deprived, of course, but kept it up for a week.
Then I got to thinking. The doctor said two ounces of alcohol, and this gin was only eighty proof–just forty percent alcohol–so I was shortchanging myself. I did the math. To get two ounces of real alcohol, I’d have to drink five ounces of gin!
So I measured out that more generous serving for another week or so, but still felt cramped. I was a busy guy, after all, and didn’t have time to fool with measuring cups. What the doctor really meant, I decided, was to limit myself to two drinks a day. So I forgot about the measuring cup and made myself two martinis a day–in a glass the size of a goldfish bowl.
Of course, even that discipline soon was abandoned.
My mental gyrations made perfect sense at the time, but a little sobriety made me see the bizarre episode for what it was: A doctor told me I faced serious health problems because I was drinking too much, and I responded by playing games.
If he had told me that chocolate bars were causing a life-threatening problem, I wouldn’t merely have cut back; I would have quit, that day, because chocolate bars weren’t that important to me. And that’s the insanity: Alcohol had become important enough to me to die for.
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