A year ago this weekend my grandmother died.
(Imagine a little virtual yahrzeit candle here. Thanks. I miss her.)
A year ago this weekend I also bought a new computer, a Macintosh G5, and I spent the rest of the day setting it up (which took oh, maybe ten minutes ) and then playing with it. I was in the habit of having a drink or two when doing long computer projects, and I poured myself a wee dram of Lagavulin. By the time night rolled around I was stinking drunk.
It was not the Lagavulin’s fault. I blame the two or three martinis and the two three four fingers of 151-proof handmade bourbon that landed on top of it. Becky was furious. The hangover lasted until mid-week. I haven’t had any alcohol since.
My decision to stop drinking had been building for a while. During much of the 1990s, especially when I was working at Terrain and struggling with QuarkXpress and Photoshop on a Quadra 610 until two each morning, I would drink four or six beers in a typical night to take the edge off the six cups of coffee I’d needed to drink to wake me after having four or six beers while working the night before. I cut back on the drinking quite a number of times.
Am I an alcoholic? I honestly don’t know. Someone close to me once said that if I could go into a bar, have one beer, and leave, that I wasn’t. She’s in AA, and is for that and other reasons unlikely to mince words to protect my feelings on the subject. But I wonder. If I’d been a hopeless drunk, the kind where one drink inevitably leads to a binge, I’d have quit a long time ago. But I’m that high-functioning kind of problem drinker. I can go weeks without drinking, and months nursing a nightly shot of scotch for an hour watching the West Wing, and then every so often after several months of moderation, I act out my own little After-School Special.
And I got to the point where the benefit wasn’t worth the cost. It was an easy decision to make. I haven’t regretted it for a minute, other than during a hike with Matthew when he mentioned drinking Scotch and I had a sudden fond memory of the taste of Islay. Oh, and the stray wistful thoughts of India Pale Ale. I suppose that’s a victory of sorts: I miss the taste, but I can’t imagine that taste without the deadening effects of alcohol, which memory kills the desire but quick.
I gave up smoking pot at age 17: any drug that accentuated feelings of hunger and paranoia was, in those days, not precisely what I needed. (My brother and I reminisced a couple years ago about using beer as a source of survival calories back then.) On my twentieth birthday, as I stood outside a nice vegetarian restaurant letting my food get cold so that I could stand in the snow and suck on a Marlboro, I decided I was being stupid. I don’t remember the next week at all clearly, but that was the last cigarette I ever smoked.
Wait a minute. Why was I eating alone on my birthday? No wonder I left Buffalo. Stinking unfriendly rat trap of a city.
Anyway, I kicked the smoking monkey off my back at 20, off and the alcohol monkey at 44, and now the next monkey looms.
There is a drug I have been taking since I was 13, consuming unhealthy doses of it almost every single day. I have spent more money on this drug than on any other, even with ten years of a six-pack-a-day habit under my belt, or more properly hanging over it.
This next drug has affected my health, my work life, my writing productivity, and my relationships. It’s the strongest addiction I’ve ever faced, and I’m saying that as someone who’s been through morphine withdrawal. I’ve set aside some time in my life to go through what will likely be rather intense discomfort as I go through withdrawal.
On July 15, I will be giving up coffee.
I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now. Made a decision last week. And yesterday clinched it. I had the temerity to sleep in until 7:30 in the morning. The coffee monkey expects to have drunk two double espressos by then. I could not shake the headache for the rest of the day.
On July 15, the coffee monkey gets the spanking of its life.