Ahhh 1974. I turned 18 years old. A lot of states allowed drinking at 18. Many states were caught up in the debate about their young sons being drafted, yet not being allowed to drink. My recollections are that of a carefree teenager just trying to be accepted. Acceptance is all anyone really needs. The world is a lonely place. Look at today’s need for technology, smart phones and computers. We “feel” more accepted today than ever. I personally believe they are as much a crutch as alcohol ever was. At least they do not destroy you physically.
Here is my history of drinking and how I stopped.
I was living with my dad. He was not a drinker. My only memory of him getting drunk was on a New Year’s Eve when I was young. He threw up in our trailer; guess who got to clean up his mess. Not long after that I moved to West Virginia to live with my mother. She was an alcoholic married to an alcoholic. They were not irresponsible drinkers. There is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction. They were a product of their time as well. They lived their life just like everyone else, a day at a time.
West Virginia alcohol laws were interesting. You could only buy 3% beer. By alcohol standards 6% is what would get you the quickest buzz. We would go across state lines to get good beer. W.Va. would let anyone over 18 buy hard liquor. For everyday socializing beer was preferred. The hard stuff did get abused by us teenagers but it would be utilized in a peer pressure sort of way. Who could handle their liquor and who could not? Many could not at that young age. At that age girls are always on a boy’s mind. Boys and girls are complicated, even without factoring in their sex drives and hormones. I am sure alcohol is involved in those issues these days as well.
My mother passed away four months after moving in with her. Maybe that contributed to my addiction. It is hard to say. She approved of my drinking, so long as I drank at home. After her passing, my habit was less restricted. I left for college the next year. College drinking is now and always has been a rite of passage for many young adults. My college days are a blur. We partied a lot. I remember going to Maryland to get 6% beer. Sometimes I had no idea how we got back. I do recall one of my buddies nearly adding my car to his list of 5 totaled vehicles.
My early Navy days were pretty much sober on the ship, buzzed on shore. Alcohol got me into a lot of trouble. Captain’s Mast was not new to me. On deployments it was always bar hopping and doing what sailors do. Look for a pretty gal to spend the night with. That was until I got married. I met her at a country western bar I used to frequent. Alcohol and dancing go hand in hand. My soon to be wife was a pretty good dancer. We got married within 3 months. She tolerated my drinking for eleven years. It was tough being an alcoholic, husband, father and responsible leading petty officer. Marriage did make me more responsible. It helped me put up a pretty good front for a lot of years.
When my first daughter was born I knew I was at risk of not being able to be there if anything happened that would require me being sober. I tried to quit, but my addiction was stronger. I was drinking bourbon, putting a bottle away in a night was fairly common. I tried Alcoholic Anonymous, primarily as a ploy to appease my superior officers. The Navy likes to give sailors Antabuse. It did not work either.
It was the birth of my second daughter that made me realize that I had to do something. My alcoholism would need a swift kick in the ass. I would rely on my character to beat it. I have always been true to my word. Drunk or sober, if I gave my word I would stand by it. I made a vow to stop drinking.
I have been sober for over 21 years. My advice to anyone wanting to quit is to commit to what counts the most, your character.