I recently had my first beer in more than 6 months.
I can blame the holiday mood, or the dark ocean promenade where lovers strolled, or perhaps the lack of non-alcoholic alternatives, but whatever the reason I’ve broken a vow I made to myself to stop drinking. Actually, I broke the vow several weeks ago. This is a sequel,
“The Broken Vow: The Drinking Continues”.
I made the pact while walking in Spain this spring. Walking promotes contemplation and I did a lot of contemplating as I walked about 1000 kilometres. It took me 33 days and about 20 bottles of wine to complete my journey. On the final day, sick (turned out to be a serious case of food poisoning) and standing in the pouring rain looking out over the sea I said out loud, “OK, that’s it. You’re done drinking. You put away 2 or 3 drinks a day, every day. You have a drinking problem. You must stop.”
And I did.
The hardest part was changing a practice that had become a part of my life. I’m sure there was some physical addiction, but it was trivial. Altering a behaviour that you’ve developed over decades takes a massive amount of willpower. For me the trigger was food. I drank when I prepared and ate supper. I very rarely got drunk, but that dinner time “glow” became a habitual part of my day.
My first “post booze” temptation came from a flight attendant who asked me, twice, if I would like some complementary brandy with my dessert. I persevered. I said no. And I kept saying no for longer than I ever have before.
I was reminded of my struggle while reading a newspaper this weekend. On the front of one section was a picture of two people who overdosed and died. They were a married couple who were apparently fond of pain killers and other prescription drugs. Their addiction killed them. And while it’s somewhat hard hearted to say so, I don’t really feel sorry for them. They made choices, as we all do, about what to put in their bodies. I’ll save my pity and prayers for their toddler son who has been left without his parents.
According to the Canada Rehab website more than 5 million Canadians use illegal drugs, more than 1 million are known to abuse prescription drugs, 7 million binge on alcohol, and 2 million are heavy drinkers. Within the medical community addiction is now treated as an illness. I suggest we should also recognize it for what it is: an industry.
Like so many aspects of life today addiction is driven by the rapaciousness of the “marketplace”, that mythical trading sphere where everything is valued by what investors are willing to pay. There is a reason why some of the hottest stocks these days are offerings by “medical” marijuana companies. Addiction is a growth industry. I can’t think of one product that users become addicted to that isn’t driven by profit. From heroin and fentanyl to beer and wine. I’m not suggesting that those products are in the same league, just that their production and distribution are driven by the same “market” values. And once you realize you’re hooked and need treatment there are many options, depending on what you can spend. One facility on Vancouver Island will treat you for pretty much any type of addiction, at a residential inpatient cost $390 per day plus an intake Fee $3,500.
None of that crossed my mind as I sat in that restaurant in Stanley looking out over the South China Sea. (But earlier that day I was reminded that Hong Kong was founded on the sale and distribution of opium.) A month or so earlier I had modified my vow not to drink. I’d gone from no drinking at all, to no drinking beer but allowing wine on special occasions. And even after that, part of my mind was still behaving like a shyster lawyer. I was going over the fine print of an agreement with myself to see if I could find an escape clause. Sitting there at the restaurant my inner lawyer reviewed the agreement and found:
1) The agreement wasn’t designed to prevent the signee from enjoying himself on holiday.
2) It is hot and humid outside.
3) Tsingtao is a light beer.
4) Sitting at a beach front restaurant alone while couples sitting around you are pitching woo amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, if alcohol isn’t consumed.
5) Should I happen to meet someone, I’m known to be much more interesting after drinking a beer. Or, at least I feel much more interesting.
6) The agreement was made when the signee (me) was suffering from food poisoning and wasn’t of sound mind.
I ordered a cold beer. Then, for good measure, a glass of wine to go along with dinner.
It was great. I felt guilty afterwards.
I’m now minimizing drinking to “special occasions”. There have been 2 special occasions in two and a half weeks. And even then I only consumed a fraction of what I would have 6 months ago.
But I recognize that once an agreement has been re-opened it becomes difficult to enforce the remaining restrictions.
I haven’t heard from my lawyer, but I suspect he’s looking at that.