While I was as far back in a kitchen cabinet as I could go, searching for the last 50-100-150 light bulb (I like the old light bulbs and I’m not changing!) I ran across a forgotten bottle of Glenfiddich, once the source of, I thought, warmth and comfort.
Made me realize that I’m 21 plus months clean and sober so thought I’d rerun this piece.
By Bob Quarteroni
So, it looks like I won’t be drinking to that.
In fact, I won’t be drinking to anything.
That’s because in less than two weeks I’ll mark an entire calendar year without an alcoholic beverage, not even an O’Doul’s near beer. Nothing, nada.
Which you can say was beyond the now iconic “long strange trip” from my serial blackout days when I was a bartender at the Phyrst in State College.
We would drink all the while we bartended and then we would each invite a “guest” – you can figure that one out – for after hours where we would continue drinking, often until day break.
And this was pretty much what I did six days a week.
AFTER I got my master’s degree in journalism. In my late 20s and early 30s.
Not exactly your normal career path. As the Kinks said on their underappreciated Muswell Hillbillies album, “Who thought I would fall a slave to demon alcohol.”
Yepper. It had me in its grip. I can claim – with absolute truth – that a lot of it was to self-medicate away all the horrors and panic attacks and killer anxiety sessions which have dogged me my entire life.
If wasn’t a pretty solution, but it was the only one that I could think of at the time, and combined with the sybaritic lifestyle, it just became a habit.
As I said in an interview in the student paper, the Daily Collegian, which was doing an article on student and graduate bartenders, I took the Phyrst job because of “easy women, free liquor and it was the only job I could get.”
It was the only job I could get because if you go to bed at 7 a.m. it’s hard to get up for a regular job and the wake-up killer hangovers and shakes – and I was smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day then – make it hard to keep a job.
In fact, when a lifeline out of this was tossed to me by the Centre Daily Times, which offered me a four-hours a day copy editing job, demon alcohol almost ruined it.
I made the first four days of work at 7 .m .and everyone was pleased, even hoary old irascible publisher Jerome Weinstein.
But then I tied one on and the next morning, even as the phone was ringing to find out where I was, I stayed in bed, gripping the pillow, half unwilling to get up, half knowing I was pissing away my future.
I didn’t show up for work for three days but, mercifully, when I did, they inexplicably took me back. I don’t remember what kind of bald-faced lie I used then, but I’ll be forever grateful that they looked past it and gave me a chance.
I didn’t stop drinking then, not by a long shot, but I was able to hold it together enough to keep the job, which eventually became full-time and I worked my way up to columnist, news editor and sundry other positions at the newspaper that formed me into what I am – for good or bad – today.
My drinking continued when I left for a job at St. Leo College near Tampa – not helped by the on-campus faculty lounge – as well as the University of Florida and the two other universities that completed what laughingly passes for my career.
But as I got older some things changed. Primarily, first Prozac and then a lot of its cousins helped replace beer and Jack Daniels in my lifelong fight against my mind’s crazy monkey. That, and the fact that the decades of abuse wasn’t helping Mr. Body and the hangovers became increasingly worse even as my daily drinks became fewer and fewer.
Finally, I’d had enough.
I know this should be the spot where I have some great epiphany that leads me to stop drinking but it was nothing like that. I didn’t even consciously plan it. I just noticed in mid-January of this year that I hadn’t had a drink and decided there was no reason to have another one.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “”This is the way (my) world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.”
And the year flew by and I wasn’t even tempted to take a drink. Go figure.
The moral of this story? Just finally, getting enough sense in this hard head to look in the mirror and recognize myself in the words of noted tippler F. Scott Fitzgerald, “First you that a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”
Like anything else that you’ve had a love-hate relationship with for nearly seventy years, my feelings about alcohol are decidedly mixed. But, scars and all, we were together for a long time and while he’s finally gone, I’m still here.
And to me, that’s not nothing.