From the September 2012 magazine.

September 2012: Nap Time

... and he said he was hanging in bars to make friends!

Long before I became addicted to alcohol, I used other mood-altering substances to excess. I started with sugar. In my pre-teens I engaged in an elaborate ritual of consuming chocolate bars while watching TV. When I was at the movies or on a long car ride, I often brought along a large bag of caramel candies. I didn’t mean to eat the whole bag. I just wanted one more—until the bag was empty. When confronted with a platter of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, I didn’t intend to eat all 27. I just wanted to eat one more—which I did—until the platter was empty. I chewed gum the same way: I would chew the first stick furiously until the flavor gave out, then pop in a fresh stick.

It was the same way with nicotine and alcohol, which I started using to excess in my early teens. By my late teens I was smoking close to two packs a day of unfiltered cigarettes and drinking black coffee throughout the day. When I started drinking alcohol at age 14, I treated a six-pack of beer or a half-pint of rye the same as a bag of candy—just one more can, or one more swig, until the supply was gone. Later the six-pack became a 12-pack, and the half-pint became a pint. My favorite drink was “the next one.”

-- Chuck M.

Freehold, New Jersey

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