From the July 2010 magazine.

Out of the wilderness

A teacher and canoeist finally accepts that drinking has made his life unmanageable

At the age of 12 I had a sip of beer and immediately spit it out because of its bitter taste. I swore I'd never drink beer again. The next experience was in 1946, when I entered college. Ninety percent of the students in my freshman class were veterans of World War II, most of whom had learned to drink in the service. To fit in, I learned to drink beer. After the first beer, it didn't taste so bad. In college my drinking was limited to parties and a few weekend forays to bars with my fraternity brothers. We were never asked our ages.

Although I drank occasionally after that, drinking didn't become an important part of my life until I moved to Michigan. I started to go north into Canada every summer on canoe trips with colleagues who drank. The first two years we carried beer, but it soon became obvious that enough beer for a two- or even one-week trip was much too heavy to carry.

-- BILL H.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

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