January 2020 | Spiritual Awakenings

A Night of Normal Drinking

Just in case he ever forgets, a member recalls what an evening out was actually like

There is often talk in recovery of “normal drinking.” A passage in one of the standard readings at my AA meetings mentions how no one has figured out how to make a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. I used to think it was easy.

It got me to thinking. Want to be a “normal” drinker? Sure. Here’s what I did... 

I walk into a bar after work with my friends. The bartender has my drink already waiting for me before I say a word. He brings me another one 15 seconds later, by which time I’ve finished the first one. The bartender then makes doubles. It cuts his work in half, for a while. Keep ’em coming! 

My friends nod in approval and recognition that I’m a better drinker than they, while I slug down my drinks as they waste their time on chitchat and sipping. I’m setting the standard here.

I’m now sparkling and have the height-weight ratio of a Hollywood star and an “endless” pile of money. I’m charming and witty and people just can’t wait to be with me and hang on my every word. Maybe that guy over there didn’t hear me. I’ll talk a little louder. Oh, and I smell wonderful!

Normal drinking for me, however, means my spouse at home either gave my dinner to the dog, put it in the fridge or just didn’t bother making it. I’m having nachos. 

Normal drinking for me? It’s now 2:00 a.m. and happy hour is long over. I’ve said goodbye to all my coworkers. Actually, I said goodbye to them within an hour after we got to the bar. Losers. They think happy hour lasts an hour. At 2:25 a.m., the chairs are up, the lights are on and the employees are waiting for me and one other drunk to finish our drinks so they can all leave. That other guy never takes their cues. 

I finally arrive home. My spouse really knows how to make me feel like “the boss” by letting me sleep on the sofa. Boy, that sofa is comfortable. I could sleep there all night long. Night after night after night. 

After a good hour of restful sleep on the couch, I go to the bathroom, where everything inside my body leaves my body from every place it can exit. Who knew you could vomit from your tear ducts? The miracles of nature. 

The birds are now chirping. Really loud. The sunlight is warm and soft and doesn’t hurt my eyes at all. Time for my medicine. A quick pop of the cork will stop that silly shaking and quell the headache. It’s not really a headache. It feels more like I took my head off my body, rolled it down several flights of stairs, rubbed it in salt and filled it with a million baby spiders that have hot, little knives attached to all eight of their legs. I probably had too many brain cells to begin with.

After a night of “normal drinking,” my pants pockets are jammed with cash. Lots of it. Way more than I had when I went to the bar. The bank account has even more money than I thought. I’ll take the day off today. I’ve earned it. 

Back on the sofa, I bask in the memories of yet another glamorous evening of normal drinking. I regale my spouse with the details of my adventures with the nice policeman who noticed I was, um, tired, and protected me while I napped in the car last night. I tell her about how he drove me home and we completely missed our exit. They like it when you forget where you live. Oh…and why are my wrists so red and sore?

But wait, what happened to this lamp over here? Who stepped on the shade? Whoa! What the hell happened to the kitchen? And did someone die in the bathroom? 

My wife is now standing over me. Did she say she called an attorney? When did she do that? And what’s with the boxes and the suitcase? Is she going somewhere?

That’s my version of normal drinking. 

When I drank, I spent every cent, every hour, every thought and every action on liquor. I expected to be healthy, wealthy and wise, to have money, a happy spouse, a healthy liver, a steady heart rhythm, clean, white teeth and a stylish haircut. As a matter of fact, I expected things to get better the more I drank. Somehow, a miracle would blossom, and all would be great.

I sure didn’t expect to get so out of shape. And I was surprised and perplexed by my stagnant career and crumbling marriage. Who’d have thought that drinking around the clock would have resulted in this? 

The truth is, I didn’t want to be a normal drinker. I wanted to drink as I normally drank but with positive results and no negative repercussions. 

Today, I know I just can’t do it. 

So now, when it comes to normal drinking, I say, “No, thanks. Normal drinking almost killed me!” 

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