There's something that I've yet to really explore here. And that's my relationship with alcoholic beverages.
I started drinking when I was still in high school. It was easy enough-- there were a lot of us doing it together. I started because I thought it was cool. Not because I wanted to be cool-- I had already "arrived" on the social scene, found my confidence and made a lot of friends. But I always thought that drinking was somehow cool, as somehow something that I wanted to do.
It wasn't so much the rush of doing something that was illegal, although I suppose there was some of that-- doing something that you saw adults do for fun, made it even more fun and uplifting. It was growing up without waiting for the actual aging.
I soon learned that I could drink a lot and not get really sick. In fact, it wasn't long before I had my first black out. I may have a predisposition for such things, because my experiences with drinking were different from those of my friends. I could get drunk to where I didn't remember what happened the next day. But I could still function to some extent while I was that drunk. Well, sometimes, anyway.
About the time that I finished high school and went away to college, I became sexually active. My first time was with a woman that I worked with, and we sneaked off after our shift and parked on a dark country road. There was no alcohol involved, but I was transformed. I wasn't scared anymore; I felt I finally knew what to do.
The combination of alcohol and sexual drive was a dangerous combination. Alcohol lifted my confidence even more, to where I thought any woman that I was attracted to would surely return my sentiment. I pushed the boundaries, coming on to women hard, especially after a few drinks. This often led to one-night stands that exacerbated the hangover in the morning. I even had a couple bouts with venereal disease. I wasn't careful, and I was lucky that I didn't contract something more severe, or end up getting somebody pregnant. Alcohol made all of this possible.
Drinking became my main social activity in college. Almost all my friends drank, and to excess. I had countless times where I drank too much, didn't remember the events from the evening the following day, and vowed to myself never to let that happen again. But it did, and often got worse.
After a few times where I really pissed off my friends, or I just got myself into situations that I felt horrible about the next day, I started to try and change my drinking. Over many years, I ended up focusing my drinking, limiting my intake of wine and cocktails and concentrating mainly on beer.
But beer was still a formidable force. I developed the habit of drinking by myself after work, when I was working swing shift. I'd get some beer after the end of my shift at 1:30am and drink sometimes well into the morning hours before crashing into bed.
There were a lot of incidents where my drinking got me into some trouble. The first run-in with the law was six days before my 21st birthday, I tried to buy some beer at a mini-mart gas station. I was successful without being carded, so me and two friends took a twelve pack of Coors Light and parked on a city street near a park, shut off the engine and popped the tops. We'd barely had a sip when a bright pair of headlights swooped up behind us and started an investigation. We all ended up with tickets and had to pour all the beer out. Dejected, we proceeded to drive to a very small town nearby, roll down the windows, and scream expletives at the top of our lungs while my friend drove screeching around the couple blocks or so of the neighborhood. Since it was about midnight, this was not met with much amusement, I'm assuming, by the townspeople. But it felt good. Which is always of the utmost importance when you're about that age.
I ended up doing a trial-by-mail and getting "acquitted" of the illegal possession charge. Seems my writing abilities have served me well. But there were other times that I got into sticky situations and just somehow lucked out of them. I don't know how I got away without any DUI's or DWI's but I did. There are times that I don't remember driving home, even though it was several miles of dark two-lane country roads. I'm lucky to be alive, lucky I didn't kill anybody.
So. I finally quit drinking for a couple years, as I was trying to equalize and stabilize between my moods and meds, as treatment for my bipolar disorder. I recently started having beer with meals again, but still, there's a desire to drink to excess; to drink to the point where perfection is an emotion that I feel with endless abandon. Euphoria in a buzz, and magical peace in universal loving collaboration. All doubt takes a nap. And the mind is at ease, with all possibility at hand.
I'm not sure I'm doing the "right" thing by drinking at all. But not drinking at all didn't cure me, either.
All of those blackouts have forever Swiss-cheesed my confidence, my recollection. My confidence is undermined because I don't remember; Anything could have happened and I might have done something I will forever regret. In fact, the whole idea that I don't remember is grounds for psychological doubt-- am I not remembering something for a distinct reason? Am I actually suppressing the memory? I don't know how I can ever be sure.
And my drinking is entwined in my bipolar disorder. Some of the drinking is self-medication, and it works. But it doesn't treat the disorder; it treats the immediate symptoms and creates deeper concerns. So there's a pull to take part in drinking because it feels right, and it's socially acceptable. More acceptable to drink than be depressed or exhibit symptoms of mental illness. That's how society's organized it to date.
So just like when my mood disorder is in full swing, and I sneak into a manic episode, there's the motivation to lap up every last drop of "feel-good" and try to live there, in euphoria, like it's eternally sustainable. But it's not. We are like waves at the beach. Our moods and emotions come and go. Drinking is a crude way of managing this disorder. And ultimately, it doesn't work. But that doesn't make it any easier when you're facing shitty options to give it a try again.
So I still wish that I could drink to excess. I still wish that I was in my twenties. The truth about my life is that I'm not going to go back there; I can't be twenty-one again any more than I can drink eight beers in one night. But I will always want to. Always.