I started drinking alcohol when I was 14 years old. Throughout high school and the military I was a steady to heavy drinker. Before I was legal I used to get beer the way that most underage drinkers do. Using a fake ID or getting an older friend to buy it. Once of age, it was game on. When I lived in the barracks as a young private it wasn't uncommon for me to polish off a 12 pack of beer and a bottle of Boones Farm Apple wine nightly. I would then celebrate my accomplishment by hurling the glass bottle against the cinder block wall of my room.
Several incidents stick out in my mind over the years. The time I got off work on Thursday night at the start of a four day weekend and chugged an entire bottle of Bacardi 151 to get the weekend started. I woke up 3 days later. Or the time myself and my fellow instructors stayed up drinking whiskey until 3 AM and then showed up to work at 5AM to do our 6 high altitude parachute jumps with our students. Sucking oxygen at ground level in an attempt to sober up. Or the time I was car surfing in Switzerland and the car took a left and my body took a right. As I hit the cobblestones at about 30 mph I was hoping I didn't get a license plate to the back of the head. Or the time I was so hungover on a redeployment that I flew from Greece to Germany with a stopover in Spain without ever waking up. I have many more instances of "good times" that were a result of alcohol induced poor decisions.
I was a functioning alcoholic. I never missed work. I never fucked up in a major way.I never got a DUI. Never went to a meeting. But no doubt about it I was an alcoholic. Then I went to a birthday party at a NCO club in Southern Bavaria. I don't remember much of that night. I do remember waking up the next day covered in puke with the worst hangover I had ever experienced. The hangover lasted for a solid week. Even the sight of alcohol made me nauseous. It was then I made the decision to take a hiatus from booze. It was hard at first. All my friends were used to Drunk Mike. Sober Mike confused them.I had to quit chewing tobacco as well, as that made me crave a beer. But as time stretched from one year to two and into three my situation changed. New friends never knew drunk Mike. Old friends accepted the fact I no longer drank and quit asking me to enjoy a beer with them. Time marched on and I kept on my hiatus.
I won't say things are perfect. Alcohol is very much a part of the culture of guns,manliness,cops, emergency medicine and military that I hang with. I often feel out of place or like the fifth wheel at social gatherings. Mostly I choose not to go when invited just to head off the awkwardness. I sometimes still wander down the beer aisle wondering " if just one Hefe Weizen" would be ok. Make no mistake I didn't quit drinking because I didn't like it, I quit because I was too good at it. But inevitably I decide to "wait until next time." So I will continue my hiatus. I won't ever say I quit because if given the opportunity on my deathbed I am having a dang beer.