Sunday, March 04, 2012


On the evening of March 4, 1992, I drank two beers. They were the last two alcoholic beverages that I would have drunk for the rest of my life. In the months previous to that day as well as the time that soon followed, I had become completely drug free as well. Well, unless you count caffeine.

I don’t regret a single day of my decision. I had never experienced any sort of moment of epiphany when I had some guilty moral revelation about quitting all my shit; I simply came to the gradual conclusion in my mind that I was through with drug and alcohol use.

I feel that whatever works for someone to help with quitting an addiction, within reason, is something that I fully support. However, I had never felt any real need for such groups to be necessary for me. I’ve spent perhaps about 30 minutes in an AA meeting (at the behest of friends), but in the end, I wasn't interested. Somehow, it just seemed like I had eventually come to a conclusion in which I thought to myself: “You know what? I don’t even like alcoholic beverages.” To be quite accurately descriptive, I had finished drinking. No DTs. No jonesin’ for a drink. There was nothing even close to that stuff.

Family history may have contributed heavily to my eventual choice to go alcohol-free, what with my mother dying of cirrhosis at 55, my father staying drunk for most of the last 30 years of his life, and my brother probably heavily intoxicated when he committed suicide at 31. Perhaps the decision drew heavily upon personal health contemplations. After a bout with pneumonia in late 1991 that brought me down to a rather svelte weight of 123 pounds (at six feet tall), I began to take stock of the stuff that I learned about during my four days of hospitalization such as the importance of maintaining adequate blood oxygen levels. In time after quitting alcohol, I began to notice the difference on how my body felt. It seemed as if my veins were feeling, well… cleaner, actually. The new high was now to do without what was making me high. Imagine that.

Between the ages of 12 and 29, I had used or at least tried pretty much every narcotic as well as alcoholic beverage known to Western civilization. If I had to ponder the question of whether I would do it all again, I would be slightly torn on the answer. Although I don’t have any regrets, and feel that I have learned a lot about the wilder, darker and underground side of culture (thanks to 17 years of experimentation), I would probably have avoided all of that with only a slight twist of fate early on in life.

Artistically, I don’t think that substance use affected or influenced my output any differently than sobriety has done. I do hold the personal opinion that my songwriting actually improved after getting clean, but I can also write that improvement off to age and experience. I doubt that I would have had the discipline (or extra cash) to get into oil painting, even with the relatively low output of ten works total, had I continued drinking, although that didn’t seem to stop a lot of famous painters in history. (Well, perhaps in the end, it did stop them permanently.)

The extra money I have saved over the years, admittedly, is rather nice. For example, I can look at my Telecaster and see it replaced by several six packs of beer combined with hours blown away socializing in various bars and nightclubs and, well, not be playing the same guitar today. That’s simply a matter of personal monetary policy. In the matter of gainful employment, I can only speculate that I would be in a far less secure position in the work world if I had continued the typical habit of calling in “sick” following the then-standard all nighter (or, in my case, frequently, the two-dayer), that is, if I bother to call in at all and don’t become a no show for the day. The time I’ve gained back to pursue various endeavors of the mind and body, as opposed to simply sitting around and drinking with only some trivial conversation and lost sleep to show for the time wasted, has been a beneficial side benefit as well.

I don’t feel that I’m any sort of militant prohibitionist by any stretch of the imagination. What goes into a person’s body is simply and solely a matter of the personal choice of each individual. It’s what comes out as a result that might piss me off. That’s why I tend to be unsympathetic on any level whatsoever when someone uses substance abuse as an excuse for behaving badly. If a person is being a drunken asshole, it’s because he or she actually is an asshole deep down inside the personality and the booze is simply amplifying those character flaws. I don’t exclude myself from that analysis, which was probably one more motivation to finish drinking. I feel that I came to the ultimate conclusion that I like to be in control of myself – my mind, as well as my body - and alcohol, as well as other drugs, can pose way too much of a risk to lose that kind of personal control.

Ultimately, I would put forth that alcohol is just one of many unnatural substances in life that humankind has harnessed and embraced, and if one enjoys imbibing in strong drink then more power to them. On my end, I found out eventually that I don’t like alcohol in the same way that I don’t like certain foods and I am feeling much better without any of that stuff in my system whatsoever. Additionally, I feel much more mature and sophisticated without a social accessory which is perceived by so many as a symbol of maturity and sophistication. I’m never putting another drop of an alcoholic beverage in my system again. Ever. Why the hell would I need to?