people often change, but, memories of people can remain – Ray Davies
The last time I woke up with a hangover was going to be the last time for good. It’s a headspace I can’t take anymore. I’m too old to be feeling like I’m dying from the inside out; heart pounding, head pounding, stomach folding into itself. Each day is too valuable to waste even one of them sitting around with a headache, sour gut, and general chemical malaise. That last hangover was back in September of 2016.
It was a Saturday night putting down lagers with one of my oldest friends. It was a scene that’s transpired many, many times over the last nearly 20 years. We’d get together, drink, have dinner, watch a movie, and listen to music on Youtube till one of us said “uncle”. Just harmless fun. The next morning was usually a bear, but we had a hell of a time. Laughs were had and spirits were enjoyed(maybe even exorcised.) We’d get together at least once a month, if not more in our 20s. Once kids came into the picture for me the drinking evenings became more scarce, but when we’d find the time we’d make the most of it. But that Sunday morning in September I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. I was done tempting fate.
Over the last few years our get togethers were getting less and less. Kids get older, things come up, and that’s just how it is. But even over the last few years I’ve found myself not really enjoying that next day. It took longer and longer to completely recuperate from a night of “beering” it with the pal. Then early last year I had back surgery. I didn’t drink from February till the end of April as I was on pain meds, and since I’m not cool I didn’t mix booze with pills. I found once I’d healed up that I just didn’t have the stomach for drinking like I’d had in the past. I started wondering “Did I have a drinking problem and not know it?” “Was I relying on alcohol too much?” No, that wasn’t the case. It was that I’m middle-aged and I can’t take that sort of Olympic drinking anymore. I love a pint or two on a Friday night with some records spinning. I adore having a drink with the Mrs when we’re out to dinner. I just can’t sit and make 6 or 7 hours dedicated to downing beer after beer. The sloppiness of the whole thing just really bothers me nowadays. Binge drinking in your 40s isn’t smart(well, duh).
I’ve never liked going out to just specifically drink. Even when I’d turned 21 the whole bar scene bugged the hell out of me. People for the most part are absolute shits when they’re drunk. The myth of the happy drunk was created by other drunks. Drunks are plain obnoxious for the most part. The idea of the local pub and friends gathering is all great and good until you go one pint over, then shit gets ugly. What’s one pint over? You don’t know till you’re already there(or the next morning when you can’t recall how you got home or why you’re wearing underwear that doesn’t belong to you or why your car is parked at the neighbor’s house.) In 1998 I was in a rock band that played local bars. In that year alone I was sicker than I’d ever been in the last 6 years prior. Respiratory illnesses, ear infections, asthma,….in my opinion the cause of hanging out in dank, smokey bars till 2 am playing Doors covers and lousy original songs. I just always felt like I wasn’t quite sad enough to be sitting in a booth at a local bar drinking a Coors Light and listening to some guy sing Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” at Karaoke. I had a home. I had a life. I didn’t need to be there. But I was young and figured that’s what I was supposed to do.
I’m older now. I’m at the age where I like being home. I’m at the age where I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. Saying no when I really mean it, and not saying yes when I don’t. My guilty pleasures are lawyer shows and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, not a long line of rum and cokes. If I’m going to have a drink on the weekend it’ll be sitting in my chair with my wife. Watching a movie, or making a pizza. Spinning records, or playing video games with my son. That’s where I need to be. That’s where I want to be. If I’m going to feel like shit it’s going to be because I’m feverish or I’ve got a chest cold or I put in a good workout the day before. I want my Sunday mornings to be me worshiping at the alter of dark roast and Miles Davis with a side of hotcakes. Not having that burning sensation in my lower intestines and belching up hops. The last hangover I’ll ever have was in September of 2016.
This past Saturday I got together with my old pal. We had a couple beers, watched a couple movies, and had hamburgers on the grill. It was a pleasant evening. Dare I say, a mature display of grown men enjoying each others company?(nah, don’t say that.) By 9:30 pm I was home, Ben and Jerry’s in hand, watching a movie with my family. Sunday morning the dark roast was perfect, as was the french toast. No headaches, no gurgling bowels, and no regrets. I’m changing. I’ve been changing for the past 7 years. It’s not always easy, but for the most part the evolution of me has been enlightening. When you get to the point in your life when you’re ready to move on and leave bad habits in the rearview mirror, it’s a pretty amazing thing. Life feels more vital, and the idea of drinking to the point of blotto isn’t even the remotest options.
My name is J, and I’m an adult. Finally.
Writing this, I was reminded of the Kinks’ song “Do You Remember Walter”. When I first heard it, back when I was 19, I always identified with the Ray Davies character. He’s talking to his friend Walter. He says “Walter, remember when the world was young/And all the girls knew Walter’s name?/Walter, isn’t it a shame the way our little world has changed?”, as if Walter can’t or won’t remember the old days. Later Davies laments “And if I talked about the old times you’d get bored/And you’ll have nothing more to say”. Nowadays though, I seem to identify with Walter more and more. “Do you remember, Walter, how we said we’d fight the world so we’d be free/We’d save up all our money and we’d buy a boat and sail away to sea/But it was not to be, I knew you then but do I know you now?”
“I knew you then but do I know you now?” Hell, I barely knew myself.