It wasn’t until a neighborhood man who went by the name of Tree said to me, “you drink just like your father” did I realize that my Dad had a reputation for knocking them back. I proudly smiled then agreed by saying, “Yep!” then kept on drinking. I think it was a summer afternoon, a childhood friend and I had been next door drinking Peach Schnapps on her porch. I was thirteen or fourteen years old; she was fifteen or sixteen.
I remember feeling good about being compared to my father who has now been deceased for a little over twelve years. He died of prostate cancer that spread to his bones, liver, and brain. He was a mere 51 years young and he looked even younger.
There was a brief period when I wanted to be like him: smart, hip, funny, a good tennis player, a chess maverick, a black music aficionado and a bad-ass drinker who could hold his own. Music was always playing in our house, usually soul, funk, or jazz. We even had a mini-turntable/radio in our tiny bathroom. I vaguely remember him dancing around the house and drinking as he prepared to hit the streets after putting us to bed. He would go out on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with his friends who I called Uncle. There was Uncle Dain, Uncle Bunny, Uncle Tank, and Uncle Bones.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA where there wasn’t much to do in terms of recreation but my brother and I created games and challenges to keep us busy. There were the ‘Olympics’ complete with roller skating, make-shift obstacle courses, and round-the-world basketball championships that would lasts for hours during winter or summer time. We were outside from sun up to sun down and then some. However, when puberty knocked and we discovered alcohol — first at home then with our older cousins and friends, I was hooked. We were wild children with curious minds who would try anything especially if we were encouraged not to. To my young mind, drinking was akin to taking high blood pressure medicine, eventually every body did it.
Despite my mother’s numerous lectures on alcoholism in our family, I drank throughout my teens.
By the time I went to college, I was a professional, until one night I blacked out which was the first warning sign. I had thought about cutting back on my drinking but didn’t think there was anything else to do on Friday nights or after a mid-term exam. I used to drink to prove I could hang. I used to do shots because at the time, it looked cool. Rock stars and artists did shots, right? Although when I was growing up my favorite musicians were Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Stevie Wonder. And I don’t believe any of them actually drank too much which could be why 3 out of the 4 are still alive and kicking.
Last night I stumbled upon this 75 year long Harvard study on what men need to live a happy life and I thought about my Dad and the many men in my world, I had to read the second paragraph twice because it seemed to come out of left field. It says:
As you can imagine, the study’s discoveries are bountiful, but the most significant finding of all is that “Alcoholism is a disorder of great destructive power.” In fact, alcoholism is the single strongest cause of divorce between the Grant Study men and their wives. Alcoholism was also found to be strongly coupled with neurosis and depression (which most often follows alcohol abuse, rather than preceding it). Together with cigarette smoking, alcoholism proves to be the #1 greatest cause of morbidity and death. And above a certain level, intelligence doesn’t prevent the damage.
Wow. I could not agree more. But it’s the last sentence that spoke volumes to me. I’ve met some super intelligent people who do some stupid shit when drinking, my father and myself included.
I rarely drink these days, maybe once a week, primarily because I feel horrible the following day … lethargic and foggy plus many times my head, joints or bones ache. If I drink on Friday night, it can take most of Saturday for me to recover which is awful. This leads to non-productivity and I like to keep things moving. Knowing my limit also helps. The trick for me is to drink a glass of wine then some water. Two glasses is sufficient; and three if I’m on the beach taking ocean dips throughout the day.
There are nights when I wish I could call my Dad to ask him what drove him to drink so much in the first place. Was it being drafted for the so-called Vietnam War? Was it being married and having two kids at such a young age? Or the pain of being given up for adoption at two years old yet knowing his birth mother his entire life? Or maybe because he was born a black man in America? All very real reasons to want to have a drink. History has proven it’s never worth it but I don’t blame my father, he did his best.
Not too long ago, the New York Times published, Alcohol and Diet in the Times Health Guide. Most of the information focuses on calories and the lack of vitamins and nutrients in alcoholic beverages but below is the part that many of us need to read from time to time:
Drinking alcohol affects your nervous system and acts as a mild anesthetic and tranquilizer. It is harmful if consumed in large amounts. It can be an addictive substance. Alcohol is a leading cause of traffic accidents in the United States because it slows reaction time and impairs judgment.
Moderate drinking is defined as 1 – 2 glasses of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage daily. Moderate alcohol consumption, especially when combined with a Mediterranean-style diet, has been shown to improve cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) health.
Continued, excessive use of alcohol can damage the liver. It can cause alcoholic hepatitis and a fatty liver. A fatty liver can progress to cirrhosis of the liver, a potentially fatal condition.
Alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, throat, larynx, mouth, and breast.
Drinking alcohol can damage the lining of the small intestine and the stomach, which affects the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Alcohol can impair sexual function, even though it may increase your interest in sexual activity.
Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. Alcohol intake during pregnancy has been identified as the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome.
My co-worker, the one who used to drink 3 Cokes before bed, asked me, “We’re all going to die KalaLea so why not eat and drink what we want, when we want it?”
I knew what he meant, I ask myself this question often. My answer to him was, “Yes, I get it but I would prefer to live my later years feeling good, healthy, vibrant, sharp, and active until it’s time to go then I hope to die peacefully in my sleep–as opposed to hooked up to a machine, using a walker, or on loads of medication. It’s all about being smart now so as not to suffer or force my loved ones to suffer later. Kinda like having a retirement savings account.”
He’s into finance which is why I threw in that last part.
He paused then said, “Yeah, I get it. Makes sense.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re eating organic or sustainably, if you’re drinking more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks every weekend or several times per week, you are doing damage. If you can’t go a day without drinking, you have a problem. And if stress is causing you to drink, then you are fighting fire with flaming fire. If that’s okay with you and you’re getting stuff done, then I envy you.
Have a joyful, happy and healthy holiday month.
cheers to good health,
I know this is a SUPER long post but if you care to read more about alcohol and the side-effects, check out:
p.s. My co-worker has been Coke and Sweet n’ Low free for nearly a month now and he is also eating more salad and vegetables than ever. He even showed me a smartphone picture of the salad he ate the other night. This made me feel great. I know I can be a pest but my intentions are always good and full of love.
pp.s. i don’t know these guys in the photos which is why i posted them. they were f***ed up though!