When you’ve gotten to be my age, and you’ve done what I’ve done to my children, family, health, friends, finances, and finally looks, you begin to search the flotsam and jetsam of your life to find adequate reasons. I don’t mean reasons for them; they already know what I am because those poor bastards had a front-row seat, but for me.
Externalization seems to be the default setting for humans, and very few people want to blame the real culprit, themselves. It’s more comfortable being a victim of someone’s devious plot to wreck your life than to grab a glass of humility and swallow that bitter pill of accountability. It took me some time to take any responsibility for my actions, and that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this. It’s my mea culpa, a declaration of full responsibility for those who know me, and a dire warning for those who don’t. You can read it if you want, but ignore it at your peril. I have twenty years of experience on the front lines of this one. You might want to read what I have to say.
I’m sure you’ve gleaned from the title that I’m talking about my old friend and worst enemy, alcohol. We all know what alcohol is, but do you know what it does to your body? Everyone knows about the pancreatic and liver problems associated with alcohol, so let’s just skip them entirely and move to the lesser-known joys of heavy use. I don’t mean to deep dive on this, so I’ll hit on the most enduring and endearing effects. Alcohol can shrink your brain, cause bone density loss, memory loss, infertility, cancer, sexual dysfunction, malnutrition, heart damage, birth defects, low immune response, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach distress, and obesity, to name a few. Oh, and alcohol is also the Reinhardt Heydrich of dendrites. Dendrites are those little devils between the neurons that allow them to communicate, neural pathways if you will. Although alcohol does not outright kill brain cells, it negatively impacts their ability to communicate efficiently and effectively by destroying these dendrites. The most insidious part of this destruction, as with all damage wrought by alcohol, is that it happens over time. When you start drinking at twenty-one or so, your brain may be skipping along at the speed of William Shakespeare, but after twenty to twenty-five years of hard-drinking, it may find itself stuttering along like Forrest Gump.
Oh, YOU don’t notice the deterioration happening, but the people around you witnessing are well aware. I first encountered the devil before I was born. In 1972, my birth year, if a pregnant woman went into premature labor, they would give her an alcohol drip to slow or stop contractions. It is entirely possible that my first buzz and hangover in the womb way back in the seventies resulted from this practice. I don’t know if that practice persists, but it seems to me delivering Bacardi 101 in utero would be a bad decision. Still, I was to be five months premature in the early seventies giving me about a 0.00% chance of survival if left to nature, so they administered the drip to my Mother for three days, a real bender for baby Joe.
It saved my life, but the irony lies in the fact that the very substance that saved me will likely be the end of me. My Mother blames that alcohol drip to this day for my addiction. Externalizations on all sides occur in the insane world of alcoholism. I imagine that drip was administered to many pregnant women for decades, but I also saw the possibility of an epigenetic explanation for alcoholism in such cases. I consulted the Oracle of Mountain View and couldn’t find any articles with a correlation between intravenous alcohol infusion for premature labor and adult alcoholism. I’m not saying there is no correlation; there may well be, just that it might require a deeper examination than a five-minute Google search. A much more likely explanation is that Mom wishes to believe me too intelligent to willingly and happily destroy myself, a mistake that many people close to alcoholics make. We, every alcoholic I know, willingly hoist that petard.
I’ll bet the first question people who haven’t fallen under the spell of such a sweet demon ask is WHY? Why do you do it? I imagine it must all seem very odd to you on the outside peering in what circus freaks we must appear. Hopefully, in this written act of catharsis, I can drag you through the mind of a degenerate alcoholic. I can’t conceive a more effective way to explain why alcoholics constantly make the wrong decisions. So, if part one was to wet your whistle-be sure to check back in for the next round, no pun intended, if you are so inclined to read part two.