Sunday, May 12, 2013

I haven't had a drink in a week. I've been replacing it with mineral water (and a splash of lime!) to fill my stomach at night, after the kids are in bed. You know, to unwind.

It's a "cleanse". Seems people are into "cleansing" these days. They'll banish gluten and soft drinks and soft cheeses from their diet. Go all veggie. Puree the greens and sip it down three times a day. See if they feel any better. That doesn't sound cleansing to me. I'd rather suck down a carafe of WD-40.

But, hey, to each his own. I'm also running every day. I do this from time to time. I claim it's to keep me in check, but there's more to it than that. I want to focus on something dumb for a while. Change up the routine. I want to see if life is different from how I regularly perceive it. I want to find where my body is at. And I want to show everyone that I can. And pathetic, it can be.

I didn't tell anyone, not even my wife. I did this, I think, because I was worried that I might give in after a long hot work day and indulge in -horror of horrors- a beer or two. I started on a Sunday, at church, where these things usually occur to me, and the truth came out around Wednesday, when Mrs. Ditchman noticed I was acting strangely. On Friday, she was thinking about opening a bottle of wine and I said, "I'm not going to have any, but you can." To which she responded, "DO YOU HAVE TO PUNISH US ALL?!"

On Saturday, which I knew was going to be the toughest day because all five of us are home for the duration, I caved and had a beer at the end of the day. It was my beer, one that I'd made and had been aging, and I was dying to try it. It was good. And I had another. So, in the end, I bragged that I had only had two beers all week, and it was beer that I had made myself. This impressed no one.

I love beer. I do. I love wine, too. (I love it more, actually, but good beer is cheap, compared to good wine. These aluminum patio covers don't allow me the choice.) I am fascinated by it all; the recipes, the trends, the tradition. I like the bitterness, which is an adult flavor. And I like the buzzing high from the alcohol, which is an adult sensibility.

And sometimes, I admit, I have been known to drink too much. It is a very shaky path. One of the big lessons in life is learning when enough is Enough. God has built into us insatiability, and we should ponder its benevolent characteristics. But we not only want more of a good thing. We humans, sadly, want more of even a half-good thing, if we are but half-developed.

And alcohol is that. It is a half-good thing. If you've ever been drunk, you know this. We kid ourselves that it's all good because it has been around for eons and, some argue, may have been the one thing that galvanized the advancement of technological civilization, and so our indulgement in it is justified by the ages. But the truth is, it is merely testament to our inherent, perfectly human fallibility -that we cannot control ourselves, however hard we try. Alcohol is here as a test. Can you rise above it? Can you transcend both its blessings and its pitfalls?

So I took some time off the drink, and I was a little surprised by the cravings. I did have cravings, and at the same time every day. It was like having to turn off a reflex, which wasn't too difficult, but then I felt a prolonged craving for sugar, which is when I knew that this could be a serious physical problem.

Alcohol is a mutated, transformed version of sugar, if you didn't know. I say, "if you didn't know" because your body may not know this. So it asks for sugar. And I was looking for old Easter candy before bedtime, and I found this mildly alarming. But in a day or two, it passed. And then I found myself just wanting a relaxing buzz, to drown out the pained, plaintive sounds of the hurried and worried day, and this was easier to quell, with a Pellegrino and an early bedtime.

I don't drink the hard stuff. Though I have, in the past, been wryly amused by a wildly shaken gin martini, or the smooth, peaty scent of a fine whisky, I have never pursued it. Maybe it's because I am a Pisces. I like to drink. I like to swallow liquid. The hard alcohol stuff denies me that pleasure, and there are more places to stumble on that path than are first apparent. (In the coming months I may give up coffee for a week, though I fear I am not so brave.)

The week is over, and I admit I am glad of it. I like my beer at the end of the day. And I told my wife that if I ever drink too much, she should tell me. And then I told her I would fight it a bit, but then relent, because I knew what was right, and, at the end of the day, I am weak.