Raising a glass to fewer glasses raised

God, I need a drink.

It’s been another crazy day doing all three of my jobs, each of which comes with its unique kind of stress. I’ve come home to the usual litany of responsibilities, crises and a to-do list as long as my arm. Might as well bend the elbow and try and wash it all away.

Not that I need a reason: I like to have a couple of libations just for fun. Birthday, holiday, Friday – heck, even a funky Wednesday is a good enough reason to pour a couple of vodka and tonics, crack a beer or dip into my vast stockpile of decent homemade red wine. I’m a social drinker and I socialize with my family every freakin’ night.

I grew up in households where the clink of glasses was a familiar sound. My grandparents drank at lunch, then again before dinner. My dad had a couple pretty much every night after work. My mom bought white wine by the box from time to time. They didn’t get mean, pass out, forget to feed me or behave badly. They just drank, all the time.

I started when I was 15. My buddy Brad procured two bottles of peppermint schnapps and four of us drank them in the field behind my high school. I didn’t get sick – in fact I had a great time, somehow freed from my usual teenage angst. And my breath smelled minty fresh.

In university, I went as hard as anybody wanted to go, acing every drinking game (exams, not so much.)

Then I began my working career as journalist, a profession where prestigious alcohol consumption has a long and storied history. I didn’t keep a bottle in my desk – I never drink at work – but I often lamented that I had missed the office bar generation.

Sure, I’ve had some bad moments. A tequila accident in high school put me off the stuff for two decades. I punched out a window in my 20s. The occasional crippling hangover was endured.

But I’ve never felt that my consumption altered my personality in a negative way or led me to make a horrendous, irreversible decision.

I’m no moderate, but experience has taught where the line is.

Still, it’s time to cut back. I’m unsure why I know this but I do: I’ve come to the realization that my relationship with booze isn’t as healthy as I’d like it to be and it’s up to me to change it. Nothing happened, I just decided.

For me, that doesn’t mean teetotalling or even treatment. The all-or-nothing approach to alcohol that’s so common in North America is too rigid for me, too primed for failure. I recognize that it’s worked for many, many people, but I will take a different path.

Mostly, it’s about breaking habits; stress relief through exercise and distraction. Soda water and lime instead of vodka and tonic. A couple of glasses of wine on Friday night, not most of the bottle. Let’s meet for coffee instead of at the bar.

I’ve been at this a while now and while I’m saving money and losing weight, I don’t feel much different. I’m still getting old and my body hurts more than it used to. I still feel the burden of stress, something that alcohol only mitigated in small doses. I still need a drink but this herbal tea will have to do.

And has anyone seen the chocolate?

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