I learned long ago that grandfathers shouldn’t drive

Abbey has a whole post about turning my blog topics into a poem…a rather morbid poem, because I guess all I talk about is DEATH and SPIDERS and MORONS. It wouldn’t sting as much as it does if there weren’t a bit of truth to it. All right then, I’ll write about something else then.

How about alcoholism?

I have an ugly family history of alcoholism, which has given me a lifetime resistance to the disease. I’m not about to take up drinking unless, of course, I become suicidally depressed, which could happen, since depression isn’t under anyone’s control. So I’ll never say never, but sure, if my life took a tragic turn, I could imagine trying to drown my grief and end my life in a puddle of vomit while shitting my pants. That’s what I think of alcoholism: it’s an ugly way of destroying yourself if you have such self-loathing that you want to degrade yourself into oblivion. How I came to that opinion was by witnessing such destruction.

When I was a child, I had doting grandparents on my mother’s side. She was an only child, so we were the only grandchildren they’d ever have, and they spoiled us. We often spent weekends at their house, staying up late, watching TV, eating cookies, etc., all the things we do to take advantage of older relatives. My grandfather taught me interesting things: he had a complete woodworking shop, where I learned how to use a lathe and a table saw. He was also an eager adopter of new gadgets, and had an 8mm movie camera, and taught me how to edit film. He was a cool dude, at first.

And then, the drinking.

It was an occasional beer throughout the day, at first. Then a six-pack in the morning. Then he’d have a case by his easy chair, so he wouldn’t have to get up to pop a warm can of Pabudschlitz, or whatever, when he felt like it, which seemed to be continuously. By 10am he’d be soused, slurring his words and veering frequently into racial commentary. When I was a pre-teen, though, I’d sometimes still be left in my grandparent’s care, and sometimes Grandma would be off doing grandmotherly things, and the moment of dread would arrive (no, not what you think):

“Hey boy, let’s go for a drive.”

This where I acquired my grim Nordic fatalism. We’d get in his land yacht, which was always some huge monstrous boat of a vehicle (it was a rule in the 1960s that the older you got, the wider your car had to be), and set off on an Epic Journey. He’d never get above 10-15 miles per hour, wobbling all over the road, terrifying the telephone poles, and stopping at every intersection to peer around blearily to figure where he was going. I could have told him. North on 1st Ave, left on Willis and a quick right, on to Meeker street, then left and right one block up, then pull into the parking spot. Our destination was a bar, of course. I think it was called the Moonlight Inn? Moon something? I don’t know, I’ll just call it the Memory Hole Inn.

We’d stop. He’d say, “Wait there, I’ll be right back.” He wouldn’t be. I’d sit in the car for maybe an hour or so. One time I got fed up with waiting, and walked into the Memory Hole Inn to see what was going on. It was the only time I ever set foot in the damned place.

It was dark. Lights were dimmed, there was a long dark wood bar, there were dark booths, dark tables, dark chairs, some benches upholstered with cracked red vinyl. It was dead quiet, except for the occasional clink of glasses. There was my grandfather, sitting alone at a table, slumped over a half dozen empty shot glasses. He noticed me and without a word we went back to his boat of a car and drove back to his house.

I cannot communicate the terror of driving with my grandfather, because I took it like a good little nihilist. He didn’t drive fast, just erratically. We were doomed, I’d probably end up with a broken neck or a face lacerated with shattered glass, but I would just sit there quietly as the world lurched by in unexpected proximity. Not even a seatbelt — this was the 1960s, after all — and I just contemplated with despair the tree branches that might punch through my eye or what ditch my sad little corpse would adorn.

I loved my grandfather, you see. If he saw fit to take me on a cruise on Naglfar, who was I to object?

Far more revealing, pehaps, was when he drove with my grandmother (she had no license, had never learned, 1960s yadda yadda). She lacked the Norwegian grimness, you know. When Grandma was in the car, she clutched the armrest with one claw, had the other braced against the dashboard, and would frequently shriek “NEHMEN!” Every moment we were one second away from Hel, and she let us all know it. While I was sitting quietly in the back seat, calmly thinking “we’re going to die any moment now” and goggling about owlishly, resigned to my fate, she was howling “WE’RE GOING TO DIE” while preparing to murder Grandpa in revenge. She was obviously the bravest woman I’ve ever known, with the courage to repeatedly mount the doom ride.

Also, she managed to stay with her husband as his drinking worsened, as oral cancer mangled his face, as he descended into foul-mouthed impotent rage, sitting in his chair howling his hatred of women and Asians and black people. At least he was unable to drive at all!

So today I am a grandfather, and my wife is a grandmother, and we’re getting ready to get into a car and drive across the state to see our granddaughter. There won’t be even a whiff of alcohol vapor anywhere in the car or from my person, because I learned my lesson early on. I learned a lot of things I shouldn’t do from Grandpa. Mary will still be terrified of my driving — I think it’s a Scandinavian Grandmother thing. We’ll probably survive, especially if I let her do all the driving.

So. I’m getting ready to go to Wisconsin. We’ll probably make frequent stops to see how the spider population is doing along I-94. Iliana won’t have to wonder what Grandpa is doing, he’ll be hunched over a spider web rather than a collection of shot glasses, which I think is an improvement.


  1. haemolytica says

    Recovering alcoholic here. 6mo sober, although I had 3 years once. For me, I did not originally drink because of grief, depression, or despair. I drank when I was happy. I drank for the effect; liquid courage, a social lubricant. Not because I wanted to die. But eventually, it turned into morning noon and night. I was continually drunk for months. I’d wake up before 3:30 am to start drinking because that’s when I estimated my BAC was below 0.10. I was physically addicted and could not stop on my own, even though I wanted to. For me, THAT’S when the grief, despair, and depression set in.

    I lost my wife, kids, house, and nearly my job (I’m still on probation, because it was clear I was 0.10 or much higher at work, then I stopped going all together.) I drove drunk continually, with loved ones in the car. I don’t know how I didn’t kill anyone or get arrested, because I had to drive with one eye closed. It’s a terrible shame of mine.

    Eventually I made the decision to seek help. I spent 3 days in the hospital followed by 2 months of detox/rehab. (Ask me sometime what it’s like to be an atheist in a 12 step recovery program.)

    Nevertheless, I’m sober again. 6mo. I’m rebuilding my career. Still going through a divorce and have lost primary physical custody of my kids, but my relationship with them is growing stronger because I am sober and present. I’m a dad again, even though I only see them a couple times a week. My liver is healing and I’ve gained most my weight back.

    But for me, my drinking career didn’t start with self- loathing. That was the end result.

  2. Bruce Fuentes says

    Enjoy your time in WI. Stick to the cities. Don’t talk politics if you are ut in the rural areas and you will be fine. So pretty much like MN. If I remember correctly you are going to Eau Claire. Nice town, UWEC is a good school. My wife got her Bachelors there and we are friends of the physics dept chair. We haven’t been there since COVID, hopefully, we will get there a few times this summer.

  3. brightmoon says

    Grandmother’s brothers were mostly alcoholics . I went to a funeral EVERY SINGLE YEAR for over a decade due to at least one of them dying from the effects of alcoholism . I don’t drink because that scared me too much . The family took care of them so they didn’t die in the street but the health and mental issues , (depression, brain rot, various cancers ,cirrhosis , heart problems , damaged kidneys etc) were scary enough . But what prevented me from even thinking about becoming a social or after work drinker was the fact that once they started they couldn’t stop. It was like watching someone descend slowly into hell . Ill get one glass of a cocktail or wine and the rest of the evening is ginger ale . It makes some people think I used to be an alcoholic but I don’t care.

  4. anxionnat says

    My family also has a history of alcoholism, on my paternal grandpa’s side. He dropped out of school at 16 and ran away from his fundamentalist christian parents. He ran from Nebraska, as far as LA, where someone must have seen that homeless, dropout, unskilled, probably drunk, 16-year-old and seen the kind of man he could become. He got hired to go south of the Mexican border and organize Mexican railroad workers. This was during the time that Pancho Villa was operating in the area. Grandpa taught himself border Spanglish, and made a career out of union organizing, eventually becoming (in the 20s to the 50s) the best-loved and best-known union organizer in the state of Utah. I loved and admired my grandpa. He was kind, generous to a fault. He’d give you anything he owned–even if you never asked. He used to say, “Every man has his price”, referring to the several times he’d been offered lucrative bribes, but his price was so high that only the working and poor people to whom he dedicated his life could pay it. (Yes, he was both a communist and an outspoken atheist, in a state where neither was acceptable. Utah was then, as now, a right-wing theocracy.) But I was not blind to the fact that he would go on periodic drinking bouts and destroy stuff. Once he was both drunk and smoking in bed, and he burned down the house where he and grandma were living at the time. They lost everything, and came to live with my family for a while. I was about 12. My dad and my brother were both quite aware that alcoholism sometimes runs in families, and I’ve seen their struggles to avoid the same for themselves. Grandpa didn’t kill himself, nor did my dad or my brother (thank goodness) but I’ve definitely heard some horror stories and have been involved in some late-night rescues. Mom never learned to drive–in part, I think, because she didn’t want to have to be responsible for rescues if dad (or grandpa, when he lived with us) went on benders. As for me–I never touch the stuff. Makes me physically ill. Besides some of my meds say “do not take with alcohol” and I oblige.

  5. brightmoon says

    Just to make it clearer I don’t drink at all unless I’m at a social gathering or family get together

  6. PaulBC says

    Garrison Keillor was never so depressing. Maybe you need your own radio show.

    My grandfather taught me interesting things: he had a complete woodworking shop, where I learned how to use a lathe and a table saw. He was also an eager adopter of new gadgets, and had an 8mm movie camera, and taught me how to edit film. He was a cool dude, at first.

    This makes me sad because it’s clear he had plenty of things he could have been doing other than drinking. What a waste of a retirement.

    I don’t understand the urge to drive slowly and erratically to a bar. That really must be a 60s thing.

  7. garnetstar says

    So sorry for the suffering that people have discussed above, alcohol is very difficult when you have the vulnerability for addiction. And, it is probably inheritable.

    haemolytica @1, sorry to hear of your past struggles, and congratulations on your hard work and success!

    My family is sort of the opposite: all Italian peasants for centuries back, who drink wine like water without any apparent effects: the children (including me), start at five years old. My grandmother insisted that we had to, because wine makes blood: her son, my father, who is a physician, never even attempted to disabuse her of this notion, as it would have been useless.

    I think natural selection may have been at work: in medieval times, the water in poor Italian villages wasn’t safe to drink, so everyone drank wine, and only those who didn’t have a sort of genetic resistance to addiction survived.

    But it is dangerous, since genes and circumstances can combine in new ways and lead to addiction. So, I don’t think that even in my family it’s a safe thing.

  8. PaulBC says

    garnetstar@7 I like straight bourbon way too much, which is why it’s a very rare treat. Also I almost never get a hangover that can’t be put to rest with a cup of coffee (I I need that for my morning caffeine withdrawal headache anyway). Maybe it’s my Irish genes. I do have to be careful though.

  9. garnetstar says

    Yeah, I believe the Irish did traditionally have a lot of alcoholism, as well as resistance?

    I think, as you say, everyone should be careful. It’s just very physiologically addictive, as well, I suppose, as psychologically. We’re all sort of gambling with it.

  10. rockwhisperer says

    Recovering from a substance abuse disorder is really, really hard work. Once your brain has been rewired to depend on the substance (or substances), to recover requires rewiring. All recovery programs offer methods, that is packages of behaviors and choices, that have to be repeated, over and over, consistently, to make it happen. In the beginning, that package goes ALMOST overwhelmingly against what the brain is demanding. Almost. People invariably slip (a day or two), lapse (a week or so) or even relapse (returning to use for a longer period of time) before pulling ourselves together and getting back to the task. Alas, some people never try, or try and give up. I find that extremely sad.

    I have struggled with depression. I have gone years working sixty-hour weeks in support of an engineering project that was my magnum opus. I went back to school for a master’s in an almost unrelated field in my late forties, finally getting my degree at age 53, while being a full-time caregiver for my parents. All that hard work paled in comparison to escaping from alcohol.

    To those who see the wreck substance abuse has made of their families or friends’ families and decided to avoid the stuff, I congratulate you. My own mother suffered, but because I’m adopted, I figured I was immune, that it was a birth family problem. Um, no. Some of us are simply susceptible to substance abuse and need to stay away from the stuff. All the stuff.

  11. cartomancer says

    My parents were never that bad, but their drinking put me off for life. I’ve never touched the stuff. In their case it was always Sunday afternoons – get drunk, huge argument, saying of hurtful things to each other, shouting and crying, then one of them slams the door and wanders round outside for an hour or two. Repeat until both are too tired to argue or drink anymore and fall asleep.

    Fortunately they grew out of such behaviour for the most part, when they reached their 60s. But it still had an effect on me. As did their constant smoking, which put me off that too. The shame of having my school uniform stink of cigarettes after it was hung up to dry in the living room made sure of that one.

    Now, my shame, anxiety and sense of self-loathing when it comes to sex and sexuality… that one was thanks to everyone else in late 1980s-early 1990s Kent, not mum and dad!

  12. redwood says

    For me it was my father who drank (and smoked) heavily, leading to an early death at 51. For many years I didn’t drink alcohol, until I was in my 40s when red wine was touted as good for one’s health. I tried drinking it, I really did, but could never manage more than a sip or two. I’m happy that my son is allergic to alcohol and is his buddies’ designated driver. As for smoking, I had my first cigarette when I was 8, a butt from my father’s ashtray. It was also my last one. Now if I can just stop eating so much . . .

  13. Sam N says

    I haven’t driven after drinking for years. I’ve made sure when I do it. I do it alone. This was after a terrible experience where I didn’t hurt anyone, but I could have. I really could have.

    At time I go months with just having a few beers in the evening. But then I feel something stressful and go spinning off. I don’t even want to be drinking alcohol. I want a prescription for valium to handle those situations. But I’ve always been honest with physicians about how much I drink. They may be multiplying that number by 4 in their heads due to most patient’s dishonesty or inability to understand how much they drink, don’t trust me that I won’t mix a benzo with alcohol, which I have never done when the benzo was prescribed. And so I’m stuck with using one of the worst drugs I can think of to treat severe emotional pain I feel at times. This is emotional pain so severe I have at times hurt myself physically to try and relieve myself of it.

    Of all the drugs to pick for legality in the USA, we chose alcohol. (Eh, Marijuana does not do much for me, I’ve tried. Valium truly does. Sometimes I really need my mind to slow down. Valium does not create the horrifying side effects I’ve experienced from alcohol. I just need 5 or 10 mg, compared to 100 grams!).

  14. Sam N says

    Sorry. Should have been more clear. When I drink, I drink alone. At home. I don’t go out, to make sure I do not drive.

  15. Sam N says

    @3. I don’t think anyone has ‘used to be an alcoholic’. Unless they’re dead. Just people that have learned strategies to stop drinking so much.

    I could be wrong. Probably some real oddball cases out there that would be considered exceptions.

    It’s a shame the word alcoholic carries so many negative connotations. A lot of truly decent and not just well-meaning, but well-doing people, are alcoholics.

  16. captainjack says

    My alcoholic grandfather functioned well until he died (relatively) young from the booze and cigarettes at 72. I don’t really know why he drank but he clearly had emotional/biochemical issues that he was self-medicating.

  17. shelldigger says

    Some of us learn from the things we endured as children. Some of us are doomed to repeat it.

    I was headed in that direction at one point in my life. One day that little rationalizer in my head spoke up and said “Hey! It’s 10:30 in the morning, be a great time to crack open a beer!”

    I thought about that for a minute. I’d run the bar scene enough to have noticed the lonely old man at the end of the counter. Dried up, drunk, and in it for the long haul. I decided I wasn’t going to be that guy. I pretty much quit drinking for decades. Every once in a while after a hot, dusty job, a cold beer was enjoyed. But I swear, 5 beers out of a six pack would sit in the fridge for a year, until I finally gave it away, or threw it out. I can’t remember the last time I had a beer.

    But, these days, I do like a little snort of good bourbon from time to time. Hey, I’m not perfect! I am an adult and drink responsibly. Even then I don’t drink enough to get stupid, or wake up with a hangover. A far cry from where I was headed.

    I can live with that.

    For the record my grandad was an alcoholic. A professional alcoholic. He was as I understand it, a well respected mechanic at a tractor dealership for years. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix on a car either. Every day after work he’d grab beer on the way home, or stop in at the bar. But he was back at work in the morning. A working man drunk. Even so, I thought a lot of my grandad, I have his old mantle clock on my mantle now, and a pack of Lucky Strikes next to it, in his honor.

    He might have died broke and lonely, but in his way he was a good man. I didn’t have to live with him though. Probably a lot I didn’t see. I only saw him when we visited, he was always good to me. So, what I don’t know hasn’t hurt me.

  18. mnb0 says

    “alcohol is very difficult when you have the vulnerability for addiction. And, it is probably inheritable.”
    My family, from both sides, has a history of alcoholism too. It was the reason why on of my granddads was strictly non-alcoholic.I’m pretty sure I have it too; fortunately I’m also pretty sure my son hasn’t.
    I clearly remember the first time I drank a glass of beer. I loved the taste immediately. I was 13 or 14. Fortunately I was pretty well educated on the dangers of drugs abuse (ie including alcohol) at about the same time. Needless to say I saw it confirmed in my own family. Since then I fear getting addicted myself. Still I drank myself into a coma twice when I was young. Because I love taste of alcohol.
    Since I was 18 it has been my strategy to remain completely sober on a regular base for 1 up to 3 months. Alcoholics claim they can quit drinking when they want; so I made it my point to prove myself I could indeed. My longest alcohol free period was 8 years ago; it lasted one and a half year. The motivation was that a completely unrelated blood test showed the very beginning of a problem with my liver. Indeed after that alcohol free period it was completely gone.
    Since then I drink a lot less. That’s not difficult, because after about 3 – 5 glasses beer I simply don’t feel like anymore.
    So it has been a long time since I was drunk. I suspect that my tolerance for alcohol has decreased too; there was a time (before that long break) that I could drink as much as I wanted with relatively little effect. These days my hangovers are worse than used to be; those 3-5 glasses of beer make me feel apathetic for at least half a day. But I hardly ever have a headache.
    Still I love the taste of the first glass of beer, rum or red port wine.
    Like PZ I may take up drinking large amounts – and then on a daily base – when I get tired of life, say when I’m old enough to have the right of euthanasia. That moment is still far away. I’m confident I’ll manage to deal with this dangerous love of mine in the years to come, exactly because I’ve always known that I’m a potential alcoholic.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    After a really dodgy period (averaging about a pint of whisky a day) of about seven years, followed by four years of sobriety, alcohol and I have had an entente cordiale for the last 20+ years. The amount I like to drink (averaging about 6 oz vodka every other day) doesn’t interfere with my workouts/life in general.

    I’m a very lucky man, in having the support I needed to pull out of my horrible downward spiral, and in being able to eventually find an apparent equilibrium. Too many people aren’t that lucky.

    I don’t feel that it could ever get out of control again, but who ever knows for sure?

  20. captainjack says

    Old joke somewhat OT:
    I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather,
    not screaming like the passengers in his car.

  21. R. L. Foster says

    My father’s family is from NE Oklahoma. They are mixed blood White and Indian. Drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes is as natural to them as breathing. My mother, on the other hand, was a prim Prussian, and she rarely drank. When she did it was usually a single glass of Sauterne or Weissbier. My dad’s heavy drinking led to some truly ugly fights. Those are seared into my memory. It was the root cause of their divorce. As a result I have always been wary about drinking to excess. I am by no means a teetotaler, but I’ll turn 70 in August, so I figure I’ve made my biblical three-score-and-ten and have done alright. Still happily married, too.

  22. says

    It’s weird reading that people actually enjoy the taste of alcohol. For me personally, ethanol just doesn’t taste or smell very good. While I like the occasional beer, anything stronger than wine smells like industrial solvent to me.

  23. PaulBC says

    rsmith@22 I don’t enjoy the alcohol by itself any more that I want to eat salt or cocoa powder. It adds a little edge that I enjoy. But yeah, there’s nothing special about straight vodka. You can do shots from the freezer, and it’s an enjoyable sensation but not much in the flavor department. If I sniff room temperature vodka, it might as well be rubbing alcohol. But that doesn’t mean it smells “bad.”

    I like red wine, particularly unsubtle ones like Shiraz, Zinfandel, or Petite Sirah. I like beer, but I wish everything wasn’t an IPA; I prefer malt to hops. (Brett Kavanaugh likes beer too! And next thing you know he’s a SCOTUS justice.) I like fortified wines too: port and sherry. Without the alcohol, you’d just be drinking candy-flavored syrup.

    Gin took some getting used to. It is the most like a cleaning product of all liquors. I enjoy gin and tonics in the right kind of weather.

    Now whisky is something else entirely. The part that makes it good is not the alcohol, though it wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s the process of barrel aging, and there are some pretty amazing flavors that come out of that process. I am OK with scotch and Irish whiskey, but I like bourbon better than either, with its sweet and unfinished taste. Again, I am just not into subtlety.

    I am not a fan of drinks, particularly vodka drinks, where you can barely taste the alcohol. That seems backwards to me. I want to taste the alcohol, but I also want to have enough volume that I don’t have to take tiny tiny sips. That’s the big problem, and also why I need to be careful around bourbon.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    rsmith @22: I know what you mean. Some people I know tell me they like the taste of green tea ice cream. Others say they can’t get enough Mozart, or punk rock. And then there are those real weirdos who can’t stand the idea of eating liver or kidneys. Or chocolate-coated crickets. Funny old world innit.

  25. tacitus says

    When it comes to grandfathers, alcohol isn’t the only issue families have to deal with related to driving.

    Having waged a multi-year long battle with my 80-something Dad with slowly increasing cognitive issues, it’s plain to see that giving up driving at the right time is one of the toughest decisions elderly men in particular face (at least it seems to be for the fathers of many of my friends).

    Fortunately, the only accident he caused was in the church parking lot when he put his foot on the gas pedal instead of the brake while reversing, slamming into another parked car, but it could have been much worse. The only reason the running battle stopped was a diagnosis of glaucoma which disqualified him from driving. Without that he would still have been agitating to get behind the wheel at 91 even though he can barely remember what day of the week it is these days.

  26. PaulBC says


    Having waged a multi-year long battle with my 80-something Dad with slowly increasing cognitive issues, it’s plain to see that giving up driving at the right time is one of the toughest decisions elderly men in particular face (at least it seems to be for the fathers of many of my friends).

    Sometimes I enjoy driving, but I hope I never stake my identity on it. Maybe I should write a note to myself now to get the hell off the road when I’m 80. At least I will be able to trust the source. There’s nothing wrong with being the passenger.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @23:

    I am not a fan of drinks, particularly vodka drinks, where you can barely taste the alcohol

    I hear you. It took me a while to get the right combo; 1/3 vodka, 1/3 OJ, 1/3 water. Actually a bit more than 1/3 vodka.

    The only spirit I would sip straight is an old Armagnac or similar brandy. Even the finest whiskies I mix half and half with water. It just works best taste-wise for me. Oh, except Jack Daniel’s, to which I just add ice.

  28. says


    The IPA thing is a recent fad AFAICT.
    Living close to Belgium, I have ready access to the wonderful diversity of Belgian beer.
    It’s not uncommon there to find shops that have hundreds of different beers in stock.
    Personally I’m rather fond of Gueuze, but to each his own. :-)

  29. PaulBC says

    rsmith@28 Yes, I remember the pre-IPA era but it seems so long ago. I haven’t worked at Google in a long time, but they usually had IPAs at their TGIFs. One time they had a porter for a change and I really enjoyed it. Also, there is nothing wrong with a good lager, not mass-produced US beer, but I remember when I lived in Switzerland there were local beers that were nicely balanced and flavorful.

  30. PaulBC says

    rsmith@28 I’m suddenly recalling one of the most annoying billboards when I was working in San Francisco a few years ago. “Meet people who like talking IPOs over IPAs.”

    To which I quipped “The overhyped meets the over-hopped.” which I thought was pretty clever, but it was just me and the billboard there and I had to laugh at my own joke.

    The story of my life. Sigh.

  31. chigau (違う) says

    I drink Lemon Hart rum, straight or with ice.
    Any other rum needs alot of CocaCola.
    Sometimes, in the summer, I’ll have a gin and tonic.

  32. says

    Sam N @15

    It’s a shame the word alcoholic carries so many negative connotations.

    You can thank AA/12 Step for that, they’re the ones who promote the idea of the alcoholic as helpless, pathetic, etc.

    I generally avoid the adult beverages because they don’t mesh well with my meds. When I do have a drink, it’s just the one, and that’s enough.

  33. Sam N says

    @32. Yeah. That’s fair. AA does a lot of harm and a lot of good. I get a long with a lot of non-indoctrinated types. Embracing cultures and having community that views alcohol negatively instead of positively has been one of the most effective deterrents of my own drinking. It’s a shame to find such communities one must interact with such dogma and texts.

  34. PaulBC says

    Sam N@33

    Embracing cultures and having community that views alcohol negatively instead of positively has been one of the most effective deterrents of my own drinking.

    I will always see alcohol as a vice, meaning that while I enjoy drinking, there are a lot of risks and no demonstrable benefit (and supposed health benefits are pretty marginal). I think it’s damaging when it is presented “positively” to youth as a right of passage or proof of masculinity.

    I started drinking a little late (20s) and that has probably kept it under control. I would like to be able to manage it without turning it into a moral issue, though it is one when it results in destructive behavior. I have seen it destroy people including family members. I try to navigate it realistically like anything else that affects health such as overeating. AA seems really weird to me but if it helps people, they should use it.

  35. says

    Alcohol! I had one uncle who was an alcoholic. He died alone in his 50’s. His brother found him sprawled across his bed on one of his weekly visits. I heard another uncle was a mean drunk until his wife dried him out. Alcohol flowed like water in family gatherings I remember one Christmas at my grandparents where the keg lasted a couple of hours and by New Year’s the back of the family ute was full of empty bottles. The party went on until New Year’s when us kids stole the empty keg and got arrested by the cops while we were rolling it down the main drag singing “Roll out the Barrell” at midnight. I had my first beer , (mixed with lemonade) at 5. I could have a glass or two with parental permission. I rarely drank and didn’t have a beer in a pub till I was 3 years over the legal age. I didn’t like beer all that much. My favourite tipples were Guinness and a good port after a meal. usually with a cigar. I was probably drunk about three times in my life. I stopped drinking and smoking in my 30’s because my wife didn’t do either. Parties as a young adult were fun. Just enough alcohol to relax then watch everyone else get drunk and stupid. We had a rule that car keys were handed in at the door to prevent anyone from driving home drunk. I remember one party where i slept in the bathtub because of all the bodies sleeping it off in the rest of the house. I knew at some point my son was going to come home drunk. When he did my wife wanted to rip into him on the spot. My sadistic streak knew he was too well anaesthetised for that to have any effect. Instead I rolled him into bed and gave him the lecture in the morning when he was dealing with a thousand horsepower hangover.

  36. Sam N says

    @34, I’m fairly certain the preponderance of evidence demonstrates exactly no benefit for any amount of alcohol, and increasingly severe problems as alcohol consumed increases beyond the 2 drinks a day guidelines of the NIH.

    The oft-mentioned U-shaped curve appears to be an artifact of people that alcohol was already killing, and in desperation for their health stopped drinking. Many sloppy studies did not take into account past behavior. Only current. Obvious, poor design. When I still viewed alcohol positively I argued against those findings fiercely. I suppose I don’t care either way. The amount I would drink without intervention by my mind would kill me fairly swiftly (another 10 or 20 years), at this point.

    That said, if you enjoy a couple glasses of wine or beers in an evening, perhaps a cocktail. I would not worry about your health for that reason, at all. Mortality only starts steeply increasing for folks consuming 1 or 2+ bottles of wine an evening. Drinking a fifth of whisky every day. That’s problematic.

    Yeah. Maybe I should write an alternative text for AA. Step 1. Not so much I am powerless before alcohol, but I acknowledge alcohol has power over me. Sometimes I can win, sometimes the alcohol does. It is something to be taken seriously.

    My higher power is not god. My higher power is that you and me, cooperation can accomplish what, I, alone can not.

  37. hemidactylus says

    Neither here nor there but my grandmother scared me with her lead foot. In her mid 70s she drove like a drag and road racer. I was into that sort of thing at the time, but bless her heart she scared me. And she was stone cold sober. Taking corners like Earnhardt.

  38. publicola says

    My father’s father was a heavy drinker. My grandmother used to send my cousins to the bar to roll him for whatever cash he had left so that he wouldn’t drink it all. Dad’s older sister and brother died from alcohol-related issues. When he was 19, my father got so drunk and so sick from it that he never drank again, (except for one cold beer on a very hot summer’s day while setting curb stones), until his death at 85. Good thing, because if he had been a drinker, the week-end fights with my mother would have been apocalyptic. (Thank the fates she didn’t drink either.) It’s funny and ironic, but it seemed that anytime there was a contest or raffle, Dad always won the bottle of booze. We had more damn booze in the house that nobody ever touched! And I knew it was there, but I was never tempted by it, because my folks never used it. (It helped that I was a goody-two-shoes.) I learned a lot from my father, like resisting peer pressure. Anytime we went to a wedding or some social gathering, guys would needle the old man to have a drink. “Come on, don’t be an old lady, have a drink.” His answer was always, “Nope”, no matter how much they teased or cajoled him. Many times during my teens I would be subject to the same pressures. Guys would try to use it as a lever to control you. Fuck them! That stubborn streak of my father’s came in handy. Besides, I pulled enough of my own friends out of the road when they were so drunk they couldn’t stand, or even talk, to ever want to be in that condition. My father was far from perfect, but I’m grateful and lucky for the lessons, good and bad, that he taught me.

  39. unclefrogy says

    I read this post this morning and could not think of anything to say. I can not think of anything short to say now. The subject of alcohol in my life is too difficult to confine to a few lines on a blog post thread.
    I did not or could not understand what the alcohol problem was until I was in my forties. The addiction problem appears to be a mental or psychological problem with physical as well as existential or spiritual components. It effects negatively everyone who is in contact with it.
    it takes effort to stay conscious of living my life every day, I carry my own burdens and scars from the past but it is not all negative not by a long shot. I have to remember “I am still standin’ after all these years”
    uncle frogy

  40. davidc1 says

    My dad and my older brothers were drinkers ,mainly beer .On the whole they were happy drinkers .One of my brothers was nicknamed fish because he drank so much .
    I didn’t follow ,mainly because i could not afford it ,also it tended to make me sick ,I don’t know how people can drink so much they pass out .One time I fell over drunk in a snow drift ,almost froze to death .

    Just started on Methotrexate for Rheumatoid Arthritis ,the leaflet the consultant gave me says to avoid alcohol ,which is a pity because i really feel like a few beers

  41. steve1 says

    There might be a bit o ethanol in the gas for your car. Some traditions die hard.

  42. anat says

    davidc1 @42: How is methotrexate working for you? If you are having side effects please get tested for MTHFR variants. See for example: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27270164/

    My husband was on methotrexate for Rheumatoid Psoriasis for a pretty long time, suffering every weekend when he took his medication, but never being quite right the rest of the time either. It helped the psoriasis a bit, but overall he looked, acted, and felt at least 10 years older than his chronological age. Finally his doctor switched him to a different medication (Otezla) which is much better for him – both with dealing with the psoriasis and general well-being. He is now a much younger man again. Turns out he has the MTHFR C677T variant, and shouldn’t have been prescribed methotrexate in the first place.

  43. sc_262299b298126f9a3cc21fb87cce79da says

    I’ve known all my life that I was named after my mom’s older sister, who was killed by a drunk driver when she was 9 years old. My mom was next to her waiting to cross the street and was just missed. That story and growing up around a lot of “social” drinking formed my attitudes about alcohol and drunkenness.

  44. anat says

    It looks like a post with a link got caught in the filter.

    This is to davidc1 @42: Please pay attention to any side effects from methotrexate. If you have any and they don’t go away, please test for some common variants in the MTHFR gene, especially C677T.

    My husband was prescribed methotrexate for psoriatic arthritis. He suffered terribly with each weekly dose and ended up looking and feeling at least 10 years older than he was. After switching to a different medication he is much better, actually looking younger than his years. Turns out he is doe indeed have this variant and should never have been prescribed methotrexate in the first place, but it is the go-to 1st medication for several types of arthritis because it is so cheap.

  45. johnlee says

    I watched my brother, a very talented artist, slowly drink himself to death. Apart from destroying him, it damaged everyone around him. Alcoholism is a terrible disease.

  46. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    My father was a counsellor for drug addicts and alcoholics. I grew up with many, many household visitors in various stages of physical and social distress. This led me to have a poor attitude towards alcohol. But more significant were 1) being on the autistic spectrum, one symptom of which, in my case, was/is sensitivity to harsh flavours (i.e. picky eater) and 2) being a bitterphobe (I am one of the 4% of the population who has a gene variant which leaves us extremely sensitive to bitter tastes — and for me, alcohol counts.) All alcohol is nasty to me, but beer, with its combination of alcohol AND hops, is just gag-inducing!

    I did spend my twenties trying many, many different kinds of alcohol (wine and mixed drinks) in an attempt to find an alcohol I could imbibe socially, so that I would not “stand out” — but I never found one. At the age of forty, I deliberately made myself drunk in order to find out what kind of drunk I would be: happy, morose, aggressive, whatever. I found the entire experience disgusting beyond measure.

    In a way all this is lucky, as I have struggled with chronic clinical depression and suicidal ideation for over 50 years, and I am sure that if I had ever had “liquid courage”, I would have killed myself long ago.