I partied pretty hard Saturday night. It was an early celebration of my up-coming birthday. While this might not be a big deal for most of the planet, I don't party. Period. "Heavy alcohol consumption" in my world is defined as "More than one Mike's Hard Lemonade in a ten-day period." I am the original light-weight. I've been teased that I can get a buzz from reading the label on the bottle.
To make sure that I've set the scene correctly, I don't drink. I've never been one to party. In my world, going out for "a" beer with friends is a literal endeavor.
So Saturday night rolls around and I'm at a huge birthday party (for me) with my friends. People are dancing and laughing. In much the same spirit as eating a second piece of birthday cake when you were pretty full, I had six or seven Mike's. I lost count after a chalice was filled with the drink in question (it took a little more than a bottle to fill it) and I chugged the entire thing as the birthday party crowd cheered. Then there was a massive twelve ounce tumbler made by some gay guy that tasted like Kool-Aide with a really ferocious bite. It was quickly devoured through a straw. The entire party then moved to a dance club where I was introduced to the Jell-O shooter. Then the four Alabama Slammers that I took at their word and slammed one after another.
To put this in its proper perspective, I last drank hard alcohol on Saturday, March 14, 1992 - fourteen years ago.
Someone (I'm not entirely sure who) decided that it was time for us to head for home when I no longer had the ability to stand up without leaning against something. I was told that I was very polite when I asked one of my friends to pull over so I could lean out of the car and grace the Amtrak parking lot with a nice mixture of dinner and unidentified alcoholic beverages.
And I, being the naive, amateur drinker that I am, assumed that it would end there.
I threw up for six hours straight. I'm pretty sure that I actually passed out a couple of times. I did make a very nice face print on a car's passenger window which the driver explained was accompanied by a loud "thunk" as I pasted my head against the glass. I know that I blacked out at several points as I have no recollection of certain events, like how I got from "Point A" to "Point B" and from "Point M" to "Point S." (I can only guess at the missing letters in between.)
At some point, I fell asleep. I know this only because I was in bed, woke up, and crawled into the bathroom to throw up some more. At this point, it wasn't light yet. Later, when I woke up in bed and crawled into the bathroom to throw up some more, it was light. Eventually I felt qualified to get out of bed and decided to give throwing up one more try. I was successful in my endeavor. Hooray for me.
Accompanied by our large plastic "sick bowl" that the kids use when one of them has the flu, I made it out to the couch and slept for a couple of hours, amazed that I could actually hear the ant crawling through the bark chips six blocks away. Unfortunately, the same auditory volume control was incapable of adjusting to the LOUD SOUNDS that shared the room with me, like two rambunctious grade school children. I would like it added to my nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize that not only did I not yell at them, I didn't even snap. Perhaps it was because of my mastery of Zen philosophy and a personality that makes Mother Theresa seem like a professional wrestler. More likely it was that I had enough alcohol still in my system that I passed out again.
When I woke up later on in the day, headache-free but my stomach still threatening to reminisce about the previous night's activity with little to no warning, I reflected back on the lessons learned from the evening. (After all, everything happens for a reason, right?) While I won't share all of them, this one struck me as key:
Why don't parents teach their children how to drink?
We get all the key speeches: Don't drink. If you do drink, don't drive. If you are drinking and aren't driving, don't ride with anyone that has been drinking. You know, the basics. But we never tell them how to drink. When to begin cutting their alcohol consumption. When they should switch to something that isn't alcohol. What horrible demon from the fourth-and-a-half level of heck is going to come clear out their entire system without so much as a "please" or a "thank you" if they don't heed those warnings and how certain friends (you know who you are) will whip out the Sharpie permanent markers the instant you pass out unless other friends (thank you - you know who you are) step in and threaten to pound the first friend in such descriptive ways that you would laugh if you could hear the entire concept over the sound of your own retching. (What you can hear will sound funny later, but at that point you'd welcome a bucket of paint, let alone a permanent marker, if it would just make the world stop spinning.)
So for those of you with parents who left out a key speech or two, here is some very hard-earned wisdom. Trust me, the following are not lessons that you want to learn on your own. You'll be begging dark gods for deliverance, pleading for your own stomach just to get it over with and come all the way out of you, or will be covered with your friends' graffiti if you choose to go down this path on your own.
1) A little alcohol is a good thing. Especially the kind that tastes yummy. That's why I like Mike's. After all, it claims that it's LEMONADE. If you're drinking some nasty-ass stuff just 'cause it will make you so drunk you'll get to consciously beg for deliverance from hours of non-stop vomiting, then you're one of the key reasons why we need to add more chlorine to the gene pool.
2) About the time you're drinking for any reason other than the stuff tastes good, that's your first clue to slow down. If you don't, you're going to spend at least a portion of the night trying to turn your body inside out, usually by some unseen hand reaching down your throat, grabbing your intestines, and trying to pull them out through your mouth. And I'm not saying to watch for the point where the stuff suddenly stops tasting good. I'm saying, as soon as you reach the point that you are no longer thinking, "Yumm, this stuff is good," switch to something that does taste good with zero alcohol content. Zero.
Also keep in mind that if you're out looking to hook-up, you've just missed your window. That fun, euphoric feeling that you have going on? You know, the one that has you laughing at stupid jokes and telling everyone how much you love them? Those are called "beer goggles." You are rapidly moving into the area where you would have sex with Tupperware in the back of your refrigerator if it came up to you, smiled, and said you were cute. Hell, you'd have sex with what's in the Tupperware. On a dare. In front of your friends. On the front lawn of your parents' house. Go home. You might be alone, but trust me - you'll be thankful that there aren't any embarrassing doctor's appointments in your future.
3) If you find that the world is permanently tilted to the left or the right or that walking has suddenly become an extreme sport, you're in a world of hurt. First, if you haven't done so already, give your keys to someone, anyone, even if you don't know them. Your fine muscular control (you know, the kind you use to keep your car in its lane and use the brakes within the correct amount of time) is long gone. Under the best case scenario, you won't see your automobile until morning. If you didn't know the guy you gave your keys to, oh well, you're still alive - as is anyone else who may have had the misfortune to cross your path.
Second, find the one person that you would trust to stand beside you if you just picked a fight with the baddest bad-ass in the bar just to see what would happen. That person is now not only your best friend, but they are now the only line of defense between your skin and the permanent markers your other friends will magically produce.
Third, if someone hands you a drink, do not think of it as alcohol. It's a virus, a nasty, nasty virus that will spend the next few hours trying to puke its way out of your system. Repeat after me, "No thank you. I'm going to stick with water for awhile."
4) If, for any reason, you continue to drink passed this point, stand up (if you're still capable of doing so) and say in a loud, firm voice, "Hey! Universe! I'm calling a time out for the next twenty-four hours. All bets are off. Any bargains I make are not to be taken seriously and any contracts that I may sign are considered to be null and void." 'Cause dude, you are totally screwed.
Remember that time when you last had that really bad case of the flu? You know, where you "drove the porcelain bus" for what seemed like an eternity? Where you pleaded for death? Where you tried to sell your soul, but the devil said, "Dude, not 'till you stop puking. That's gross!" and you said, "Dammit! My soul is yours! Take it!" and he said, "Uh-uh. That's disgusting. I'm outta here," and he left you with nothing but that horrible stench of sulfur which made you throw-up some more? That was a walk in the park compared to what your body is going to do to you in a very short time. You've just become the stunt double in the remake of "The Exorcist" and will do anything to make the world stop spinning and simply stop the vomiting.
But that's not going to happen just yet, because you've slammed your body with so much alcohol that it's still processing it. It can't make you drunk fast enough to keep up with how much you've been drinking. You might be saying, "Oh my gawd! I am soooooo drunk," but you're only half-way there. And it's going to stop being fun (or funny) in a very short amount of time.
5) If you keep drinking passed this point, what's going to happen is that you are going to check out of your body for awhile. You've been warned. Unless you've suddenly glued yourself to your most trusted friend (see above) people are going to do unspeakably terrible things to your unconscious body. Some of these you will think are funny, given enough time. Some of these things will never be seen as funny. The key is that you are not only surrounded by other drunk people who have lost all sense of judgment and decency, but you have knowingly drank yourself to a point that you've given up ownership of your body. At some point, you'll just stop being aware of what is going on around you. And if you are aware, you will be in too much of a fog to notice or care.
Best case scenario? You're going to puke like a fire hose attached to a merry-go-round and the ride won't stop until you're pumped dry. The only problem? You have a very narrow hose and it's going to take an eternity - and that merry-go-round is spinning pretty damn fast.
Next possibility? You're going to pass out. Let's just say that if you've done something to your body that actually makes you lose consciousness, that's bad. Your body isn't supposed to come to a screeching halt. If it does, pray to whatever god you hold holy that someone is watching over you.
Worst case scenario? You're going to die. It's called alcohol poisoning and can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, or death. That's absolutely right. Something that started out as "Yumm, this Mike's tastes good," can kill you. Tasty beverage or death? It's your choice - as long as someone has this talk with you before it's too late.
Which is why, after being more intoxicated than I've ever been at any point in my life, I'm surprised that parents are quick to tell their children not to drive while under the influence of intoxicants, but don't bother to teach them how to drink. Not knowing the danger signs and drinking too much in too short of a time can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.
So take a moment and talk to your kids about alcohol consumption. Help them draw the line for themselves and teach them how to know when the evening is beginning to spiral out of control. They may never thank you for doing so - but sometimes it’s the things that they don't realize that they need that they need the most.
That said, I did have a really good time with my friends. It was a ton of fun. But the buildup of alcohol didn't fully hit my system until after I said "Good night" and one of my friends drove me home. I would have had just as much fun drinking responsibly. Trust me on that one. My friends made the night special, not the alcohol.
But then, if someone would have had this talk with me, I would have missed the chance to throw-up for six hours straight. And then again when I woke up. And then again when I woke up again. And who, who really, would give up "non-stop vomiting" and leave it simply at "a wonderful birthday shared with really good friends?" Talk to your kids. I'll do the same.