Booze to Youz

I come from a family of "Large Livers."  Not long livers, large livers from the consumption of many forms of alcohol.   I have been known to drink copious quantities of that yellow St Louis foam from Budweiser.  There was also a phase where I drank "Cutty Sark" scotch and one or two times I drank one of those single malt scotches from Glenlevitt.  I am currently in a phase of my life where I lay claim to be sober today.  Don't get me wrong, I am not an alcoholic. I am just a sober drunk and don't go to the meetings.  In the 12 steps there is a saying that I might not be sober forever but for today I am. 

I can't remember a time when alcohol wasn't a part of the family gatherings in my family.  The adults drank and kids mooched sips from time to time.  I am sure that a lot of people will tell you that they don't like the taste of beer but I was never that fortunate.  The only time when I would not have a taste for booze was after one of those times I really overindulged and it would take a week or two before I could even abide the smell let alone the taste of beer. 

I had a paper route in the 9th grade.  On Friday nights, one of my Friends Danny Rex and I would go to the movies.  His mother would give him enough money to go to the Drive-in and I would buy each of us a Quart of beer.  Danny was old enough to buy beer and we would take his 47 Ford Coupe and go see what ever was on.  Seems like as often as not, Danny would drink about half of his quart and either pass out or go to sleep and I would finish his quart and mine.  I often drove home.

I remember for my 16th Birthday several of us went to the Drive-in with lots and lots of beer.  I do remember getting so drunk that I started to the concession stand and I fell down in a mud puddle.  I am fairly sure that I would have drowned had my pal Denny L not stumbled on me as he too was headed to the bathroom.  He helped me up and back to the car.  He laid me on the ground there and everyone thought it was funny as I laid there and threw-up.  The sad thing was that by the time we went home, I was the most sober person and I drove home.  I remember going to work the next morning and the car was full of sloshing water and peanut shells.  I guess it is a good time to tell you that if you eat peanuts and drink, try to chew them up well.  They are like boulders coming back up if you don't.

Most of my time in Basic, AIT and OCS we were in forced sobriety and there was a few times I was able to have a couple of beers but not often.  My first time to be exposed to hard drinking was Fort Irwin, California.  We were 30 miles from Barstow, California and few of us had anything there to go see.  The daily routine was to go to the officers club and drink.  At least twice a week we had an officers call there and we would conduct our business and then the meeting would dissolve into playing Liar's Dice for pitchers of beer.  The entire staff of the battalion bought beer mugs and mad could we ever drink beer.  I never did learn to lie well and I bought a lot of pitchers.  The bad news was I also consumed a lot.  Our BOQ was right next door to the club so we could all walk home or stagger as the case might be. 

Next door to the club was the Class VI (6) store where they sold the hard stuff.  I was not 21 but they didn't ever ask for ID if we were 2nd Lieutenants.  I found that I had a taste for Cutty Sark and a fifth of it would just about last three days if I didn't go to the club for a round of beer.  The bonus was that they would even let me use my club card to charge it.  I had a fridge in my room and three ice cube trays.  I kept them full of water to make Ice. 

For some reason as we got to the Boat in Long Beach, I too them serious about no booze.  That meant that for 18 days I was in forced sobriety.  When we got to Vietnam, the daily limit was two beers and I pretty much followed that with a few slips.  To this day, I hate hot Carling Black Label in a rusty can.   am sure that the good stuff never cleared the ports and they drank up all the Budweiser.  The one exception to my forced sobriety was the time I somehow got a Quart of scotch enroute to an infantry unit that was in the Field.  The unit commander briefed me when I arrived and he said no booze in his unit.  I told him that I had a quart of Scotch and I would not drink it when I was in the field.  I old him that he could check the label anytime and he never did.  One of the old Sergeants found out somehow that I had a bottle.  He started the bidding for that bottle at $20 and by the time I had been there for 6 weeks he was up to a hundred dollars.  I never cracked the seal and took it with me when I left that unit.  I had a 2 quart canteen and when I got to base cam p and found that I would be there for a couple of days I emptied half of that canteen and filled it with Scotch.   I proceeded to get just as drunk as I could and stayed that way for a couple of days. 

The only other time I got drunk in Vietnam was during the Christmas cease fire.  My sister sent me a bottle of 409 cleaner and I wondered what the hell?  When I opened the cap, I found out that the flask was full of good old Scotch.  While we sat around and played cards that night I did sip from my canteen a few times. 

As I went to work for the Guard, I progressed up through the ranks and as the stress of my job got harder, I drank pretty much every night to cope with it.  I continued to drink but almost always at home so it wasn't a problem.  (to me)    Sometime about 20 years back, I was the Military Personnel Officer for the State and I hated every minute of that job.  One of my Officers scheduled a session for the Family Support Groups and it included a Alcohol Awareness class.  I took Barb and we attended that class.  The instructor handed out a sheet and had us answer the questions.  I answered 7 of the 10 "yes."   I saw that Barbara (who doesn't drink) answered 10 as a "Yes."  When the instructor told us that if we had 3 or more yes's we ere probably in need of help, I asked Barbara why she had 10 as yes.  She told me that she had answered the questions for me. When I asked her about the fact that I had only 7 and she had 10, she told me that I was probably too drunk to notice. 

That was the start of my sobriety.  Like I said, I may not be sober forever, but today I am.   I will probably stay that way until I die and reach that garden spot called Watkins Glen where I will share a mug of grog (whatever that is) and tell war stories with my earlier departed friends.  I may even smoke a cigar or two but that's a different story.

COL, USA (Ret) 

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