It started as a little project. I was going to start with Saint Patrick's Day, and see if I felt better after getting a few days between me and the binge I went on during a trip to Phoenix. It wasn't anything heroic or monumental. It was more about coming to grips with the fear that I had that night in the hotel parking lot. I don't know how I made it from point A to point B, and that scary reckoning coupled with one of the most ferocious hangovers I ever endured suggested that taking a break from drinking and drugs might be a good idea.
An idea that has taken me from point B to where I am now. Sober. I went through my own private rehab without Doctor Drew or Betty Ford. There were no delirium tremens. No late nights huddled under a blanket. No voices in my head. Just days of making the awkward adjustment from professional sportsdrinker to mild-mannered abstinaut. Emphasis on the "not." Those days turned into weeks, then months, and eventually a year passed. I celebrated this anniversary in the most ironic way possible: by heading down to Key West over Spring Break to soak up some sun and hang around with some of my old college chums. Not drinking. We drove around in a rented convertible. Not drinking. We hung out in a number of bars, including Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Not drinking.
And I got from point B to point C, D, E and F, remembering every step of the way. I look back now and remember all those beers that I avoided a little like land mines in the desert. Temptation and frustrations come and go, but the relief I feel when I put another day between myself and that parking lot makes it all worthwhile. With one exception: The day of my father's memorial service, my brothers and I went out to have a burger together at Tom's Tavern. My brothers ordered each ordered a beer, in tribute to my father who had a burger and a brew in a booth for years before the three of us were born. I toasted with my Coca-Cola. That toast felt like it came with an asterisk.
Since then, I've enjoyed my retirement. The benefits of clear head and bright mornings have far outweighed the hazy nights and embarrassed recollections of less-than-stellar behavior. And the journey continues on from point A.