Awareness of the spiritual psychology aspect came last, barf karma second. Why quit drinking? No alcohol enthusiast believes he has a problem, eh? Unless, of course, it’s a problem he’s drinking to forget or at least ignore. Be it a domestic hog or one of the Arizona javelina skunk pigs pictured above, any porker will gladly gobble up any sort of edible foodstuff. Likewise, I cheerfully drank anything I could find that had grain alcohol in it.
Which I mention only because in the world of the heavy drinker, as in most worlds, it takes one to know one. As a reader, you’re not likely to care why or how I quit drinking, psychobabble B.S. or otherwise, unless you accept my bona fides. So here’s the backstory.
As a young boy, I began stealing sips from my Dad’s bottle of whiskey in the kitchen refrigerator (which was where he kept it) at a fairly young age. This may have been inspired by my uncle Bob’s wedding reception when I was twelve years old. I managed to cadge a couple of lightweight drinks from older folks, got tipsy enough to enjoy myself way too openly, and of course got cut off by the bartender, my Dad, and a couple of uncles. But I was hooked. I didn’t dare water down the old man’s booze too much; he was a World War II veteran (U.S. Navy) who came out of the service on a mental discharge and, as he told me when I was seventeen, “It took a lot of cases of whiskey to make the adjustment.” The man knew his Seagrams; messing with his personal elixir would have been taking my life in my own hands.
By age sixteen, however, I’d managed to amp things up nicely. My high school friends and I found buyers who would go get whatever we wanted if we had the money to pay for it, often without charging a penny for their services.
Just being helpful, and boy, did we ever appreciate their assistance.
I never quite got to the point of becoming a true maintenance drinker for any extensive period of time, but a good rip-roaring drunk on a Friday or Saturday night was prime recreation. Or so I thought. I drank everything liquid you could find, from 3.2 beer on up to Everclear.
Wow. That rhymes. To expand a bit:
I DRANK EVERYTHING
Drinking gave me comfy cheer
While my brain was being seared
From three point two beer
On up to Everclear
Distilled some stuff in Chem lab
That would rip out any throat
Mixed it with some grape Kool-Aid
And that was all she wrote
Cherry vodka in a liter jug
On guard duty, nonetheless
Age twenty-one, I had become
A pig for drunkenness
Yeah, I drank everything
At this point, I had learned that too much alcohol could and sometimes did knock down my immune system, opening me to stomach flu like symptoms especially. But I still enjoyed a good drunk on occasion and still thought of myself as problem free on the booze front.
Except, of course, often lacking sufficient funds for enough of the stuff. I had a wife, and over time we added two daughters to the mix. I was careful, conservative…
…and so full of it, it’s a wonder I didn’t explode from B.S. impaction.
The turning point arrived when I was introduced to Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God, at age 30. Having found the spiritual path for which I’d been long searching, I read voraciously on the subject. There wasn’t a lot on the use of alcohol, but there was enough.
The teachings explained to me that as an Eckist, I would not be precisely required to quit drinking entirely, but that at some point it would drop away from me, more or less naturally.
It could have been worse. I wouldn’t miss the nasty karma often attached to excess, the vomiting on the outside of my buddy’s car or inside my own, wiping out four rods of freeway fence and a fair bit of my 1952 Chevy while passed out at the wheel, things like that. I could certainly do without the occasional hangovers. The rare crying jags–let’s not talk about those.
On the other hand, it took a bunch of years for that “falling away naturally” to manifest completely. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology, so spiritual psychology should be right in my wheelhouse as an area of interest, but I was in my sixties before I finally got the message in its entirety.
No, not cirrhosis of the liver or anything like that. In fact, by the time I reached the end point, my alcohol consumption had long been limited to a (not quite) nonalcoholic O’Doul’s beer every great once in a while. Quite simply, I no longer had to tie one on in order to temporarily wipe out my immune system. I didn’t even need to drink an O’Doul’s. If I had so much as a single sip of anything with even the slightest whiff of alcohol in it, I could count on going down hard within the next day or three, heavy flu symptoms, sometimes pretty much incapacitated for days or even weeks at a time.
Unless you’re a complete idiot, that sort of thing will eventually get your attention. And quite frankly, that’s why I finally quit drinking, once and for all. Alcohol is simply not compatible with either my health or my continued spiritual unfoldment.
Am I ever tempted to relapse? You know, have just one O’Doul’s or perhaps a single glass of champagne to celebrate the New Year?
Um…nope. Not any more. Karma can be a bugger, though. I didn’t really mind giving up the last drops of alcohol; I was finally ready. But when it comes to spiritual psychology, there’s never an end. There’s always another step to take. And wouldn’t you know, the year after I bailed forever on alcohol, I found out my physical body also didn’t do so well with…chocolate.
As Gilda Radner’s Roseann Roseannadanna character used to say on Saturday Night Live,
“Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”