A few days back, I was the victim of an attempted drive-by trolling. The young fellow who posted the comment had put on his best Zaphod Beeblebrox persona in what I assume was an attempt to impress with sheer hoopiness. Oh, the irony!
Your Humble Narrator has been clean and sober since July 10, 1985. In the six or seven years prior to that date, I would have made old Zaphod look like Arthur Dent on the wagon. I have imbibed, inhaled and ingested (but never injected — I hate needles) more than any human can reasonably expect to survive; in fact, without frequent intervention, I would not have lived through the period. There were a lot of days when I had at least two heads, and they both (or all) hurt like hell. And I have experienced the sudden appearance of a molten landscape with penguins without benefit of an Infinite Improbability Drive. Yeah, I really knew where my towel was.
I was a two-four-a-day maintenance drinker. (That's 24 bottles of proper 5% Canadian beer, Newkie Brown, Guinness and/or various high-test, 14%+ homebrews for those whose experience is with three-two Bud.) There were times, though, when I needed to get drunk, so I might throw a forty of Navy rum (or, when I needed to feel high-class, a bottle of Chivas Regal Royal Salute or maybe an eighteen-year-old Islay — not that I could tell any of it from peat moss and rubbing alcohol in the state I was usually in) onto the fire. If I could find that Ol' Janx Spirit, I'd have guzzled gallons and damn the side effects. I downed eight successive 48-oz pitchers of draught in twenty minutes to win a beer-drinking contest once, after having gotten enough of a buzz on to rise to the challenge (one of the few things I actually recall is that my "crew" was already at the point of singing the three or four lines were knew of The Black Velvet Band over and over again when the temporary-duty-trip grunts challenged us Noble Aircraftsmen to a match of military skills). I had to rupture my abdominal wall to accomodate the volume, but this was for pride of service. I was quite adept at getting scrips for whatever uppers or downers I wanted (Seconal was a particular favorite), and you just know there are times a fellow needs to, um, get mellow. One also needs an occasional face-to-face with the deity of one's choice, and let's not forget about the poppy juice — everyone needs a break now and then, and it really helped with the never-quite-healed-properly-broken-neck pain. My favorite game was Morning Jeopardy!, and the correct questions were always "what the hell time is it, Alex", "where the hell am I, Alex", and "who the hell is this Alex you think you're talking to?"
The surprising part of all this is not that someone can voluntarily do that much damage to his body and his psyche, it's that he can do the vast majority of that damage while in the military, maintaining critical avionics systems that, if things go wrong, can try to force a Sea King helicopter to maintain a hover precisely forty feet underwater. When I was on my game, you see (that is, when I wasn't in a falling-down stupor), I was a hell of a tech. People were not afraid to express their disapproval to my face, but they always covered my ass. Nothing ever hit paper and stuck. At the time, I thought that was a Good Thing. I may have had to do extra duties now and again, but I stayed out of jail and (this is the important part) I was never administratively referred to rehab. Once you get referred, you have to stay dry for a year or face discharge.
Then I woke up one morning completely blind. I'd been "dead" before and revived; that wasn't a problem. This time, though, I might have to live with the consequences, in the dark, and that was scary. After what seemed like days, but was probably only a couple of hours, the light came back, and I wished it hadn't. I'd never felt that level of pain before (not even from a 1981-vintage cranial arteriogram; ask anyone who's had one what that's like). It took me more than two hours to button up my uniform shirt (timed it; hell, I was already beyond late and was trying to compute the AWOL punishment against the out-of-uniform penalty, and shaving was out of the question that day since my hands were doing pretty much what they pleased without consulting me). I managed to half-stagger, half-crawl to the hangar. Even looking and smelling like I did, and after arriving several hours late for work, it took an unbelievable amount of time and interviews with superiors to finally get my request for a voluntary medical referral to an alcohol rehab clinic approved. Losing my diagnostic skills for twenty-eight days and an afternoon a week for a year was, apparently, worse than watching me kill myself that way.
That was July 10, 1985. Nineteen years and a bit later, I still live with the damage I did. My heart and liver are largely scar tissue. The neck I broke playing Rugby drunk still causes me pain and occasional partial paralysis of my left side. (Five-ten and fifteen stone is small for a tighthead prop, even if you can push a ruddy ton uphill. Sober people that size play the wing three-quarter or, if they're smart as well as sober, sit singing bawdy songs in the stands while the monsters on the pitch get on with the carnage.) The back I injured falling (drunk, of course) from a Sea King flares up now and again, and needs traction for relief. I am prone to paranoid depression, and worst of all I can't find the little travel bag with the tin of olive oil in it. When I'm not stepping out of the shower, I really don't give a flying [censored] where my towel is anymore. I've dealt with much scarier things than the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal and lived to tell the tale.
To sum up: if you want to try to impress me with your drinking prowess or tales of chemical adventures, you can't. Whatever you've done, I've done more and couldn't be less proud of it. And if you're covering the ass of someone who has a problem like mine, the little trouble they may get into now is nothing compared to the big trouble that's coming. Stop it.