Saturday, November 03, 2007

Four Months On the Wagon

I've been having liver issues lately. They showed up in an elevated enzyme level four months ago, give or take, and my doctor told me to stop drinking alcohol. So I did.

At the time, I was seeing a girl who drinks very little due to an exceptionally low tolerance. Although a lot of her stories involve drinking. All that's another story, and unlikely to show up here. Because of the amount of time I was spending with her, though, it wasn't all that frustrating at first not to be able to drink. I was a little annoyed because I do enjoy drinking, but whatever.

As the weeks wore on, I noticed subtler ways that I'm used to using alcohol, other than going to bars with my friends. Wine with dinner from time to time, for example. It also made it impossible to have a "because it's Friday" drink, which is something I do when my schedule is very busy so that there's a definite point at which the week ends and the weekend begins, even if I'm working through the weekend anyway. Sometimes a "because it's Friday" drink happens on Saturday, or I'll go to the bar across the street from my building, have one with a hamburger, and then go home and sleep for a call the next day. The point is that it's my statement to myself that I'm through another week, and it marks time without me having to actually take real time off. If there's no victory dance, was there really a victory?

The summer's relationship went the way of every other summer relationship I've had, and I started going out more with my other friends again. New York is a very bar-oriented city, probably because nobody has room in their apartment to have more than one friend over at a time. I can, and have been, going to bars and not drinking alcohol. It's incredibly irritating. There are a lot of things that I enjoy much more when I'm sober, but bars are not one of those things. They're loud and smell funny. That applies to my friends too, by the end of the night. If I've been pacing them, I'm also loud, don't notice the smell, and everything's funny. If I'm not, I usually go home early.

One might expect that going home early gives me the opportunity to ride my bikes more. But the truth is that when I'm planning to do something in the morning, I only spent about as much time in the bar the previous night as if I have been these past few months when I'm planning to do something the next day. I just have more fun.

I found myself thinking the other day about college. I think that in the entire course of college, I could count the number of alcoholic drinks I had on one hand. It didn't stop me from going out then, either. At the time, though, I mostly went dancing if I went out, and I still don't drink when I do that. As far as socializing, I think I was generally pretty bad at it. Or pretty good at it and felt like I was bad at it. Whatever. In any case, I don't think that I've come to believe that I need booze as a social lubricant. I think that I pretty much always did.

In any case, I'm off the wagon now. Or soon, anyway. I talked to my GI doctor yesterday and he says I can drink again, socially (I think that's a really bad description of a degree of drinking. A person could socially get drunk seven nights a week and I'd say that would destroy their liver, those of their friends, and easily constitute an addiction.) I'm also switching to a different NSAID. And I called my health insurance company to find out what the deal is with physical therapy - I can go see one for an evaluation and it'll be covered, and depending on the results of the evaluation, PT may be as well. Of course, in six weeks I'm going to Lake Tahoe and if this year's like last, I'll probably only have one or two drinks the whole month I'm there.

I suppose after this whole ordeal I've come to the conclusion that I like alcohol, but I can also stop if I have a reason to. I'm not going to say that I can stop any time I want to, because I didn't want to and it's a cliche line for an alcoholic. Also that even inexpensive non-prescription non-narcotic anti-inflammatories can have some scary side effects. If that's what's been causing all this.

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