I've never been a big drinker.
I've known — and know — some Big Drinkers. They are the people who rely on alcohol to get them through: the party, the workday, the pain of daily living.
That's been the biggest surprise of my executive coaching career: the number of times that alcohol is a corrosive influence in others' lives.
What was I thinking?
I thought that perhaps three people in ten would tell me a story of the corrosive influence of alcohol in their lives.
After 3,160 hours of coaching, I reckon it's been nine-in-ten. Ninety percent of the people I've coached have told me a story of the challenge of alcohol. Sometimes it's the person's family or work colleagues or neighbors. Sometimes it's my coachee, sitting right there in front of me. I've asked a few folks: "Are you an alcoholic?"
If the answer is anything less than a convincing "no," I know I'm in over my head. I'm not trained as a substance abuse counselor. So I refer the person to an expert. (I'm thinking about getting some training to become a more educated referrer.)
I was naive. I expected three-in-ten and have heard nine-in-ten. The other one? Probably, we just haven't hit the (topic of the) bottle.
Funny, I know a coach who offers scotch and cigars during coaching sessions. And a creativity teacher who includes alcohol in the curriculum. Go figure. Peyote buttons anyone?
But this isn't about that.
This is a reflection on my own drinking.
The Liver Enzyme
I don't know what liver enzymes are, but Dr. Beth Weinstock — my physician – told me that I had a slightly elevated one. "Probably just a goofy test," she didn't exactly say. "Let's just wait a couple weeks and re-test," she did say. "I recommend you game the test," she really didn't say at all.
But that's what I decided to do. I find that you really want to pass a re-test. If you don't, then you have to have a bunch of tests that, trust me, you don't want to have to take.
So, I cut out all drinking and some of the ice cream.
I don't have The Thirst, so cutting drinking to zero was weird but not difficult. I do love The Scoop, so trimming ice cream has been more difficult.
What I Cut Out
All alcohol. Which was one or two Scotches a week. That might not seem like a lot, but I didn't start drinking Scotch until a few years ago.
I started drinking Scotch in my mother's memory. (When she was alive, I grew beards in her honor. I think that's what did her in. When I wrote her obituary, I thought about including this as a cause: "…after a courageous battle with her son's facial hair.")
Anyway, Jackie loved her blended Scotch. I quickly grew to enjoy single malts.
Still, to game the enzyme test, I cut it out.
It was surprising how quickly Scotch had become a reward system. Great day? Little drink. Hard day? Little drink.
Slightly elevated liver enzyme? No drink. (I'm glad that I don't have The Thirst.)
I found the time to get another blood draw. (I just love the folks who draw blood. I faced a pair of nurses at a hospital lab. They were like Shakespearean clowns. Finding my blood vessel was easy. Finding me in the computer was difficult.)
Fast. Test. Hamburger. Easy enough.
The Next Day
The next day, I was traveling through Ft. Lauderdale on the way to the family vacation. (I'm a very lucky guy. I am as aware of this as I have been able to become. More on that some other time.)
My next flight was delayed a few hours. After a while, I pointed to my ice cooler and said to the fellow next to me, "Would you please watch my corned beef?" (I had already had a pickle confiscated at the Silver Airlines ticket counter.) Have you ever tried to bring a gallon of pickles through TSA screening? It's "a special." They patted down my pickles.
This really isn't about my pickles. (For your own: www.katzingers.com.)
So, the fellow agrees to protect my pastrami, and I take a leisurely walk through the terminal.
Within Moments, My Doctor!
I hadn't taken 50 steps when I am suddenly — in the Ft. Lauderdale airport — face-to-face with Dr. Beth Weinstock.
"Hi, Beth!" I said. "You're coming home from vacation! I saw that on Facebook."
"Yes," she said. "And you are on your way?"
"Yes," I said. "Oh! I did the blood draw yesterday."
"I know. I saw the results today." She looks around. We are absolutely in a crowd. "This isn't the proper place for a consultation," she said. "But everything is fine. You are fine." (There was a little more specificity, but I don't want to violate Beth's HIPPA rights.)
I don't know how you pick your doctor. Perhaps Angie's List? Here's how I pick a doctor. First, I want someone who is trained in medicine. After that, I want an English major with small fingers. (Those are for the invasive moments of "Well, let's just have a look at that." I want a colorful narrative and a minimal invasion. Life is short. I like my digital exams in iambic pentameter.)
So, I'm Fine.
Liver enzymes are doing what they are supposed to do. [Readers of Net Cotton Content sigh in relief.]
And, hours later, I arrive at the vacation paradise, visit the liquor store and buy a bottle of single malt.
Here's the Strange Part.
I never opened the bottle.
(Family members who are self-appointed Finders of Fiction will note that I did, in fact, open the bottle — when I served drinks to others. What I mean is: I never drank any of it.)
Didn't drink the whole vacation. Strange.
It's like a doughnut. I'm not an eater of doughnuts.
When facing a doughnut, this Puritanical question hits me immediately: five minutes from now, would I prefer to physically feel like I just ate a doughnut or physically feel like I did not just eat a doughnut? I always choose not.
The same is now quietly true of Scotch.
Nearly Nothing Since
A glass of wine on the last night of the vacation. That was a couple weeks ago. Nothing more since.
What's going on? Am I finished drinking alcohol?