Dear Michael and Caroline,
The only real problem with this whole scenario, of course, is that I could easily have killed myself that night. All the right factors were in place for me to have cracked up the car and died in flames. I was young and stupid and going too fast, certain I would live forever. All that had to happen for me to die was to lose my focus for just a second or two, or turn the steering wheel an extra inch, or whatever, and I would be a goner, never to marry your mother and bring Michael and you to life. I would have missed out on a lot – the last 35 years, to be precise, and however much else lays ahead.
Luckily, I got home safe. You’ll please excuse me if I regard this outcome as a miracle, but I do. I can think of no good reason why I would survive, except maybe that I was a pretty good driver, my hand sure, my reflexes sharp, even when blind drunk.
Whatever the case, I got lucky. I lived to tell this tale.
So here’s what I’m trying to get across. I always liked to get a little high, and once in a while more than a little, either with or without a little help from my friends. I never got anywhere near that drunk again, so I must have learned my lesson, and in my whole life I’ve gotten drunk only a few times, including my first date with your mother (again struck with that familiar what-do-I-do-now panic!).
But I’ve always enjoyed the effect of alcohol. And for about 10 years of our marriage I drank either vodka or gin every night – just a drink or two, or maybe three, spread out over an evening, never rushed – but still every night with disciplined regularity. And soon I realized that year after year I was getting through a fifth of vodka faster and faster, first a week, then six days, now five.
And if I kept up that pace, I was probably going to be an alcoholic. It might take me some time to attain that official designation, maybe five or 10 or 15 years, but I was going to get there.
So I quit cold. No more hard liquor. No vodka (my favorite) or gin (my second favorite) or scotch (my former favorite) or anything that strong. August 6, 1987 – that’s the day I stopped. It’s an easy day to remember (8/6/87). And I’ve never touched any hard liquor since.
Why would I? Sometimes just living your life is like driving blind drunk late at night anyway.