I recently had an interesting experience with a naturopath, when she asked me how many alcoholic beverages I consume in the average week. “Five?” I asked. “No, wait. Maybe eight. Or 12?” I paused, trying to count as her pencil hovered above the form. “What is the threshold for binge drinking again? I’m pretty sure I’m just under that.” (Later that day, I found out the threshold for binge drinking – four or more drinks in a single sitting – and told my friend, Jamie. “What, is that from the 50s?” he asked, incredulously.)
I only rarely have four or more drinks in a sitting but I do love a drink. In fact, I have become, in the last few years, one of those people who just needs a drink. “Wait,” I say, pausing whatever is about to happen. “I need a drink first.” I need a drink at the end of the day, to accompany certain conversations, to spend more than an hour with extended family, and so on and so forth. I would rather go for a drink with a friend than for dinner or to see a movie. And there is nothing I love more in the summer than sitting in the park with a flask of bourbon or tequila. I love a Manhattan or a rhubarb Caiparinha like I love a double Americano in the morning.
I guess I don’t need to explicate too much on why I like a drink so much. I’m hardly the only one, and the appeals are pretty obvious: it takes the edge off and results in generally pleasant interactions in the kitchens of friends, darkened corners of bars and sunset-lit parks. But what interests me is just how I became a person who needs a drink. Not to get drunk; just a drink at the end of the day. Is this a social crutch, even if I don’t get drunk? Is this adulthood? Going from slamming vodka coolers and working up the nerve to kiss someone to nursing a little Scotch while comparing notes with a friend? Is it part of my inheritance? I recall an oft-refilled decanter in my childhood living room and the clinking of ice before dinnertime. Cocktail hour has a meditative effect on me; I am able to exhale and briefly put aside some of my worries.
So is it weird that having a drink makes me so happy and relaxed? Or do you love a drink at the end of the day, too?