The significance of twelve packs in my active drinking days was both literal and figurative. Nothing fancy for me. I was a beer drinker. Kegs and twelve packs. Whatever was available; Pabst Blue Ribbon and Old Style were common. An underage drinker, then a college student on a limited budget, I got my money’s worth and then some on most nights. My drinking progressed and my tolerance increased. A couple, a 6-pack, a few more, a 12-pack. Whatever it took.

My preference in alcoholic beverages didn’t change though. If you would have asked me back then what my favorite drink was, my reply would likely have been “anything with alcohol in it.” I wasn’t drinking it for the taste, I was drinking it for the effect. Normal drinkers may like to taste test and settle on something pleasing to the palate. I settled for anything with alcohol in it. I am grateful today that cell phones with cameras didn’t exist. If they had, incriminating and humiliating photos of me would surely exist. My memories are more than enough.

I didn’t care what I drank, but part of me would be curious to know how much I drank some of those nights. I was proud of the quantities I could handle. Did I say handle? I meant ingest. There’s a big difference. Alcohol could have killed me in more ways than one. Car crashes are the obvious avenue, but the potential for alcohol poisoning was there too. We joked about killing brain cells. We didn’t know then what we know now. We were indeed killing brain cells in a still developing brain. Today, I believe my less-than-stellar short term memory stems from what alcohol did to my adolescent brain.

Bottom line: it seems there was always something with alcohol in it available to drink when needed and there was certainly no shortage of reasons to drink.

I got what I was seeking–escape. But I also got plenty that was unwanted–like blackouts and hangovers. The first was mental torture, the second physical. Alcohol turned on me quickly, then put me in a stranglehold. The poem that follows captures it all. I wrote it during a period when I was trying to quit drinking on my own. (Which lasted 464 days, but who’s counting?) The painful and toxic thoughts and feelings were coming out and saving me. Although I drank again, this time in my life was a true turning point.

Twelve Pack

The first was for
My thirst

The second was for
The week-end

The third was for
My friends

The fourth was for
The good tunes

The fifth was for
A good time

The sixth was for
The victories

The seventh was for
The defeats

The eighth was for
The pain

The ninth was for
The self-pity

The tenth was for
The depression

The eleventh was for
The tears

And the twelfth was for
Blessed oblivion

October 16, 1985



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