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I get a perverse pleasure in pointing out that my parents were born in the 1920’s. I think it gives me a false gravitas to be able to throw out, “Yeah, my mom was born the year women got the vote.” At fifty-five years of age I’m not the child of a Baby Boomer, I am a Baby Boomer.

My parents were born in the roaring twenties, my grands were all born in the 1890’s, and my life was influenced by not only the year of my birth but by theirs, too. Mom was just shy of her thirteenth birthday when The Twenty-First Amendment repealed prohibition and made drinking legal again; and my folks were prohibition products and true believers in temperance. You know, as in Tee-Totalers? The folks who signed pledges not to consume alcohol?

(BTW- signing a temperance pledge with a lower case “t” meant that one would abstain from hard liquor or spirits, while a capital “T” in one’s pledge meant that no alcohol, not even wine or beer, would cross the lips of the signer of a temperance pledge.)

The temperance movement predated my folks by a century but strongly influenced their views on alcohol and other drugs. My parents had a lovely little tautology concerning drugs that went a bit like this: A) Drugs are for sick people. B) Sick people are weak. C) If you need drugs then you are sick and weak. Try being a social drinker with that on you shoulders!

I saw my mother drink perhaps a sip or two of wine a few dozen times in the forty-eight years we shared together. (Yeah, yeah, the first five or so years really don’t count for legal testimony. Work with me here, will ya?) When, as an adult, I would ask my father if he would like a beer he’d reply, “Sure, I’ll split one with you!”

“SPLIT ONE?” Split one. Later in life I wised up and bought a “bomber,” a can of beer that holds 22 ounces rather than the more typical 12. “Here you go, Dad! Half for you and half for me!”

Even though my folks were strong supporters of temperance, they were tricky little devils. If Dad was drinking a beer he’d let his children take a sip. Creme de menthe? Same. “There you go, buddy! Have a sip.” Dad was not going to create a fixation, a fetish, by creating a longing for forbidden fruit. I was able to sip alcohol at a very young age, all while hearing the covert and overt message that drugs are for weak people and that if you need drugs then you are weak.

And the message was overt. If I had a dollar for every time Dad said, “The only time I ever got drunk was when some wise guy spiked the punch! He thought he was being cute! I tell you!” I’d have enough dollars to buy a lot of rounds! And then there was his morphine story.

“Morphine? Morphine? Good Lord, buddy, I was on morphine. Hated the stuff! I almost wish they’d let me die!” The “they” was the medics and physicians who patched Pop back up after being grievously injured while serving in the US Navy in the 1950’s. To my conservative father death was, at least theoretically, preferable to the loss of control and orientation that accompanied opiate use. (Interestingly, I heard a similar testimonial from then Central Connecticut State College English Instructor Kevin L. who, while praising the soothing powers of cannabis, also stated that his experience of floating in a morphine cloud while in hospital had been God awful and that he hoped to never repeat it.)

So I “drank” as a child, but never to excess and always with the message that alcohol was a dangerous drug and must be treated as such. My sips of beer led to drinking single cans of beer at high school parties but never going beyond a single beer. Never, that is, until that magic May day in 1979.

My first brush with inebriation happened within a month of my eighteenth birthday, a birthday that, in 1979, meant that I could legally consume beer and wine in the State of Maryland where I lived. And drink beer I did! At Maggis’ Pizzeria in Wheaton, Maryland along with a few of my work compadres. I was eating pizza and drinking beer just as I had done with soda-pop countless times before. I wasn’t drinking beer to get buzzed, I was drinking beer to wash down food; but regardless of my goal, buzzed I most certainly did get! And of course, all my years of training came rushing back to me and I felt great guilt and regret over my slightly intoxicated state.

In a pig’s eye! I loved being buzzed. I wondered why I hadn’t been doing this for years and looked forward to doing it again and again. (And I did!) Why, soon I even got drunk. That state where not only inhibitions but coordination, good judgement and for far too many far too frequently, even manners and common decency disappear. (I, by the way, am a happy drunk. I am not one bit belligerent, and though my ability to reason and control myself may falter I do not turn ugly; only stupid.)

For the next year-and-a-half I got buzzed more weekends than not and sometimes drank to the point of being legally intoxicated in regards to operating a motor vehicle in the 21st Century. (The DUI blood alcohol level for Maryland in 1979 was .12, which is fifty percent higher than the DUI level now and three times Maryland’s lower DWI level of .04.)

In 2008 Katie Perry sang about kissing girls and liking it and in the late 70’s and early 80’s I was getting buzzed and loving it! I did quickly realize that getting buzzed, too drunk to drive safely but nowhere near the old legal limit, was just as much fun as getting sloshed, and proved to be far less painful the morning after. As time went by my drinking slowed and for decades I have been an ein stein drinker. “Ein” as in one, and “Stein” as in mug. I typically have one drink per night and call it a day. Two drinks is a big deal for me and three nearly unheard of. I am old and, as I like to point out, I was born to be mild.

And even though my alcohol consumption was steady I still equate drugs being for sick people and that sick people are weak. (You think that’s harsh? Me too! You try changing thoughts patterns that were implanted in your brain from day one!) I have never taken an illegal drug and when I was reduced to taking anti-depressants I was desperate to rid myself of them. (I do take two medications. Why? Because my body doesn’t work properly, or is “weak,” of course!)

So, what’s all this got to do with suffering in the pharmaceutical age? Well, I got sick on Monday. Came down with a humdinger of a cold. Knocked me to bed for two days and still wasn’t feeling right on Thursday, four days later.

Now, what should we do if we’re suffering? Did someone say seek treatment from a qualified physician? Good answer! So today I went to my doctor and after she examined me she said I have a bad cold. Her recommendation? Get plenty of rest and try taking Zyrtec or the like for a few days. You know; use some drugs to relieve the symptoms even if they don’t really help me heal faster. So, on the way home I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up some OTC drugs.

I popped my little Zyrtec and will repeat this for the next few days and hope that I get relief fast. Mom and Dad may have been right about drugs being for sick, weak people but sometimes they are for smart, strong folks too.

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