A few days ago, on a Sunday, I was at a local coffee shop around 7:30 A.M. tackling some work for the day. While pounding away at putting together training plans on my computer a guy walked into the shop looking noticeably disheveled, I assumed that he was probably out on the town partying the night before. Certainly, I still take notice of these things because, well, that’s how I used to roll into coffee shops sometimes. He approached the counter to make his order and proclaimed: “it’s always happy hour someplace!” With that, he ordered a beer and proceeded to down it within less than a minute. Goddamn, I used to love being buzzed in the early morning.
There’s something about pounding cocktails before 9:00 A.M. that is just unmistakably satisfying to me. In my past life, I always felt devious and rebellious when I drank in the morning, kind of like I was a little kid getting away with not brushing my teeth before going to bed. This sort of behavior wasn’t necessarily a normal daily routine for me like it was for many people I know in recovery, however, whenever I had the appropriate chance I embraced the opportunity.
My absolute favorite times getting drunk in the morning revolved around college football games. Whether I was living in Bend, which meant there would be an early morning drive (and drinking) over to Reser Stadium (home of the Oregon State University Beavers), or living in Corvallis, I loved getting primed up for a day of unadulterated debauchery, either alone or with my friends, by substituting Crown Royal for a coffee (or even better, a coffee with Crown Royal mixed in). Beaver Football home games became a strategic excuse to exercise my inner-most dubious and deceitful addictive/alcoholic behavior.
Today, I’m on a plane heading down to Cabo, Mexico, to mix it up at one of the last IRONMAN 70.3’s of the year. I’m sitting across the aisle from a woman who’s already two glasses deep of Chardonnay. It’s 6:45 A.M. (we took off at 6:10 A.M.) To say that I’m jealous wouldn’t necessarily describe how I’m feeling about it. However, what she’s up to looks like a freakin good time and in a past life I’d be all over it.
Another of my favorite early morning drinking pastimes revolved around airports and airplanes. Because of the fact that, while traveling, I wasn’t responsible for driving when I arrived at my destination, I would use the opportunity to get hammered. On countless occasions, my most vivid memories occurring at the Portland (PDX) airport, I’d arrive early for say, a 9 A.M. flight, just to get in some extra drinking time. I’ve had countless instances where I’d be at an airport bar, watching an early morning NBC Today Show newscast, pounding Coors Light’s with backers of Crown Royal. Once drunk, I’d put in my headphones and turn on an Armin or Gareth set and walk around the airport imagining myself at a rave or in a Puff Daddy music video. I loved that feeling. It was an opportunity to put aside the pervasive negative thought patterns that I was accustomed to believing of myself, and pretend I was someone different. Looking back, I can see the hilarity in it. Even today, strictly by way of habit and almost five years sober, while walking down any terminal I always take immediate notice where the Crown Royal bottle sits in every airport bar. I’m just wired for it. Is this sensation something I worry about? In airports am I in danger of a relapse because of all the tantalizing memories I have? I can’t say for sure but today while walking to my early-morning flight I was able to take notice of said Crown bottle, and laugh, knowing that if I threw a few shots down before my flight, I would wake up, after passing out drunk on a long flight, with a nasty pretzel flavored cotton-mouth hangover.
The most damaging and destructive memories I have of devouring early morning cocktails are the instances during my three-day blackout/blowout back in February of 2014, which to this day is still the last time I had a sip of alcohol. Each morning of that self-induced destructive rampage I’d roll into my local Corvallis 7-11 at 7:00 A.M., the legal time that Oregon sells alcohol in convenience stores each morning, and buy a couple of CAMO XXX 12.8% malt liquor cans for $1.98 a piece to kick my morning off. From there I classed it up just a bit and progressed to whiskey and coffee, to just whiskey, to IPA’s to top off the day. My process of drinking that weekend emulated what today can be explained by a stringent training plan. That weekend, as if a coach had given me an organized and structured drinking plan, I stuck to it without deviation. Let’s just say I overtrained a bit that weekend. As I’ve noted before, that was the recipe for my downfall to the bottom of my drinking career. My hope is that this type of scenario does not happen again. If it does, well, all of the work I’ve done for myself over the last several years would disappear with the snap of a finger. Today, it’s just not worth it. Plus I’ve got a half-Ironman to do this weekend.
Returning to the flight to Cabo, the woman across the aisle just ordered a fourth glass of Chardonnay. Even though it’s only 7:15 A.M., I still look at the situation through an old and dusty memory lens to think: that was me and that was fun. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be me anymore.