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i don't drink, i'm high on life.
just kidding. i'm fucking hammered!
by mike julianelle
5.13.02
humor


I’m probably too old to get into screaming matches with my father, but that didn’t stop me over Easter weekend. It wasn't a big deal; no feelings were hurt, nothing venomous was said, and the screaming was mostly all me.

Okay, he was sleeping. Whatever.

The argument we had was about binge drinking. I told my dad that I was going out to funnel some beers and drink until I puked, and he started cautioning me about taking it easy and watching myself. Then he used the phrase “binge drinking.”

“Watch the binge drinking,” he said.

Well, that set me off. I hate that phrase. It's way too general. So I took a deep breath and responded.

“All I do is binge drink," I said. "That’s all anyone my age does. What, am I gonna have a sherry in the drawing room and discuss my new moccasins? This ain’t the Algonquin Roundtable (although I do have a rapier wit).”

My playful comments didn’t brighten my father’s mood as much as I had hoped. Instead of responding with a hearty guffaw and well-meant “bravo!” (for it was the most whimsical jig of the season), he offered a stern “tsk tsk” and declared that I should neither behave so recklessly nor make such insolent comments to my elders.

I grabbed my beer bong on the way out the door and promised him I’d grab a few sixers for us on the way home so as to lighten his ass up.

Not everything you just read really happened. But I did drink my dad under the table that weekend. I was at a bar with my friends and he was fixing the coffee table, but that's nitpicking. I was so trashed.

The fact of the matter is that the term “binge drinking” is a wildly overused all-encompassing phrase that is used to encapsulate anything from 3 beers an hour to 21 shots on your birthday. (The actual definition seems to be, for men: having five or more drinks in a row; and for women: having four or more drinks in a row). I will not contend that all binge drinking is harmless, clearly the multitude of deaths at college campuses speaks otherwise, but there is a big difference between drinking to get drunk "responsibly" and binge drinking until you're leaping off balconies at MIT. Newton already proved that law, guys.

Every weekend, my friends and I get a few cases or so of beer and drink all night long, non-stop, hardcore, blackout style. I have actually been trampled by pink elephants. So we drink a lot, and we get a little nuts. What of it? We don't act irresponsibly. We don’t race each other to the bottom of our glasses, we don’t funnel, and we don’t force each other to drink in order to join some homo-erotic club of men determined to keep alive high-school hierarchies of social worth and peer-pressure. We hang out, watch the Sox, listen to music, make prank phone calls, and get drunk. We aren’t alcoholics. We don’t need to get drunk to stave off delirium tremors or get out of bed, and we don’t get drunk every day of the week. But when the weekend comes we turn to the one easily accessible and legal drug on the market and we abuse it a little. There’s nothing wrong with that.

My father is from a different generation. While he’s correct in realizing that college kids do a lot of drinking and often overdo it because they don’t really understand their limits, he is wrong in assuming that everyone who drinks to get drunk is partaking in so-called "binge drinking". My friends and I don’t get drunk as often, or as powerfully, as we did in college, and the drinking we do now is nothing like the drinking we did then.

Yes, in college we all saw people get way too drunk. We all made fools of ourselves. We all painted our faces blue for no reason. We all trashed our living rooms and played blacked-out wiffle ball with salt and pepper shakers. Inside. We all saw friends get taken to the infirmary. We all knew people who drank so much that they got alcohol poisoning, and we all knew fat kids nicknamed “Tub” who got mugged and had to be revived back to life after posting .4 BACs. But that was then.

Blacking out every weekend and threatening to “smash [someone’s] sideburns upside [their] face” isn’t the same thing. Okay, it’s almost the same thing, but that hasn't happened in a few weeks. Plus, sideburns were cool in college. Well, maybe not cool, but they didn't cause fights. Except mutton chops. Those caused fights.

Drinking too much isn’t good for you. It can get you into trouble, both mentally and physically, and we all realize how tough a disease alcoholism is to combat on a daily basis. Ask Bill W. Or Dennis Hopper. (Ask him about a few other things while you're at it.) But getting drunk is fun. Ask Winston Churchill. Or Ulysses S. Grant. Or Ben Affleck. There is a line, a big line, separating recreational drinkers from those with problems, and lumping immature college kids, normal social drinkers, straight-up alcoholics and the two Coreys into one large group is ignorant.

When I drink, sure, I get drunk, but I don’t drive, I don’t puke, I don’t beat my wife, and I don’t bleed on the inside. All I do is curse, break stuff, get in fist fights, flash large crowds and drunk dial my enemies. Self-destructive and extreme? A little. Abnormal? I don't think so. Wrong? For me it’s even better than wrong: it’s right!

My father has succumbed to the prevalent notion of "binge drinking" as a ceaseless parade of beers and shots without regard to health or safety, until someone pukes and/or passes out. The problem is that that perception leaves no room for the rest of us, the guys who just drink a bunch of beers and get loose with all the boys. Yeah, the next day we might have hangovers, but we don't need our stomachs pumped and we don't need to recite the Serenity prayer.

The media-promoted perception of all recreational drinking as "binge drinking" is faulty and does more harm than good (not really, but shut up). Much in the way that mandatory minimums demonize and over-penalize lesser violations of drug laws, the term binge drinking stigmatizes social drinkers and creates a false perception of reckless hedonism amongst people my age. I might occasionally drink more than I should, but I haven't needed to be tied down to my bed in at least 5 years.

My point is that combatting dangerous behavior is one thing, but overreacting to the normal, harmless, time-honored tradition of weekend warriorship benefits noone. Sharper distinctions need to be made between 18-year-olds with alcohol poisoning and 25-year-olds with headaches. If my drinking was really a problem, then why did I leave a bar last weekend after hugging its portly middle-aged proprietor that I had never met before? At least that's what my sober friend told me.



ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE

Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle

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COMMENTS

jael mchenry
5.13.02 @ 12:58p

Four or more drinks "in a row?" How else would I have them, out of order?

Time period should be part of that definition, if it isn't. If I have a drink with dinner and then three more somewhere between 9 and midnight while I'm dancing my ass off, I don't really think it's a problem. It's certainly not a binge.

mike julianelle
5.13.02 @ 1:21p

Which is exactly my point. By that definition, ALL drinking is binge drinking. It's a joke.

heather millen
5.13.02 @ 3:07p

As a 24-yr old gal who proudly owns her vice, you may be my hero. And that frightens me. Deeply.

trevor kleiner
5.13.02 @ 3:14p

If I didn't agree with a lot of what you said, I'd point out that the only thing missing from your arguement is the "I can stop any time I want" statement. That said, I do agree, for the most part, even if "drinking to get drunk" is down to every other month for me.

adam kraemer
5.13.02 @ 4:38p

I think there's three reasons people drink; either a) to be social in the right atmosphere (you probably don't want to be wasted when meeting your fiancee's parents for the first time, but you might have a beer with her dad, for example), b) to relax over the course of an evening (or whatever) but not to be shitfaced (like when you have a beer or two after work), or c) to get drunk. Otherwise, why not just drink soda or water?

jeffrey walker
5.13.02 @ 4:40p

I think our nation, based on those damed Puritan ethics, overreacts not out of public safety concerns, but rather out of a false notion that people should not imbibe beyond the use of thier faculties. I say, anyone who wants to stay wholly coherent every minute of every day is the one who really has issues.
As I age and slow my own "binging", I still cannot fathom a time when this world will hold my interest long enough to care about absoulte sobriety.

[edited]

matt morin
5.13.02 @ 4:55p

I think we're kind of missing another reason people drink. It's not just a get drunk or not get drunk choice. How about because people actually like how it tastes?

I love beer. I love many, many different kinds of beer. And I love wine, too. So I drink because I like the taste of it. I don't drink to get drunk, and probably haven't in years. And it's been at least a year since I was out-of-control-hammered-drunk.

Personally, I don't see any redeeming features of getting drunk. It's just an unfortunate side effect of drinking a lot of something I enjoy.

mike julianelle
5.13.02 @ 5:20p

I LOVE beer. It's great. And I love getting drunk. I've never been told I'm a violent or angry drunk and so far I have no health problems that have arisen due to drinking too much, so I say if want to drink, and get out of control hammered drunk (once-in-a-while), and it doesn't interefere with my job or my friends or my life, then more power to me. I don't toss back sixers at dawn on Tuesdays, I don't black out and forget to pick up my 5 year old from kindergarden, and I don't steal money from my friends and family to buy a handle. I drink on the weekends, and I get drunk. It's not a question of stopping if I have to, it's just not starting if I don't want to. And I want to. This argument might sound naive, and it definitely sounds, as Tracey said, like an addict's denial, but some denails aren't denials, they're just true.

tracey kelley
5.13.02 @ 5:20p

I like the taste of wine and those blasted fruity-rum-blended-tropical drinks. But one or two of either and I'm fuzzy. Such is the price for no longer drinking to get hammered. Your tolerance is waaaaay low.

Which is why Joe watched me closely at IMRDU after he ordered an Irish Carbomb for me. Sheesh.

But that's also a good thing. My entertainment budget is rarely spent on booze. I can have one drink, relax and still enjoy myself.

I'm also cheap. I can't stand the fact that money spent on booze marked up 145% at a restaurant or club could have been spent on something more worthwhile. Or bought more cheaply at the Hy-vee.

tracey kelley
5.13.02 @ 5:22p

"as Tracey said, like an addict's denial"...

Did I say this, or are you just reading double?

adam kraemer
5.13.02 @ 5:43p

Tracey, Trevor, what's the difference?

heather millen
5.13.02 @ 5:57p

I'm with ya, Mike. I enjoy drinking socially. "I'll have tonite's entertainment on the rock's please, and with a twist."
Sometimes, I drink to relax. Sometimes, to strike wild abandon and have a memorable time, I sometimes cannot remember. But it affects only me.
And dammit, it tastes good too.

tracey kelley
5.13.02 @ 6:08p

"Tracey, Trevor, what's the difference?"

Ya know, it's these types of mistakes that make 6:00 a.m. pretty interesting.

sarah ficke
5.13.02 @ 9:50p

Which is why Joe watched me closely at IMRDU after he ordered an Irish Carbomb for me.

Mmmm...Irish Carbomb...those things are great because it doesn't hit you until 10 minutes later exactly what you just drank. And then...

The key really is to find the moment when you are drunk and having a good time, just before you are so drunk that you have to spend all of your time remembering how to stand up and stay in that moment.

d b
5.13.02 @ 10:55p

I am also a big fan of the occasional bender (although I've noticed over the years that it takes less and less alcohol to give me a whopping hangover). But I have one college friend (former friend, now, I guess) who is an alcoholic and a friend back home who we're pretty sure is one. I remember I used to do the Hour of Power with my college buddy. That was fun until it dawned on us that every time he got drunk he would unleash some seriously pathological verbal abuse on pretty much everyone around him. As for my friend back home, our first clue there was when she came home drunk one night, fell down the stairs of her house and broke her wrist. Now her younger sister cancels most of her own weekend plans so she can tag along and make sure sis doesn't drive home shit-faced (because if left to her own devices she would every time).

Of course, it doesn't help (and probably explains a lot) that both the aforementioned people have fairly serious emotional problems. But just as Sarah points out it's a fine line between happy drunkenness and falling-down sloppy, it's an equally fine line between perpetually fun-loving and alcoholic. And a person's just gotta watch that line (or listen to his/her friends when they think he/she might be crossing it).

lee anne ramsey
5.21.02 @ 1:13p

I'm a week late, but I have to post on this. Lately I have actually questioned my desire (not NEED, but DESIRE) to have a drink after a long day at work. Seriously - I'm on set at 7am with clients, creative directors, directors, etc for at least 14 hours. I'm running around, trying to make everyone happy and make sure everyone is getting what they want and no one is feeling slighted and we're not going over budget blah blah blah and in the big rental minivan on the way back to the hotel each night, all I can think about is relaxing into a cozy chair with a big glass of yummy wine.

Does this make me an alcoholic? Any more or less than Mike drinking a couple of 40s every weekend night with his buddies?

joe procopio
5.21.02 @ 1:54p

I either have no drinks or sixteen. Go figure.

And I can recall three different times in my life where I just didn't sober up. 1) Last week at the beach. 2) The three days before and the three days after my wedding. 3) College.

russ carr
5.21.02 @ 1:58p

I hear you, Lee Anne. It's a habit I broke myself of last fall. I went completely dry for several months, just to see if I could do it, and if I felt better for it. (I've tried doing the same thing with fast food and never last that long.) I'm back to drinking occasionally now, but almost always limit it to only-with-meals. I still crave something buzzy after a long day, and I may think about it and think about it and think about it...but suddenly I'm getting ready for bed and I realize, "Hey, I never had that drink." It's not that I consciously denied myself of the pleasure...but somewhere in the course of the afternoon or evening, it no longer mattered, so I skipped it.

I went to an AA meeting once, long ago, just to see what it was like. And without throwing stones, and with all respect for those who have gained their sobriety thru AA, I've gotta say: it was like a cult. Suddenly Infinite Jest was even more profound.

All that being said, I'm looking forward to going out in IC as often as Jael, Michelle and Tracey care to have me...

matt morin
5.21.02 @ 2:04p

There's a reason I don't drink hard alcohol anymore. If I have a drink in my hand...I drink it. Quickly. And with hard alcohol, that's a bad thing. So I stick to beer - one every half an hour and I can go all night.

adam kraemer
5.21.02 @ 2:44p

Right there with ya Matt. I find I can control my buzz better with beer and as long as I'm drinking one every 20-40 minutes, it's a lot cheaper in the end, too.

mike julianelle
5.21.02 @ 3:53p

I haven't had more than a handful of mixed drinks since college. I have been drinking beer almost entirely for the last 4 years. And recently I've switched a bit from the better, heavier beers to the more manageable light beers (albeit only good ones, no bud or coors or anything). That way I can drink all night, stay sobert longer and stay awake longer. But it's also more expenso since instead of drinking 6 heavy Sierras, I'm drinking 12 light something-elses.

russ carr
5.21.02 @ 4:10p

I still see "good light beer" as an oxymoron. Just what are you quaffing, Mike?

mike julianelle
5.21.02 @ 4:13p

I agree, Russ. I should say "better" light beer. I don't like bud light or coors light or miller lite or any of that domestic crap. In fact, the hideous, HID-E-OUS ad campaigns for all three are enough to make me kill everyone I know. Have you seen those Coors commercials? And the MGD ads?! CHRIST ALMIGHTY!

I have been drinking Corona and Amstel light, which I have actually come to tolerate pretty easily. It is, after all, the beer drinker's light beer.

sarah ficke
5.21.02 @ 4:32p

Russ, your use of the word "quaffing" just made my day.

matt morin
5.21.02 @ 5:14p

You think Sierra is heavy? Huh? Heavy is Guiness, Murphy's Irish Cream Stout, etc.

I can't stand Amstel or Corona. May as well be Coors. Sierra is about as light as it gets.

mike julianelle
5.21.02 @ 6:52p

All I meant by "heavy" with Sierra was its upped alcohol content, which is higher than a lot of beers, and a few too many makes me sluggish. I don't drink Guiness or Mutphy's often because they are too filling and it's harder to get drunk. I don't prefer the taste of Amstel, but it's decent enough and doesn't taste like piss.

[edited]

matt morin
5.21.02 @ 7:03p

Most people don't know that Guiness has the lowest alcohol content for any major beer.

And while yes, they are filling, I can drink that stuff all night...

mike julianelle
5.21.02 @ 7:12p

I like it, but it's like drinking dessert! I don't drink it very often, but it tastes pretty damn good.

sarah ficke
5.22.02 @ 8:02a

Put ice cream in it and you could be drinking dessert.

erik myers
5.22.02 @ 8:08a

Mmm.. Guiness floats. Just cap them off with a cherry and a bendy straw.

russ carr
5.22.02 @ 9:26a

Make that a shot of Jameson's and you've got something, Erik.

tracey kelley
5.22.02 @ 9:47a

Do we need a bottle of Jameson's for IMIC, Russ? :)

russ carr
5.22.02 @ 10:49a

Oh, but Tracey....the Mayflower Dorm is an alcohol-free residence hall...! *cough*

erik myers
5.22.02 @ 4:27p

With a shot a Jameson's we're halfway to a Car Bomb, are we not?

russ carr
5.22.02 @ 4:39p

Too many shots of Jameson's and I'm a bombed Carr...

tracey kelley
5.22.02 @ 5:42p

Which makes you very Irish indeed...

lee anne ramsey
5.24.02 @ 2:01p

Russ- funny you should mention. . . I gave up french fries in November and haven't gone back. But give up my right to a glass of wine at the end of a long day... that I cannot seem to do! (Not that I've tried).

jael mchenry
5.24.02 @ 3:18p

A glass of wine a day is good for you. At least that's what I've read.

I'm just giving up coffee again. It's easier every time. Chai is my new weakness.



russ carr
5.24.02 @ 3:23p

Honest Tea's Kashmiri Chai is outstanding. Coriander's going to become my new favorite herb, at this rate.

jael mchenry
5.24.02 @ 3:32p

Ooh, I haven't had that. Mainly I've gone with Tazo, Oregon, and whatever it is I get at Border's.

If I can't get a chai in Iowa City, we are going to have ourselves an issue.

mike julianelle
5.24.02 @ 5:18p

This column is NOT about COFFEE.

russ carr
5.24.02 @ 5:22p

Duh! We're talking about TEA.



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