5 Things Lots of Alcoholics Do
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5 Things Lots of Alcoholics Do


5 Things Alcoholics Do

This post was originally published on September 30, 2014.

One of the ways that I really began to identify at AA meetings when I was first getting clean and sober was when people would tell stories about really fucked behavior in a very matter of fact way that inspired others to either laugh out loud or nod their heads in agreement. This initially horrified me, because many times they were things I did and thought no one else had ever even thought of, much less done. The first time that I ever heard someone share that they brought booze to a party and hid it so they wouldn’t be out of booze at the end of the night or bought the shittiest beer on the market so no one else would drink it (I once brought Old Bohemian to one of my closest friend’s house), I first felt ashamed. But when people laughed as if everyone did it, I was instead relieved. So I decided to compile a list of five things that alcoholics secretly do that normal people (okay, non-alcoholics) would never dream of:

1) Drink Someone’s Booze, Replace With Water

It actually took me a long time to get hip to this cute trick as I never thought of doing it with my mother’s Seagram’s when I was in high school. My first time was when my roommate got a bottle of top shelf vodka that she was saving for a special occasion. I was going through really bad withdrawals on a Monday morning before work and needed to steady my hands, so I popped open the bottle, downed some, then added tap water to cover my tracks. After I did this once, I just kept doing it until I realized it was all water and I needed to replace it with something with a kick. And since it was really expensive vodka and I was pretty broke at the time, I think I replaced it with some rotgut bathtub crap with a fake Russian name like Pukinov or something. She was not at all pleased when she found out what I did, so I did what any degenerate would: gave her a shame-filled apology along with some coke from my stash and laughed it off.

2) Multiple Liquor Store Shopping

Like many drunks, I tried to control my drinking by buying a smaller amount than I was ultimately going to end up consuming in a day, which meant that I would go to as many as four or five liquor stores daily to buy half pints of booze. The problem with this was that when you consume that much booze, and you’re buying it at 8 am while everyone else is going to work or taking their kids to school, it’s pretty obvious to anyone that you’re probably not a social drinker. Add the shaky hands (if it was early) or the slurring (if it was later) to my already bloated red face, and I wasn’t fooling anyone.

3) The Drink Counting Strategy

I know what you’re thinking: Lots of “normal” people count drinks. Yeah, up to two or three, then they decide to stop drinking so that they can drive home or get up for work the next day. Alcoholics have their own special brand of bizarre counting that often involves complex math that gets fuzzier as the evening (or, in my case, day) goes on. There are many variations on this strategy, but the end result is usually the same: totally smashed. My friend would count her drinks up to eight (thinking that this was a safe number) but then would always forget that she couldn’t stop at that number. Still, she did it every time for a reason that I imagine only alkies understand.

My counting involved more complex math and went like this: A half pint of schnapps equaled two drinks because it was only 60 proof instead of 80. But since it still totaled eight ounces of pretty strong booze, this really made no sense at all (I may have already been wet-brained when I devised that formula). To make up for that flawed logic, I counted three 16-ounce draft beers as four 12-ounce beers, which equals four drinks total. What I was hoping to accomplish with this counting still eludes me, because once you’ve had 16 or 17 drinks (on a light drinking day), you’re still pretty fucked up.

4) Real Booze Substitutes

Liquor stores are closed and you really need a drink? No problem. That’s what 24-hour drug stores are for. I’m a Listerine drinker, and I honestly thought that I was the only one who had even thought of drinking mouthwash when I was doing it. The original variety of Listerine is 26.9 percent alcohol (54 proof) so it works really well when you’re out of the real stuff. When I first got sober, my sponsor told me to always share that story from the podium, and when I did, people often came up to me and admitted that they, too were mouthwash drinkers. And it’s not just the homeless population. I’ve found that there’s an awful lot of Fortune 500 types who were swigging Listo before a business meeting to chase the shakes away.

I wish I had known about vanilla extract (35-40 percent alcohol and tasty too!) when I was drinking. I found out about this alternative from a woman that I met at a detox. She used to make vanilla extract sombreros with it (milk and extract instead of Kahlua). There are lots of substitutes that the general populace would find appalling (like cooking sherry and the Kitty Dukakis favorite—rubbing alcohol), but to alcoholics, they just spell relief.

5) Attempt/Contemplate Suicide

Most of the alkies that I know have either attempted or seriously thought about killing themselves, or if they hadn’t actually considered the act, they at least wished they were dead by the end of their drinking days. And while lots of non-alcoholics kill themselves, we have the general population beat by a huge margin in terms of suicidal ideation. If someone talks about suicide attempts at any standard gathering of normal people, it gets everyone’s attention. But in a room full of drunks and addicts, it just gets a room full of nods.

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About Author

Johnny Plankton is the pseudonym for a freelance business and comedy writer/editor (and recovering alcoholic) who lives in Boston. He is also a grateful member of America’s largest alcohol recovery “cult” as well as Al-Anon.