Mostly, we dread growing older. But aging has been good to me, too. I now prefer to skip New Year’s Eve parties, go to bed before the fireworks start, and wake up rested and sober before dawn.
It’s been nearly two years since I decided to change my drinking habits after 25 years of heavy (if, since my mid-20s, generally disciplined) consumption. Since then, I’ve gotten better jobs and have had greater earnings expectations for the future. I was appointed to a municipal oversight board. The futsal club I manage has grown. I’ve shed 20 pounds. I’ve applied for World Cup tickets. I’ve improved my Spanish. I think I’ve become a better husband. I’m mostly over social media. I’ve learned to fly.
I’ve also become a total lightweight of a drinker. I consume two or three drinks a month. I’m tipsy after a second beer, and my body regrets it the next morning.
This isn’t to be smug, though. After putting down the bottle, I’ve also had more time to clearly analyze my failings and failures. Now that I’m unwilling to drink away my anxiety, I have more time to reflect on the nebulous and blundering path of my life. I’m also able to see that there have been successes, as well, and an accumulation of good memories.
This year, I’ll turn 48. If I’m lucky, I’ll have another 30 years, 15 of which should be my so-called “high-earning years.” The 15 years after that, I hope to be well enough and comfortable enough to travel, catch up on my reading, and take up new hobbies.
It’s 6:17 a.m., the sun rises at 7:27 a.m. This afternoon, I’m flying.
I’ve got lots of plans for this year.
* This piece by Gabrielle Glaser, recently published in the Times, seems about right to me:
Many who struggle with drinking aren’t getting the help they need, largely because they think that the only way to gain control over alcohol is to abstain. Facing such a severe restriction, they may not try to change unless they hit a mythological “rock bottom.”
Nobody wants to view himself as an addict, and the fact of the matter is most problem drinkers aren’t. Many people are afraid even to discuss the topic with their doctors for fear of being labeled. But in fact, researchers have long shied away from using the term “alcoholic,” because it’s both negative and dated.
In the DSM-V, the new term to describe problematic drinking is alcohol-use disorder — a clunky but more expansive phrase that denotes a spectrum of risky drinking from mild to moderate to severe. Only about 10 percent of the estimated 16 million Americans who abuse alcohol fall into the severe category, according to Reid Hester, a clinical psychologist who has been studying addiction for more than 40 years. While those in the severe category might need to abstain from drinking, the vast majority of others don’t, he said.