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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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In Living Commentary

An innocent night of cocktails with friends can lead to some not-so-innocent moments.

Over-indulgence and bad decisions


Most of us know what beer goggles are, what coyote ugly means and are all too familiar with drunk dialing. And why shouldn't we? After all we live in one of the drunkest cities or the drunkest depending on which list you've seen. And now that the hot, humid weather has begun to roll in and Summerfest is just around the corner, any day seems like a good day for a drink. Which got me wondering about the love-hate relationship between alcohol and sex.

It's no secret that how we act and who we interact with can easily be affected by our blood alcohol content. Many of us know how it feels to wake up with that 'Oh Sh*t!' feeling, knowing you blacked out the previous night. Then there's the flying out of bed to check for your credit cards, ID and phone, then riffle through your texts from the previous night trying to piece together who you saw and where. Or you lie in bed, on the couch, on the bathroom floor, whatever, paralyzed with fear, trying to remember events, people, places but not really wanting to know the answers to the questions spinning around the room.

For the slightly reserved person, alcohol can help you come out of your shell; flirt, meet and talk to people you wouldn't normally feel comfortable around. For the person already very outgoing and confident, it can turn you into Joe Francis. Which is all fun and games, until you realize you're rounding the corner to thirty and thought you'd have better things to wake up to on Sundays than laundry that smells like Axe body spray and cigarettes.

When you wake up in bed the next morning after tying one on, the next twenty-four hours can be bad enough as you get reacquainted with your toilet, but waking up in bed next to someone you don't know can reap some serious consequences. I can honestly say I've done plenty of immensely stupid and regretful things while drunk, but I've never gone to bed with someone I didn't know. PHEW!

I've been drinking for... a while now, (Not today. I mean in my life time.) and I still haven't really found my happy medium. There are so many variables. Did I eat dinner? Did I work out today? Am I still buzzed from last night? When should I call it a night? Everyone has that fine line between happy-go-lucky drunk and oops-I-had-sex-in-a-cab last-nightdrunk. In college it was a different story. You never called it a night; you just eventually fell asleep with throw up in your hair. Binge drinking was just something we all did, and by no means does that make it right, healthy or smart but when you're in a new city with new people, it really just comes down to the ridiculous excuse that everyone is doing it.

My physician explained to me years ago that the human liver can only process two alcoholic drinks in a 24 hour period for men and one; count it, ONE for women! When was the last time you had just one drink in a sitting, ladies? She was very concerned about my habits and suggested I contact my local AA. At the time this info all fell on deaf, defiant and hungover ears. I'm certainly not about to start a twelve step program, but it does make you think. If you're consuming three, four, five or more times that much, doing the walk of shame the next day is the least of your worries.

Now that I'm older (not that I look it) and my liver doesn't seem to appreciate my antics as much as it used to, I can look back and see just how many stupid, dangerous and embarrassing situations I threw myself into that my normally functioning brain would have avoided. Let's put it this way: I'm so glad most of my friends didn't know what Facebook was until I was nearly graduated.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this but I got to thinking the other night, while I was beginning to count up how many I'd had over the holiday weekend, that alcohol abuse and the effects it may have on our reputation as well as our self respect is routinely accepted and more or less brushed off as just our lifestyle here in Milwaukee, perhaps even the Midwest and our country as a whole.

Few people will actually express concern for a friend or family member (aside from my mother's worried glances.) about over consumption despite the fact that it has so much potential to snowball into bad behavior we don't even realize we're committing until we get the recap over bloodies the next day.

I'm no tea-totaler as you may have grasped, but I do wonder when does over-indulgence stop?

Waking up knowing you slept with someone whose name you cannot remember makes for a good story later down the line after you've received a negative on your STD test, but morning of, it's not just the tequila worm making you beg your friends to put you out of your misery. It's that unsavory cocktail of unsightly hickies, amnesia, the beginnings of cirrhosis and a $200 tab. Is there a line in time when alcohol stops playing such a major role and more important lifestyle choices take the lead?

So Milwaukee, are we over-the-top consumers? Are we ignoring the warning signs of dangerous and irresponsible behavior? How much of a role did alcohol play in your last one night stand? Drunk dial to an ex you normally want nothing to do with? Or in more general terms, what role did alcohol play in your last dating or sexual encounter, regretful or not? If you don't want to share via Talkback, send me an email.

Talkbacks

jeffjay60 | June 10, 2010 at 8:40 a.m. (report)

A sobering look, forgive me, at a problem that no one wants to discuss seriuosly, so hats off to you. Som eof us can and do drink responsibly, And by that I mean not drinking at all to leaving a bar in a cab when we've had to much. When I quit drinking, I had to, people asked me what the difference was. I mentioned three things that might be obvious but... I didn't miss the hangovers and the black outs. I had days to do things I couldn't do before because I was nursing the "thang". I did meet a lot more boring drunks, but of course I was with the same people I was with before, but I wasn't drunk, so I noticed. It took months before a lot my friends noticed I wasn't drinking, so there goes the one about personality change. I always knew where my car was and I could drive it safely. Bill Cosby had a great line about cocaine, but I think it applies to excessive consumption of booz also. He asked a guy why people used cocaine. The guy answered that it enhanced your personality. Cosby asked him, "but what if your an A....hole?"

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cynicslant | June 9, 2010 at 11:21 a.m. (report)

I do ridiculous things whether inebriated or not...though the level of ridiculousness does fluctuate with my BAC. At this point in my life (creeping on 30) maybe more influential on where the line is drawn on a Fri or Sat night than my poor decision making is this new guilt felt after wasting a weekend watching my best laid plans go untouched and my ambitions go from climbing Mt Everest to climbing off the couch to find a take-out menu. With age comes responsibility...and unfortunately more wicked and lasting hangovers...you can either cut it off at a reasonable level, head for the home-front prior to bar-time, and be a productive member of society or play last man standing and sloth it up all weekend only feeling slightly better with a dose of "hair-of-the-dog" which comes with the harsh realization mid cocktail that you might be an alkey.

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East_of_the_Sun | June 7, 2010 at 11:38 a.m. (report)

Kudos to the Author for trying to get readers to connect the dots between their drinking behaviors and the negative consequences that can follow. Risky drinking is so enmeshed in Milwaukee's culture that we have lost perspective of what is normal, and view the consequences as acceptable. The truth is it causes all kinds of headaches that you can't just sleep off. It's a double-edged sword - the social acceptance to drink excessively is enormous, but don't get busted doing anything embarrassing or illegal because the social consequences are harsh and, in some circumstances, irreversible. We need more people to promote safer and healthier attitudes toward alcohol - not only for their own good but for future generations of Milwaukeeans.

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cowboyhat06 | June 7, 2010 at 9:32 a.m. (report)

Excellent article... I was just thinking about this yesterday while I was stuck on the couch recovering. I think we should meet up for drinks to discuss it.... ??? lol

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sandstorm | June 7, 2010 at 7:29 a.m. (report)

"Now that I'm older (not that I look it)..." hmmm, no lack of confidence here.

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