A Sober Approach to Drinking


“What are you perusing, Harry?” Lapius asked.


“Nothing much.  Some brochure from one of these psychiatric clinics.  It’s a questionnaire, and if you answer yes to more than one of the questions the clinic thinks you might have a drinking problem.”


“Try me.”


“Okay.  Are you sometimes surprised at the amount of alcohol you consume in a day?”


“Yes,” Lapius answered, hugging the brandy snifter to his chest.  “Yes, particularly when I am writing, I am shocked to discover I’ve hardly had anything to drink.”


“Has anyone ever criticized your drinking?”


“Yes again.  The liqueur store, when I’ve been late in paying my bill.  ‘If you can’t pay, don’t drink’, they tell me.”


“Have you ever felt the need to sneak a drink, hide bottles or mix yourself a double when serving drinks?”


“I always mix myself a double, Harry.”


“Are you sometimes irritable with friends when you are drinking?”


“No, Harry, I can’t say I am.”


“The fact is Simon, you are always somewhat irritable.  I haven’t noticed that drinking makes a difference.  Let’s go on.  Do you sometimes continue to drink when others stop?”


“Of course, Harry.  After all, if I didn’t drink I would probably eat more.”


“Have you ever tried to kick the habit?”


“What for?”


“Have you ever fallen or had an accident while drinking?”


“No my movements are more fluid.”


“Have you ever needed a drink to calm your nerves when you wake up?”


“I can’t think of a better way to start the day.”


“Do you dread going to social functions that don’t serve drinks?”


“Abhor is the word.”


“Have you ever found bruises on your body you can’t explain?”


“I can’t see my body without doing calisthenics that I am not capable of doing.”


“Do you often find yourself drinking more than you intend to?”


“Never,” he said firmly.  That didn’t reassure me.


“Have you ever tried to cut down on the amount and – oh the hell with it Simon.  It says here that you have a serious drinking problem.”


“I have a weight problem, and insofar as drinking contributes to my weight I guess you could say I had a drinking problem.  It’s an interesting questionnaire, Harry, but there are two questions I should add.”


“What are they?”


“Do you become a different person when you drink?  And are you unable to discontinue drinking over a period of time?”


“Actually Harry I can stop drinking whenever I want for any number of days.  True, it’s giving up one of my pleasures, but – well that’s a vile thought.  Why should we talk about giving up pleasures?”


“You know Simon, I’m beginning to appreciate something about you.  You are not an alcoholic, but darned, if you aren’t a tippler.”


“Ridiculous, Harry.  Connoisseur, perhaps, wine taster, if you will, but nothing so vulgar as a tippler.”


“Call it what you will.”


“Nonsense, Harry – tippler is supposed to be opprobrious?  Very well then, call me a tippler.  But I’m never drunk, just pleasantly warmed by the alcohols.  I enjoy the liqueurs as a pipe smoker savors his tobaccos.”


“You know Simon, I think the kids are right.  They say drink to us is like hash to them.  Come to think of it the way you drink you have the drug habit.  Sure you may not be an addict, but damn it, you’re sort of a sub-threshold lush.  Come to think of it I probably never saw you cold sober.  I might not find you very agreeable.”


“Why I’m almost 60 years old,” he lied.  I didn’t want to spoil his evening by reminding him that we celebrated his sixtieth birthday three years ago.  “What impudence to compare me to those kids.  This holier than thou attitude of yours is unbearable.  You drink.  I’ve never seen you refuse a drink when offered to you.”


“Come on, Simon.  I bet I don’t take more than two or three drinks a week.”


“That’s all I took when I was your age, Harry,” he said soberly.