After three beers

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After three beers, Micah J. Murray speaks in ALL CAPS.  After three beers, his laughter is so authentic that everyone laughs with him.

After three beers, Murray likes himself. After three beers, we like Murray.

But nobody really sees Murray after three beers. What we see is persona. What we see is light.

What we don’t see is the whisky. The cheap stuff that he would drink sitting on the floor of his shower. What we don’t see is the twelve more beers after the crowd goes away (his Instagram post boasts only one beer to get him through until 9 a.m.).  

We don’t see the hangover at his graduation party or the hangover at his Sunday morning church service. The texts at 8:05 p.m. asking his cousin to remind him why “getting drunk is not a good response to pain.”

But if we’re honest with ourselves, we do see it. I see it.

I’ve seen the drunken car crashes, the 11:27 p.m. foot on the gas, rev, honk, rev into the 2008 Kia Optima. I’ve seen the broken hands, the remnants of the blistering fights at the Florida Georgia games, the “I don’t need medical attention” wounds of a broken heart. I’ve seen the vomit. The 3:21 a.m. sickness of “she’s far gone,” the arms that carry the weight of a long night, one that should have been the epitome of free.

And it’s rough. Because I’ve also seen the 7:32 p.m. beer through the nose because the inside joke was so instantaneously funny. I’ve seen the cheers, the clinks of the pretty fluted champagne glasses that politely remind you that you’re underdressed for such a remarkable occasion. I’ve seen the 5 p.m. glasses of red wine on a beautifully set Easter table, the communion and breaking of the bread. I’ve seen the quick wink when a little extra rum is poured on the birthday cake. The brothers and the deck of cards that come to the dining room table when the cork is popped.

And I wonder, sometimes, if the side of alcohol that treats us well,  the side when it’s fun and nobody gets hurt, gives us permission to give alcohol more intimacy than it deserves. Though I’ve seen it, I’ve been blind to it.

Alcohol seeks a close relationship.

For Micah, alcohol started out as his friend. He wrote on his website that he was a nice person when he was drunk, “all kind words and big hugs and adorably unselfconscious dance moves.”

Then, alcohol became his therapist. He texted his friend Hawks one day and said, “I want to medicate my sadness with alcohol, but also don’t want to become an alcoholic. what are my options here?”

Soon, alcohol became his God. What he found out is that “drinking is not a kind god.”

So I’m learning to say ‘no’ when the liquor store promises relief from the relentlessness of grief and fear and shame and anxiety. I’m learning to ask ‘Why?’ when I reach for the jug in the cabinet or the bottles in the fridge. And I’m learning to save my whiskey for campfires with friends. Alcohol, I think, was meant to be be shared in a circle with those we love, not alone with Netflix and regret.”

After three beers, Murray knows who he’s going to be. He knows what he’ll do.

He’ll laugh loudly.
He’ll like himself.
He’ll love well.
He’ll dance.

In 2015, he’ll do all of those things. But it won’t be because of the covenant he made with alcohol. Not anymore.

“I’m not going to wait until after three beers to be alive.”

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