Adult Drinking

College students have long been criticized for drinking way too much alcohol in way too short a time. But they're not the only ones. A new study finds binge drinking to be a habit among some senior citizens, too.

Getting up in age can negatively impact one’s lifestyle; a topic addressed in several previous columns.

In my June 10, 2018 column, I addressed this issue. I referred to things that we did routinely and with few problems when we were young. An incident involving one of my close friends caused me to revisit that 2018 column to see if it touched on what I shall highlight today.

Some things I acknowledged that most of us have difficulty doing are: staying out late at night, especially when we must get up early the next day for work, church or any other reason; problems with driving at night due to difficulty seeing; challenges navigating steps in our homes sometimes resulting in moves to ranch or single-level homes. Of course, the difficulty getting in and out the bathtub because of “old mother and old father time” was highlighted. All of these issues come as a result of advanced age.

As I reviewed that previous column, it appeared right in front of me in black and white. It was another way we are impacted by age that I had forgotten.

I shall focus, in more detail today on this issue. Well, let me go back to what happened to my dear friend for that particular issue. I speak with this friend on a regular basis and after not hearing from him for a few days, even though he promised to call me, I reached out to him. He indicated that a small incident had occurred which slowed him down.

He responded that his birthday had just passed and he celebrated with family members by drinking as he did in the past. He fell up the stairs; not down the stairs, of his home and his injury resulted in a trip to the hospital. He sent me a photograph of the injury he sustained. In this photo, he looked like he had been in a major fist fight: a black eye; swelling around his eye; and stitches above his eye. Trust me, he looked awful.

Unfortunately, we often laugh at the misfortunes of others. So, I must confess that I laughed or to put it in a term from the past, I rolled and rolled. It was after seeing the photograph that I called my friend and told him that his story and the photograph had inspired me to write a future column and would mention this incident but would not disclose his name. He pleaded with me not to mention his name as he was embarrassed. He went on to tell me that because of how he looked, he was not going out of his home until he healed. I told (I almost mentioned his name), “You should know that you cannot drink that liquor like you did, back in the day.”

President Jimmy Carter was injured, as a result of a fall, last week. After reading of the former president’s misfortune, I called my friend and suggested that he give Carter a call so that they could share and compare their experiences which culminated with similar injuries; a black eye and stitches over the eye. My friend responded by pointing out that unlike the cause of his fall, he doubts if 95-year-old, Sunday School teacher, President Carter was injured as a result of drinking.

I know that there are a number of “goodie-goodies” reading this column, people who are deacons and trustees in church, some who may even deliver the sermon on Sunday morning and many that are pillars of their communities who claim to have never had a drink of alcohol and, for those that acknowledged drinking, never became inebriated after bar hopping, attending cabarets or unwinding at home in the past.

Yes, sure! I am an “A source” with regard to having “a taste” that was more than I should have consumed. I can go back to my days of drinking scotch and milk, getting a bit “woozy” and finding my way home safely, early one morning by the grace of God. After a few hours of sleep, I awakened, rushed to my bedroom window to check to see if my automobile was in the driveway. It was and yet, I had no idea how it got there. While I am now strictly a social drinker, this incident represented the end of my hard drinking days.

I suspect that some of you had similar experiences, experiences that may have occurred, particularly during your college days when certain words were uttered loud and clear. Some of you will remember, “What’s the word’? The response, if you recall, “Thunderbird.” This was followed by, “What’s the price?’ The reply was, “Thirty twice.” So, what was the next question and the response? “Who drinks the most? Us Colored folks.”

If it was not Thunderbird, more than likely, it was one of the other popular drinks that could be purchased for just a few pennies; drinks like Mad Dog 20/20, Boones’ Farm, Gypsy Rose, Cold Duck, Tiger Rose, Ripple and Silver Satan.

Perhaps you recall drinking one of these guaranteed headache wines out of a brown paper bag while passing the bottle from one person to another. Now, this was not just boys in the dormitory, some girls consumed these drinks much like the boys. Given the impact that drinking had on many of us during our college days, as well as our standing on he corner days, you would think that excessive drinking would have ended, back in the day.

Under any circumstances, drinking too much can be problematic. Going back in time brings to mind my coming together with “the boys” at a friend’s home where we celebrated the Friday prior to the Penn Relay Carnival. In those days we were a few years younger and drinking was near the top of the list of enjoyable activities. Boy did we drink! But, as noted, we were much younger and drinking did not have a major impact on our behavior.

I do recall that some wives and significant others took precautions and arranged for moderate drinkers to make certain that the heavy drinkers arrived home safely. Looking back in time to my youthful days, partying at a cabaret or house parties were most likely the places where intoxication would occur. Drinking quietly at home was less likely to produce the same results. But, this was not true in my friend’s case as his problem did occur at home.

You may recall seeing partygoers leaving a cabaret or house party behaving in a wild manner I can still see some of those that consumed too much alcohol, being so drunk until they were engaged in a “running drunk.” This is a condition where someone intoxicated would run slowly, close to the wall, to avoid falling over. Those were the days when people really turned to the bottle.

Interestingly, in spite of the heavy drinking we did not find people being involved in automobile accidents to the degree we see accidents with older drinkers today. Typically, with some exceptions, young people, were able to handle their drinking. Still, there were those situations where brand new automobiles were wrapped around telephone poles because of one’s inability to handle excessive drinking in the past.

Now, do not misinterpret the point that I am attempting to make. I am not suggesting that excessive drinking only occurred back in the day. Based on my observations and comments from friends and associates, it does appear, however, that drinking alcohol, particularly hard alcohol, is not as common as it was in the past. My point in this column is that whether it is today or back in the day, as one gets up in age, their ability to drink excessively is diminished and results in issues such as the one I described earlier involving my dear friend. Getting up in age and being “unable to handle their liquor” is not something new.

As I reflected on this issue, my thoughts quickly traveled back in time to a man in my old neighborhood who was getting up in age and unable to consume alcohol in the manner that he did as a young man. I never knew his real name; he was only known as “Can’t Get ‘Em.” He acquired this name because he had difficulty getting anything. He could not get a job; he could not get a girlfriend; and he could not get a permanent place to live. The bottom line was simply this — he could not get anything.

I will never forget a day when Can’t Get Em had been drinking too much alcohol at an age when he should not have been drinking much — if at all. The mailman failed to deliver Can’t Get Em’s disability check. You see, for years, Can’t Get Em would religiously receive his check on the first of the month. In fact, Can’t Get Em had the mailman timed and he would wait outside for the mailman to arrive. But, this one month, the mailman showed up without Can’t Get Em’s check. So, what did Can’t Get Em do? Well, Can’t Get Em, reacted because of drinking too much hard liquor and beat up the mailman.

I suspect that many of you reading this column today, both young and old, have put your drinking days aside. At least, I hope so! Not only is drinking unhealthy, it can bring on problems that you just do not want or need.

For those of you that have doubts, reach out to me in a confidential manner and I will put you in touch with my dear friend that was the catalyst for today’s column. The picture he shared with me demonstrated the results of his accident which the obvious cause was consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. The picture brings to mind a term that many have used and was indicative of what I observed. Clearly my good and dear friend was “drunked up.” I have no doubt that he will tell you exactly what I have highlighted.

So, pay attention and internalize these words, “as you get up in age, promise that you will not consume alcohol in the manner in which you used to do, back in the day.”

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at backintheday@phillytrib.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146

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