Missed Opportunities

I’m an alcoholic. There. I’ve said it. I’m not ashamed because nine years ago I decided to quit. So whatever. It’s a choice and I’m stubborn enough to stick to it.

One day, a thirty hour journey brought me to the island country of Japan.

Beer, shochu, sake. Everywhere I look alcohol demands my attention. It never stops.

IMG_4471There appears to be no social stigma against drinking in Japan. There is no shame. There a mingling of pride. Drinking even manages to invade the workplace in the form of special parties called enkai or nomikai. And what happens at enkai stays at enkai. It is free reign to let loose, which can result in good and bad. And boy, there’s some loosening. That’s okay. Nothing wrong with that.

Aside from work functions, drinking is an activity. It’s a way for people to bond. I never understood that social aspect but then again, I have a problem. I drank a lot and over time it just bored me. Many say that drinking results in spontaneity and unpredictable actions but I disagree. A group of drunks is much easier to predict than a sober one. Members always know what’s going to happen and is part of the endearment. Everyone knows what to expect. It’s so boring and it has all been done before. But many are afraid of change.

Since quitting, I’ve discovered so many new ways to engage with new and old experiences. I feel in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my meager list of accomplishments.

IMG_4328I don’t drink, which causes many shared experiences to go out the window. Maybe if people thought I drank it would be different. But it is my decision. My own fault. It is my decision and others shouldn’t adapt to me. I have come to realize that I prefer not to consort while people are actively drinking, or rather, when drinking is the purpose.

After a collection of wandering thought experiments and otherwise unsuccessful yet fulfilling writing exercises trying to find a compelling way to explore drinking, I seem to have come full circle and can’t appear to say what I need to say. Nor have I determined any sort of answer. In fact, I don’t even know the question. It isn’t so much the topic as the frightening passion that flows from my body. It is what it is. There is no hate or shame. Just an admission of my own weakness.


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
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3 Responses to Missed Opportunities

  1. Namaste.

    Matthew, I feel like I just witnessed a catharsis, an acceptance. I am so honored to have seen you come out of the shadows. There is no shame in it, it’s only a label. It’s not your fault. If others judge or exclude, that’s on them and because of their own issues, it is not a reflection on you. It is usually the drinkers that have a problem that are most uncomfortable around non-drinkers. It reminds them that they have a problem.

    “Alcohol is a beast hiding in the shadows waiting for that one moment when I’m off guard…”

    This is true… I keep a healthy fear toward it, but more so, I try respect its power over me.

    Like a panther.

    (Yes, as you wrote, fear and respect.)

    Excusing alcohol from my life has made space for so many other gifts I could have never imagined drinking. When I start seeing through the eyes of gratitude, I don’t resent or hate alcohol (I hate the disease), and this acceptance brings peace.

    “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

    It’s so nice to meet you,

  2. Jessica says:

    Wow, Matt. Thank you for this. I applaud you with all my heart. I have been contemplating admitting my own weakness — an eating disorder — on my site, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. So many people from whom I’ve been hiding it for so long read my site. It’s funny that now, after quite a bit of counseling, I am not so ashamed of it as I once was. I’ve come to understand where it came from and am taking steps to overcome it… And yet there is still that social stigma… Interesting… I may share my story yet. We’ll see.

    Anyway, back to alcoholism. Overcoming it is no easy feat. My mom is a closet alcoholic and refuses to admit even to herself that she has a problem… For myself, I’ve never been one to drink. I’ve never been big into the party scene (never even tried beer until *after* college) and, I guess largely due to my background (my childhood religion frowns on drinking BIG time; I was a very sheltered child), never liked being around people who were drunk. But I understand how sometimes it can seem you’re “missing out” when you choose not to drink. It seems drinking must be viewed differently in Japan than it was in Taiwan, too. In Taiwan, there was definitely a stigma against be drunk in public. You could always spot a drunk, too, because of how flushed their face was! Is it that way with the Japanese?

    I love what you said here: “Since quitting, I’ve discovered so many new ways to engage with new and old experiences. I feel in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my meager list of accomplishments.” Don’t sell yourself short on this. First off, your list of accomplishments is not “meager.” Most people can’t say they’ve lived in a foreign country like Japan. Second, I agree that by quitting, even if it may seem you are losing out on social opportunities, you are actually enriching your life. By choosing not to make drinking your goal, and to not engage in that relationship, you can channel that energy into so many other things… Which I guess is what you were saying. (Haha!) I’m totally not trying to preach, just trying to say I get it. And bravo to you! And thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Jess, I thank you for your kind words and honesty. The process of writing this post was very cathartic for me. I struggled for a long time if I should post it or not since I’m not completely sure what I want this blog to be. But alcohol and I have had a long relationship that continues to this day even though I never drink it anymore. Alcohol is a beast hiding in the shadows waiting for that one moment when I’m off guard. I am confident that I will never drink again because of my fear, but living in constant fear blurs the edges of enjoyment while sharpening those moments of weakness, which are so much easier to focus on. Fear is a necessary component in my life and I welcome it because I know it. It is familiar. Wow! I just read over that, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      As far as drinking in Japan. Most Japanese I’ve encountered turn a bright red when they drink and are very happy drunks. There is zero tolerance on drunk driving (including biking drunk) in Japan that is rigorously enforced but there are plenty of options to explore. Taxis are abundant, many just walk, and there is also a chauffeur service that will drive you home in your car. I’m not sure if public drunkenness is a problem or not but I don’t seem to see it often. There was one early evening when I saw a fellow falling over on his bicycle and nearly ran into a car, but that is the only example I can come up with. Most drinking parties call taxis which bring you directly home. But then again, I’ve never made it to third party, which can apparently get pretty wild.

      You nailed what I was trying to say almost word for word! I have been able to redistribute that energy to more positive, worthwhile pursuits such as writing and physical refinement. My life has been so much more fulfilling since I quit drinking.

      And for you. Be strong and do what you think is right. Your blog may be the right place, or it may not. I thank you for your courage. Hearing your words strengthens my resolve. I wish you a day full of happiness and engaging memories!

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