Out running Sunday afternoon, muttering quietly as I try to get 10 miles in, when the iPhone I always carry rings. It’s my son, Nick.
“Dad, I’ve got some fantastic news!” he says.
He’s got my attention. I love fantastic news. Such is his delight, I’m thinking he must have something pretty extraordinary to report. Maybe he won a million dollars. Maybe he got a date with Mila Kunis. Maybe he won a trip to Kauai.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
To make a long story short, here is what he said: He was out on a 10-mile run (Yep, another 10 miler) when he stopped at Splash, his favorite watering hole downtown bar in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for a glass of water (really, just a glass of water). While there, one of the bartenders told Nick she had heard about his declaration to give up booze for November, and was going to join him. Matter of fact, about 10 others, Nick said, including several Splash bartenders, also said they were surrendering alcohol, either for the month or at least a few weeks, whichever came first.
That was part one of the good news.
Fired up that so many were following his example, he went out and ran another 20 miles, giving him 30 miles for the day. Thirty miles! Are kidding me? Who runs 30 miles and feels good enough to start calling family members? Unreal. I congratulated him on knocking out an ultramarathon training run. Wow.
More importantly, though, was that he gave up drinking, and so many had joined him in his newfound role of teetotaler. Because saying no to beer isn’t easy in the Buley family. We were raised, among other things, to work hard, love your brothers and sisters, respect your elders, be kind to animals, cheer for Notre Dame football team, and drink — in bars, at home, at the backyard barbecue.
Check out family reunions pictures, and every adult will have an Olympia in hand. And in those days, it was common practice to send the kids in to retrieve a beer from the cooler. My dad’s dad drank. My dad drank. My older brothers drank. I drank. My oldest son drank. It was beyond social hour cocktails. It’s called alcoholism, defined as “a medical condition in which someone frequently drinks too much alcohol.” I cringe now, wonder what I was thinking, when I got off work and spent hours in bars when I should have been home with my wife and children. There were several times I drove when I should not have.
It was stupid. Here’s why:
Alcoholism, simply put, is a serious problem. According to learn-about-alcoholism.com:
• Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.
• There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.
• Three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol.
• Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol.
• In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes.
• A study found nearly 7 million persons age 12 to 20 were binge drinkers.
• Three-fourths of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once.
At least, eventually, I recognized I had a problem. Vowed to give up beer and have, at times, just to prove I could. Never have been one for hard liquor. I warned Nick in letters that drinking was a generational curse and he should stop, at least cut back. Sure, it’s nice to sit in a bar with friends and have a beer. Just not every night. Like any dad, I didn’t want my son to make the mistakes I did. Fortunately, Nick gets it. He’s seeing the light, as they say. Thank God.
Oh, I still like a cold beer. Nothing quite like it after a long run on a hot, sunny morning. Beer, I say, is a runner’s good friend. But man’s got to know his limits, as my friend Clint Eastwood says, and I’ve had trouble with that one.
So, I’ll join my son on this beer ban the rest of this month. I’ll just say no, too. The least I can do is support him and help him realize the influence he has on those around him.
Yes, running 30 miles in less than four hours is outstanding. I’m proud. But giving up booze for a month, at least in this family, is priceless. I’m thankful.
Stay strong, Nick. The lead is yours.
• Bill Buley is editor of The Garden Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org