Drinking as a civilian

Just before the school term started, I got back from one of my military training courses where they had a whole hour and a half long briefing dedicated to protocol and regulations dealing with alcohol. We are strongly encouraged to follow Health Canada’s “low-risk drinking guide.” In short, it says that I shouldn’t have more than two drinks on any day and no more than five total per week. Anything more falls into the category of binge drinking. Harsh.

Let’s get this out there right away; according to the guide I was given, I would be considered a binge drinker. In the words of my father, I don’t drink often, but when I do, I drink like a fish. Somehow, when I get drunk, I manage to wake up the next morning hangover-free and feeling great about 95 per cent of the time. My secret is simple: drink water before sleeping, lots of it. Some nights I’ve downed a two-six of vodka, gone to the bar and had roughly eight to 10 more shots before losing count, woken up the next morning and gone to my cousin’s birthday at my grandparents’ place without any issues, using that trick — not that you should follow my example.

In the military, drinking is a part of the culture; there’s no disputing that. If you showed up to duty drunk or hungover you used to just get “disciplinary action,” which meant something like push-ups and shitty jobs that are either labour intensive or disgusting. That, however, changed just as I was finishing boot camp. The last day I was on course, we were called in for a surprise briefing to let us all know that alcohol-related incidents at work were now administrative issues. That is to say that your career is going to be affected by this, your officers will no longer be able to hide your conduct and the report goes right to the top and you get hammered into the ground.

Not that I would want to do push-ups while hungover anyways. Last summer, after getting about four hours of work done on my back tattoo, I went to a buddy’s party to chill out and drink. During the night, I ended up teaching him how to do a proper punch, Russian martial art style — which involved him hitting me repeatedly in the chest and stomach — and downed more booze than I would care to remember. The next morning I felt pretty crappy — my chest was killing me from the punches, my back was hurting from the tattoo, there were several forgetful back slaps and my shoulder was aching from sleeping on it funny the night before. A ride on the bus and lugging a heavy backpack six or so blocks in the 30 C weather didn’t help things either. I felt totally and utterly miserable. If that was the version of civilian punishment, I can only imagine that the military version would be the same — cubed and squared.

The main thing to remember when drinking is to be safe, have fun and remember the water trick. Don’t do anything too stupid and you’ll end up with a whole whack of great stories about “that one time you went drinking.”