Interlock Antics

Most of us in some sort of substance abuse program have had, at one time or another, the entirely self-inflicted misfortune of operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicating substances. This is, to say the least, frowned upon by the law. As a result, some of us have had unpleasant encounters with our local constabulary while impaired, often caught red handed, in flagrante delicto, bottle between legs in the driver’s seat, or, worse, taking a pull within visual range of an officer. The ensuing interaction, with us exhaling toxic olfactory vapors into the atmosphere while the lawman administers a battery of embarrassing tests, is one of life’s terribly humbling experiences. And for some of us, these brushes with the legal system have come with such frequency or at times of such extreme inebriation that the courts have deemed it necessary to require devices be installed in our cars that render further episodes of drunk driving, at least theoretically, impossible.

I was one such unfortunate soul. Actually, I had been indescribably lucky. The statistical likelihood that I had not been previously popped for a DUI or killed someone given the sheer number of times I had driven drunk, often in an utterly obliterated blackout state, was astronomical. Cosmological. (As has been said, “God has special providence for drunkards and fools,” though by exactly whom is to this day uncertain.)

Thus began my monthly visits to the interlock installation/calibration garage. At a cool $60 per month. During this mandatory blow-to-drive, I was faced with a couple of conflicting facts: 1) I had to maintain gainful employment, and 2) I still wanted to drink. AA and/or rehab were, at the time, only on the periphery of my consciousness, and I was still woefully susceptible to the lifted skirt and perfumed inner thigh of the bottle. So, the challenge I had to address was how to drink and elevate my blood alcohol level to a satisfactory level in the evening, and then force it to unnaturally plummet to an interlock-acceptable level before I had to leave for work in the morning.

Unfortunately, human biology provides no natural means by which to accomplish this, and, having limited relevant technical skills, I was not about to try to tamper with the device itself. So, with the full support, encouragement, and assistance of my disease, I set out to develop an effective plan to maximize my drinking experience while avoiding probation violation and the subsequent incarceration resulting thereof.

As the laughably obvious option of simply not drinking was unthinkable, and estimating how long it would take the old liver to muck its way through a given amount of booze was at best a dangerous and unreliable approximation, I was in a precarious place. Saith the disease, “We can do this! Let’s be creative!” So it was to the arbiter and repository of all human knowledge, the internet, we proceeded.

First, I discovered through exhaustive research (i.e. typing various things into the Wikipedia search box) that only one substance has been purported, scientifically, to possibly, maybe, perhaps, speed up the metabolism and elimination of alcohol from the body. That substance is fructose, a type of sugar found primarily in fruits and vegetables. So, prodigious quantities of apple juice found their way into my drinking sessions. A chance stroll through a local market turned up a supply of bulk granulated pure fructose. Thus was the already sweet juice supercharged into something almost intolerably cloying. Nevertheless, I choked it down.

Next, I located an online BAC calculator in which I could input my age, sex, weight, drinking times and duration, and the quantity and proof of the drinks. Out came my BAC at any subsequent time the next morning. Take that, evil, cursed oxygen thieving device! Of course, this calculator was just marginally, if that, less approximate than previous spitball mental estimates, but the disease unhesitatingly vouched for its dead-on accuracy.

So, I calculated, measured, and rigorously scheduled my drinking. I gagged down glass after glass of fructose enhanced juice. And every morning, the terrible walk to the car. Turning the key. Blow. “Please, please God, let this thing start.” I’ve had few episodes in my life filled with more anxiety than those five seconds after that initial beep, waiting for either the all clear beep or the signal to start coming up with some lame ass story for my probation officer. Mostly, the strategy worked. A couple of times, it didn’t.

Of course, I always had the option of, on the one hand, jumping through all those ridiculous hoops and, on the other, simply not fucking drinking! But, at the time, that course was beneath consideration and thus utterly ignored. Now, many bristle at the notion that addiction has some sort of intimate relation to insanity. Whatever ones thoughts are on this obviously AA-based idea, that life, folks, was inarguably crazy. Nuts. Bonkers.

It is only through a hard won release from the worst of that crazy obsession that has allowed me to put my mind and efforts to infinitely more productive uses. And the ease and lack of drama that goes with getting from point A to B these days is well worth the cost of the few hours of joyless drunkenness each night I had to give up.

Originally published on thefix.com 3-8-18

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