The Five Precepts Blues; #5.4 – Chug~a~lug

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Sometimes I think it’s kind of a miracle that I didn’t end up with a drinking problem. I’m assuming, now, that it must have been some helpful Karma that carried over.

My father is quite attached to his drink, the local liquor store where I grew up had the highest sales per capita in Canada when I left for university, where I worked in the busiest bar/restaurant in the city, then moved to a country that, according to WHO, consumes more hard alcohol per capita, aged 15+, than any other country in the world, (13th over all, including beer and wine).

I was about six or seven years old, out for a day of horse shoeing with my dad, when I learned the word “medicine” had this other strange meaning. I was digging behind the seat for the seat belt, which always seemed to be stuffed down there in dad’s old red Ford, when I  pulled out a small clear, glass bottle, and asked my dad, “What’s this?”

“That’s my medicine,” he responded with a grin. “You want some?”

It didn’t look like the medicine on the shelf at home, but if it was good for my dad, I’d try some. He poured a little into the cap for me and I took it. Wow! It burned all the way from my throat to my belly button, my eyes began to tear, and my dad asked if I wanted one more. “No thank you.” “It’ll put hair on your chest,” my dad told me. If only he knew I wouldn’t be needing any help with that!

It was a long, long time before I drank again. Even then, it wasn’t often. I’ve endured many frustrating situations turning down drinks. But in the end, I know it was worth it. When I first moved to Korea, there was an Irishman I’d become quite close with for a time. We met at a party, and he offered me a beer.

When I told him I didn’t drink, he literally almost feel over. He got this really serious look in his face, and began to stutter, “Ye, yeu, you don’t drink? I’ve never heard anyone ever say that before…” and he meant it! He did talk me into playing a drinking game, though, which he assured me I wouldn’t lose…   but I did! One glass of beer mixed with a shot of soju and my stomach bubbled for the rest of the night! Anyway, we stayed good friends until I moved to Bundang.

One response »

  1. I remember one time after finishing winter Kyol Che retreat at Hwa Gye Sah, a bosalnim slyly offered to give me some “special medicine.” I thought her suggestion was so weird, so preposterous, that I couldn’t help laughing out loud. Soon she was laughing too. That was special medicine.

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