There’s only two things you need to know about being an alcoholic in Japan. The first is why you’ll become one, and the second is how to cure your pickled ass. Fortunately for you, Ken Seeroi has already been there and back, so you’re covered in both departments.
So I recently quit drinking. This was a good idea, why? I’m still trying to figure that out. But okay, I mostly did it because I wanted to get into shape for bikini season. That’s where you as a hot girl wear a bikini while I lounge on the beach with a tallboy on my stomach ogling you. But since my board shorts were getting a bit tight in the old waistal region, I figured maybe I’d better knock off the cans for a bit.
Other good reasons I came up with for quitting booze were saving an amazing ton of money and uh, not dying. Now I know some people say, “well you know, a glass of red wine a day is actually good for you.” And yeah, that’s great if you’re the kind of person who can drink one glass, but I tried that and it just incited me to drink six delicious beers afterward. Not that I’m complaining; I just wouldn’t exactly call it a health program.
Anyway, since I’m a pretty proactive dude, at least for an alcoholic, I went online and found my local chapter of Japanese AA, then sent an email to some nameless person. That’s the anonymous part, I guess.
“Meet at the church on Tuesday, 8 p.m.,” was the mysterious reply.
Now to be fair, I’d already cured my own self a week before, by going to Reddit. I can heartily recommend the r/stopdrinking/ thread as a place to immediately rid anyone of alcoholism, since once you read the stories of those folks, holy crap, you’ll realize you don’t have any drinking problem at all. Man, those people are a bunch of drunks.
Anyway, since I didn’t have anything going on Tuesday night, I figured I’d go check out the whole AA gig. That’s one thing about not drinking, Christ, you’ve got a lot of free time.
I got out of the train station at 7:30, because I always get places early. I’m just responsible like that. It was a warm, muggy evening, and I started slowly walking toward the church. Okay, let’s review why Japan makes you an alcoholic. Because as I was plodding to The Holy Trinity of Immaculate Jesus, I passed approximately eighty bars, all with colorful neon, brightly lit paper lanterns, and delicious chicken smoke billowing into the night air.
Girls were standing in front laughing, guys were touching them on the elbows, and suddenly I felt like I was walking through a Heineken commercial. Frankly, if you’re not drinking in Japan, you’re cutting yourself off from about one hundred percent of all social opportunities. I mean, I came here because I wanted to meet interesting people, touch them on the elbows, and hopefully wake up beside them with crushing regrets. I certainly didn’t fly to the other side of the earth to sit alone in a tiny apartment sipping green tea and reading internet anecdotes about how great being sober is.
But since I would’ve felt bad breaking my appointment with Anonymous Person, I persevered to the address I’d received, where a bearded white guy was learning in a doorway. I looked at him, and he looked at me. Now, that’s either a guy with Alcoholics Anonymous or some perv who picks up men in front of churches. Either way, I figured it was a win-win, so I went up and said hi.
“Welcome,” he replied. “I’m Mike.”
“I thought this was supposed to be anonymous.”
“Come on in, the others are already there,” he said.
The others were two Japanese salarymen. We sat at a small brown table. Four guys, in the back room of a church. We looked at each other. There was a small cross with Jesus Christ hanging on the wall. “Let’s pray,” said Mike. Suddenly, that sounded like a great idea.
Okay, I know I only went one time, but here’s what would improve Alcoholics Anonymous a great deal: a ping pong table. Or maybe a basketball and a hoop. Or some freaking dominoes or something. Because we just sat there, for an hour. Four random dudes sitting around a table looking at hanging Jesus for an hour, talking. How is that possibly good? If that doesn’t drive you to rush and slam a bottle of vodka, I don’t know what will.
So first we did this little prayer thing where we all joined hands and asked God to take away our drunkenness. Now I’m not a big homophobe kind of guy, but I’m just saying, that’s a pretty gay way to start a meeting. Men have surprisingly rough fingers, is mostly what I took away from the meeting. There’s supposed to be one girl in the mix and then it’s okay to touch hands; that’s just how it works.
Then we read through The Twelve Steps. I don’t know how familiar you are with these, but they’re the steps you take to stop being a drunk. Again, not trying to be overly critical or anything, but half the steps just say the same thing as the other half, only in different words, so I can’t understand how there’s twelve. Like, here’s 6 and 7:
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
How are those two independent actions and not just one poorly-constructed sentence missing a conjunction? Not to mention that they sound suspiciously like steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and possibly 11. So I pretty much knocked out fifty percent of the 12 steps in about five minutes. God and I were making great progress against my disease.
Now, I’m not exactly an expert on alcohol-recovery, but I’ve gotten over my share of hangovers, and those don’t sound much like “steps” at all—-more like something the guy on the next bar stool would mumble. Steps—-as in actual shit you could do—-would be more like
1. Pour out your booze
2. Stop hanging around in bars
3. Start exercising regularly
4. Take down the Budweiser and Corona girl posters
5. Make some friends who aren’t all drunks
And actually, if you think about it, twelve’s a bit much, isn’t it? You’re just trying to lay off the sauce, not launch a Space Shuttle. If you’ve got more than six steps on your checklist, you don’t need God, you need an editor.
So we spent an hour looking at each other, holding hands, and relating our histories.
“I struggle with alcohol,” said one salaryman.
“Like how?” I asked.
“Every weekend I want to drink beer.”
“Boy, me too,” I said. “Until now, I thought it was a good thing”.
“God’s helping you.”
“Can he help me in Japanese?”
“I think English is better.”
Okay, call me cynical, but I started to suspect the two Japanese guys weren’t so much concerned with their alcohol consumption as with getting a free hour of conversation practice. I had a vague sense that I should be charging 4000 yen for my time. But you know, the handicapped and all, gotta give ’em a pass.
And in the end, I quit drinking for 71 days. Avoiding Alcoholics Anonymous helped a great deal, as did ginger ale. Thanks, Canada Dry.
I can absolutely recommend not drinking, since I did in fact save a ton of money and regained my formerly svelte form. Apparently, cutting out a thousand calories of booze a day has a positive effect—who knew? On the other hand, it was insanely boring. I did all my dishes and folded my laundry twice. That took like half an hour. Then I spent the rest of every evening turning down invitations from friends imploring me to “just have one.”
Which, on the 72nd day, I did, followed by a small bottle of sake and a stop at the convenience store for a couple tallboys and a bag of popcorn. That’s probably the best thing about quitting drinking—-how good beer tastes when you finally start again. Think I’ll make that Step 6.