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I quit drinking alcohol on Feb. 22, 2004. Basically, I switched to coffee which also causes me to shake when I can’t have any.

Sometimes I want to bemoan the quality of the last beer I drank — 40 ounces of Miller Genuine Draft — like I should have drank something fancy as a proper send-off. But the misery I caused myself and others absolutely called for something gross and pedestrian like MGD.


An odd thing happened when I quit drinking. A doctor would likely say it was a hypomanic episode. For about a year, I could go 60 or 70 hours with no sleep. I would write and listen to music and chain-smoke cigarettes. My college roommates suffered endlessly. Chicks loved me. I have no idea why.

My high school friend Micah, who fancied himself a rapper, begged his dad to buy him about $2,000 of music-making software and a keyboard. When I gazed upon the setup, I nearly cried. Since I was about 8 years old, I longed to be in a rock-and-roll band. But all the kids in bands hated me. So did the skater kids, the jocks and for some reason the the nerds, too. For much of my freshman year in high school, I hung out with kids who thought the earth was 5,000 years old and gays were sent by the devil.

I was lonely.

But Micah and I became fast friends in 10th grade because we wore the same hat and sneakers to school one day. Our friendship continued into college, although Micah pursed a career as a bartender and developed an ever-worsening addiction to cocaine and alcohol.

Anyway, Micah’s dad bought him a music-making program, and now I didn’t need a band. I had one in a box. Pianos, orchestral swells, horn stabs, a drum machine, a synthesizer, a sequencer. I hadn’t even known such wonders existed. And now they were mine. It was like being god.

Micah introduced me at parties as his producer and, thanks to what was likely unmedicated bipolar disorder, I spent 12 and sometimes 16 hours a day hunched over a computer station composing the beats that were to constitute his debut hip-hop album. They were terrible, but I was intensely committed to them. We would soon have an album.

If Micah would only come out of the bathroom. He and our friend Mike spent all night in there snorting cocaine of questionable quality off the back of the toilet. They would emerge periodically to heap praise upon me and offer me cocaine. I’d usually decline. Hypomania makes your thoughts race at a 1,000 miles per hour. Cocaine makes them so fast, you no longer know what you are thinking. It’s just a high-pitched squealing inside your head.

Micah and I eventually had a falling out over a girl and a video tape he swore he’d returned, but the massive late fee on my account said otherwise. I eventually graduated college and became a journalist and later a baker and then a journalist and baker. Micah is currently in prison for manslaughter. That’s a column for another time.

The album never came out.

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