I’m into my fourth year of sobriety now (the three-year anniversary occured almost exactly a month ago) but every so often I look back and go, “Whoa…that happened in my drinking days.” Which were only occasionally wild. Except for my vodka-and-lemonade period from ’93 to ’96, which involved two alcohol-related car collisions, I never felt as if my life was all that negatively affected by drinking. Nor did I ever decide in my 20s and 30s that things had become problematic due to pot, hallucinogens, quaaludes and cocaine toots. I saw my nocturnal adventures as purely supplemental. I never partied during work hours. I saw myself as someone who worked hard, always woke up early, killed myself to become a half-decent writer, kept myself in shape and led a more-or-less disciplined life.

Yes, I behaved erratically and irresponsibly at times, but when I was younger I believed that a life without Jack Daniels and beer and quaaludes and revelry represented a kind of death. On top of which my romantic life was fairly spectacular back then so there was that besides.

One night I was at a party in Wilton with the usual assortment of drinking buddies. I started to feel tired around 1 am or so (I had to work the next day) but the guy I came with wasn’t in the mood to leave. I went outside for whatever reason and noticed that a friend who lived about a mile from my place was preparing to leave. He began to get into his ride (an LTD Ford station wagon) with his girlfriend and two other couples. I asked for a lift and he said “Uhm, I don’t think there’s any room, Jeff.” So without telling my friend (i.e., Pete) I decided to sneak a ride on top of his car, lying spread-eagled and holding on to the luggage rack. It was a moonless, pitch-black night and I somehow managed to gently crawl on top without anyone noticing. Don’t ask me.

The car took off and it felt great at first. Then the LTD hit a straightaway and was moving a good 50 mph or faster. The ride lasted a good 15 or 20 minutes. No, I didn’t get thrown off by a sudden tromping of the brakes but I began to worry about something like that happening. That’s drinking for you — you do something stupid and then it hits you midway through the episode that you might get hurt. High-velocity air molecules were slamming my face the whole time, of course. I climbed off when Pete unloaded the first passenger and walked the rest of the way, or another mile or two. It was nothing, water off a duck’s ass, “that happened!”

Right now I’m thinking if I hadn’t been a spirited party animal I couldn’t look back and say, “Hey, I rode on top of a station wagon at 50 mph through pitch blackness with eight or nine beers in my system.” The situation was what it was.