St. Patrick’s Day as a Recovering Alcoholic

This is my first sober St. Patrick’s Day. As an Alcoholic, Irish Catholic, you may imagine this is challenging. I’ve always spent the day similarly to any other American proclaiming to be a descendant from the Emerald Isle: partaking in the virtual bacchanalian orgy that this holiday has become. So, now, post-alcohol rehab, I am not sure of what to do with myself. Post alcohol rehab, March 17th is a very, very different day. There will be plenty of AA meetings I can go to. (I think they schedule extra for us on this day). And I will start my day like any other day post-alcohol rehab, by going to mass in the morning and thanking God for this extra day He has given me. I will probably keep to the tradition of corned beef and cabbage for dinner. I will definitely be eating a lot of Irish potatoes! Well, I guess that it is shaping up to be a fairly planned out day. I think it is okay to still wear green, too. I did find an old favorite green polo hidden in the back of my closet the other day.

Man, I wish I could have just one Guinness. One Irish car bomb. Just one shot of Jameson. One Smithwick’s. One Bulmer. Geez, listen to me! Those add up to be five drinks – which is why I can’t have just one. When I think of one, I think of many, and when I think of wanting just one, I immediately think of another drink to want. That is what got me here.

So in anticipation of today, I have been reading up on why we actually celebrate St. Patrick. I’m amazed and slightly embarrassed to admit, that I never really asked myself this question before. (I may have been told the stories as a kid but Lord knows, I’ve killed those brain cells since.) Did you know that the first St. Patricks Day in America pre-dates the signing of the Declaration of Independence? We Irish, we don’t waste any time! The first recognized St. Patty’s Day celebration occurred in Boston in 1737! I’ve seen conflicting information on the legend regarding how he banishes all the snakes from Ireland. Some places deem it to be fact, others say myth. His sainthood does not derive from the snakes but from how he converted thousands to Christianity.

What will be most interesting, however, to my fellow recovering alcoholics, is how the custom of imbibing alcohol on St. Patty’s Day comes from another old Irish legend.

As the story goes, St. Patrick was served a small amount of whiskey – a small amount that was considerably less than full. Well, being the Irish that he was, he did not take this lying down! He took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson of generosity. He told the innkeeper that served him this small amount of whiskey that, in his basement, lived a devil who fed on the dishonesty of the innkeeper. The only way to get rid of the devil was for the innkeeper to be more generous. Some time later, when St. Patrick returned, he noticed the innkeeper generously filling the patrons’ glasses to the point of overflowing. He told the innkeeper that the devil was now banished. The innkeeper proclaimed thereafter that everyone should have a drop of the “hard stuff” on St. Patrick’s feast day. Imbibing on his feast day is a custom known now as Pota Phadraig or Patrick’s Pot. It is also known as “drowning the shamrock” because it is customary to float a leaf of the plant in the whiskey before drinking the shot. I found this curious, and I’m slightly sad to say I never once drank a whiskey shot that came with a shamrock garnish! I guess I just never will.

While I’m thankful for my alcohol rehab treatment and thankful to be in a better place in my life than all of those St. Patrick’s Day celebrations I will never remember, I think I will never stop wanting a Guinness on March 17th. So please, raise a pint for me – but not too many pints!

Patrick O.