My Dance With Booze
A Love Story
I promise this will not be one of those long boring and uninteresting stories of addiction, injuries, accidents, broken marriages, upset friends, lengthy hospitalizations, and other personal horror stories one can find at any Alcoholics Anonymous or other "recovery" get-togethers. It is not that I did not experience those (I did), but I have a purpose somewhat greater than sharing my tomfoolery, mistakes, and embarrassment regarding my past, however interesting and embarrassing that might be.
I prefer to use humor to lessen the boring stories of self-imposed difficulties, as humor has come to my rescue many times, and most often when I am uncomfortable. Those who know me well can attest that it is one of my primary coping mechanisms, while also being somewhat if only occasionally entertaining. At the same time, I admit to having been exposed to those distasteful and embarrassing circumstances as a child (both parents were alcoholics, and one admitted it (my mother) and the other did not (my father). I of course occasionally dipped my toe (only) into the "alcoholic recovery" waters, and wondered what someone like me was doing in such a place. I later found out one time as I passed a mirror and actually looked into it.
As any alcoholic will tell you, it was all someone else's fault, and/or the fault of the times, their history, or other people, relationships, and occurrences that happened to cause their slipping from grace into the abyss of addiction. Almost all "active" alcoholics can easily point to the cause of their fall from normal society, in detail, since to admit that they were hopelessly addicted for no reason other than that they just liked the feeling would have to result in their taking personal responsibility, which only comes as a last resort, and only after all the other avenues of blame have been thoroughly explored and rejected when they did not work in the intended way.
So as we enter the murky waters, let me apologize in advance for my long run-on sentences. It is simply that should I allow a brief pause in my lengthy discourses, that little child in me greatly fears loss of an audience. Sometimes I get excited about a thought or what I am writing that I forget to pause so the reader can catch a breath, go to the bathroom, get another drink, or otherwise seek some temporary relief.
So much for navel gazing and self-therapy, and on to the fun part.
I, of course, was different, in that I simply liked the way I felt, the seemingly effortless ease I had with other people for a change, and the vanishing of those deep dark canyons of misery and fear and self-loathing that only occasionally popped up only after a really good bender. It is easy to write those words in retrospect, and almost impossible to admit them when in the throes of addiction. Therein lies the secret of alcohol recovery programs. And I hasten to add that I loathe the term "addictions" as it does not truly represent me, for I have seen many people addicted to alcohol in the various bars and restaurants and dives I used to frequent, some of them looking and talking just like me, and of course I knew that I was not one of them.
The word "addiction" is interesting, in that it connotes a lack of responsibility, as if some force "out there" called "alcohol" was responsible, and of course there was certainly no character flaw in me that contributed to the loathed yet wonderfully palliative effects of alcohol. Further, I was what is euphemistically called a "functioning" alcoholic, in that I held prominent positions in my profession, had normal (almost) relationships (other than a few divorces which were of course not my fault), contributed to society in many ways, and always liked to have a drink or three to unwind at night (sometimes the night could start at lunch-time and last into the wee hours, depending on my companions and their tolerance for tomfoolery - look it up - and inappropriate antics).
And so this will not be one of those long essays on all the problems, issues, rationales, and causes of the addiction - always caused by others- since they are told in retrospect by one who has finally seen that there is only one cause of all the misery, self-loathing, inappropriate actions, and self-justifications for the disease: One's Own Self. Finally, only when we (or more accurately, I) finally admit that cause can we move forward. I also will assert that my story is not very different from many others, with a few embellishments or denials thrown in along the way, together with the very necessary humor to view this disease as something less than a life-threatening force for those in the grasps of its tentacles. (That last sentence is a perfect illustration of how an alcoholic blames almost everything in his or her life except the one true source: one's own Self.
And so that is how I see it - as a lifetime expert on this, lasting on and off for well over sixty years - and I have earned to right to bore others with my tale of addiction, except no one wants to hear it any more, thankfully. And they are right; I have no tales to tell, people to blame, and psychological reasons for drinking. I could write a long list of episodes in my life that would justify my behavior to many people, but there is not power nor redemption in that; I've tried it. The truth is, I just liked alcohol and how it made (or more accurately, allowed) me to feel. End of story; that's it. Nothing else to say.
However, I have some interesting stories and insights that I will share, should you choose to hang on for a bit. The deep dark inner feeling that one is wasting one's life is a wonder to behold, and I have not had recent experiences with it, and hope to avoid it until I meet the Great Bartender In The Sky, or his duly designated substitute representative.
So pull up a bar stool and listen to my humorous and hard-won story with a gloss of forgiveness, a glass of understanding, and a generous and tolerant ear.
I'll drink to that!