My Dance With Booze
A Love Story
We all have issues; some of us "more, better, and different" than others. Such is humanity, and such is life. Some alcoholics in recovery revel in discussing their issues, as it gives some rationale for the erratic and self-destructive behavior, and can seem entertaining so that the listener cannot notice the deep pain and occasional self-loathing by the one holding forth on his misery.
Instead of listing those issues and events that allowed me to blame anything and everything outside of me for my behavior, I suggest that in addition to my other websites shown below (especially www.myjourneytowardpeace.com ) you simply Google "alcohol, addiction, co-dependence" or other similar terms should you wish to be enlightened and/or depressed. My intention here is to highlight some things I have learned, poke some fun at this animal who is called a human being, and briefly tell a few humorous yarns along the way. Note that I said that is my intention, and not my promise. I simply like to write, think there may be something that may resonate with and entertain others, and it keeps my fingers and brain relatively nimble in the short term. As the old saying goes, in the long term we are all dead, so it is all short term, essentially. I even hope to provide some value along with the entertainment.
I will not repeat the childhood issues that brought me to the place where I avidly embraced various non-traditional therapies, and would refer the Reader to my website above (also available under the same name on Amazon Kindle). Let's just say it was a somewhat non-traditional childhood with an unusual family in challenging environments, and I succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, considering the era, neighborhood, and societal expectations. My academic success allowed me to emerge from my childhood environment upon my parents' death (one month apart) when I had just turned 16, and I was about to enter college with a full scholarship.
After my Dad died in the hospital from smoking (there was a fancy name they used that I cannot remember, but his buddies called it "dropsy"), my mother passed a month later - to the day - within a day of being admitted at her own request to the state institution for alcoholics in Kentucky. That was a doubly-whammy, and I had some teachers, advisers, and ministers who somehow privately collaborated, pulled some strings, and got me admitted to the college dormitory at the University of Louisville during that late summer, where I was scheduled to start my freshman year in the fall. My real yet not-public alternate plan was to run away and join the Air Force and leave my past behind forever; I think I liked blue uniforms instead of the dreary Army khaki. I also liked the Air Force since it meant I could be around airplanes (and their implicit promise of flying away), which seemed very cool and sophisticated in the late 1950's. That is a perfect example of a 16 year old mind, which seemed like infinite wisdom to me then.
My new college environment where the dorm was located, although only several miles from the old neighborhoods in which I had been raised, changed me forever. I met new friends, had new and encouraging and highly intelligent mentors and teachers, all of whom expected and encouraged excellence in me as well s all the other students, although I myself rarely met their grand expectations. Some of those new friends have remained my closest friends to this day, and I cherish and honor the relationships I made there. You know who you are, "Dugan" and Ray and all the many others too numerous to name here. For the record, they later told me they thought I was a pompous asshole the first day we met at freshman registration at the University of Louisville (they did not tell me at the time, thankfully). I believe, but am not sure, they changed their minds later on.
The core group including those two just mentioned still communicate with each other for the most part, arguing politics, culture, all in that somewhat different way those raised in the 1950's do, and those relationships sustain me and will until The Grim Reaper comes knocking. (For the record, I no longer answer knocks on doors for that very reason, unless there is a peephole.) I literally became a new person over the course of those initial several months at age 16, and on into the ensuing years, and those experiences changed my life for the better forever. I was lucky in the friends who chose me.
I will hasten to add that luck played a great part in all of this, as I met and became close friends with other fellow students, as well as other teachers, advisers, and mentors along the way. I was extremely lucky and blessed with those who advised me and figuratively kicked by butt when needed (far more often that I thought appropriate), and was definitely more often than I thought I deserved, and most everything exceeded my comfort level, for which I am forever thankful. I later learned that is called "personal growth."
And so, as most adolescents, teenagers, and young adults do, I adapted, learned, worked hard (when absolutely necessary, which was almost always), played even harder, made plenty of mistakes, and gained some lifetime addictions which have mostly but not completely withered away with increasing age - thankfully.
I developed a fondness for alcohol, in the well-trodden paths of most of the adults in my life, emulating the masculine template in the South, and made a terrific discovery, which was that I became a different person when under the influence, imagining myself as a combination of John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and Gary Cooper, with embarrassing overtones of Elmer Fudd at times. (Most of you will have to look up the last name.) I had found the secret elixir, which haunted me until I realized my best friend was my worst enemy, masquerading as my "true self." Such is adolescence for many, I believe. My adolescence lasted a while, hardly more than fifty or so years, so I was lucky.
I also found that I was likely the horniest most sex-obsessed human on the planet, much to my delight, since that template for men was rampant in the South in that mid-century era, at least amongst my family and assorted friends and hangers-on. I later found there was a surprising bit of incest in the family, which titillated and horrified me (the two primary emotions that comforted me). It took me a while to see the destructiveness and isolation in that view, and with professional help, very good and intrusive friends, and the willingness to look at my addictions, they gradually lessened their hold on me. It took me a long time to see that "human, open, and gentle" were better traits than "toxic masculinity, emotional isolation, and biting sarcasm." I still occasionally encounter ghosts from the past, but now I shake hands with them, thank them for their contribution to my emotional progress, and say good bye to those paragons of masculinity that no longer serve me, and especially that turn off others.
My arch-enemy and nemesis alcohol has been relegated to the shelf, always available so that I know it is a choice and not a demand, so that I take full responsibility for my newly found state of sobriety, with a great deal of relief and joy. Sobriety is self-reinforcing with an open mind (not an easy state for one who likes to be "right" all the time), and I feel better than I have ever felt, to the best of my failing memory. And perhaps there is a greater wisdom at play here, in that a memory is not necessarily the greatest thing in the world, depending on what is contained in that dark hole that the memory has the unwelcome and uncanny ability to retrieve at odd and uncomfortable times.
And so I am humble, thankful, joyous, and happy. Mostly. At least for the past two months or so. You never can tell, says my sarcastic mind from the deep recesses of the dark hole of my memory. But then my mind was always a bit of a smart-ass. As the over-used and absolutely perfect correct slogan goes: "One Day At A Time."