i learned of the loss of a dear friend a couple of hours ago. He died as the result of an alcohol induced accident. He was 45 still going on 22. i saw him for the last time when i went back to the States for Christmas. We went to a sports bar to watch football with friends on a Sunday afternoon and he was the only one drinking. He never got a driver’s license, which probably explained how he made it to 45. i hugged him when i said goodbye to him and i’m glad i did.
It’s not my place to determine if he was an alcoholic or not, but those that loved him worried about his drinking. It’s unfair to him, though, to reduce him to this. He had a job, he had girlfriends and ex wives and friends and he had talent. He was a gifted artist and was without a doubt the most talented musician that i knew. He could not just play every instrument known to man, he could play it better than anyone else you knew.
Plus, he was unbelievably sweet. Constantly smiling. Always telling bad jokes and laughing at yours as though they weren’t bad, as well. He was very giving, and had jobs that included working with children and the elderly.
Children loved him because he was not broken by life and did not feel he had to hide the child within himself. He carried with him a naivete that he shared with everyone and his innocence was so infectious everyone caught it. He was a loyal friend and intelligent beyond the age he acted. While he often drank, i never once saw him become belligerent or aggressive. The times i saw him at his drunkest, he merely passed out in the chair with a smile on his lips.
i don’t know if his family and friends ever staged an intervention to get him into recovery, but it would surprise me if they had. As he did not act violent when drunk and seemed to be able to function in his day to day life, it probably didn’t seem necessary. Also, as anyone in recovery will tell you, there is nothing you can say to convince an addict they need help. Until they realize it themselves, all your pretty words are like sweet smoke.
Sad as it is to say, i’m sure all of us who loved him felt this was his destiny.
The mutual friend who informed me of his death said, “It’s shocking but not surprising.”
We all knew it was going to happen one day, but never thought it would be today.
i don’t want these words to be his elegy because they are not good enough for him and i don’t want him to need an elegy. i want him here, telling me the story of the crazy girlfriend that chewed his fingernails after he passed out, or telling me again how we should be in a blues band with me writing lyrics and him playing every instrument known to man.
After my suicide attempt, i was in ICU for a couple days and there was someone else in the bed across the hall. He had, i think (but i was in a haze for most of that time), a terminally ill disease. i remember feeling a twinge of guilt when it became apparent that, despite trying to to fuck myself up permanently, i was granted a longer life while that stranger across the hall was a victim to a disease he had not brought on himself, yet had to die from it.
i’m feeling a little of that guilt tonight. Why is it that i am the one who became sober after surviving a suicide, while he falls victim to a freak accident?
Untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease. i may not deserve the chance i’ve been given but i will use it to let other people know this simple fact: untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease.
My friend did not deserve to die, but i will use the life left in me to let others know that he created a work of art with the short time he’d been given.
Do i love myself?
As an infant, i was a playmate to myself.
Through puberty, i was a stranger to myself and, as i’d been taught never to talk to strangers, i felt very alone and alienated.
Then, i took up the bottle and got to know myself a little better.
When i was drinking i had a passionate, love-hate relationship with myself. i was like Sid & Nancy where i rocked both roles–enabling my own dysfunction with heartfelt loathing.
Towards the end of my alcoholism, i divorced myself in a very acrimonious and destructive trial. As i had to live with myself afterwards, there was a lot of blame and animosity.
Eventually, this led to attempted murder when i tried to kill my other half by killing myself.
Now i’ve passed the reconciliation phase and have been making up to myself.
Do i love myself? Hard to say.
i do admire myself and i’m better at listening to myself, which means i can live with myself again. And every day that gets a little easier.
What about you? Care to share your ‘personal’ relationship?
When i was 25 years old, i tried to become an alcoholic.
During a period that lasted a week, i woke up, showered, dressed for work and sat in the recliner in my living room while i drank two glasses of wine with a purpose. And by “with a purpose” i mean that i did it even if i didn’t want to and i did it for a specific reason.
i forced myself to gulp wine like medicine (or poison) before driving to work because i wanted to be a real alcoholic.
Some alcoholics cannot live without alcohol, they get the DT’s if they don’t imbibe and can drink almost constantly and not get overly drunk. i
was am not this kind of alcoholic. When i was active in my alcoholism, i could go several days, even up to a week, without a drink. i did not wake up with cravings, i did not eat hand soap at work or hide bottles in the bathroom.
But once i had one glass, i would not stop until i was physically unable to have another.
My ‘problem’ was that i didn’t think binge drinkers qualified as alcoholics and i desperately (and ‘desperately’ is really the perfect word here) wanted to become one.
Why? Simple. i hated who i was and i hated my life and i wanted something to change. Anything to change. Change for the worse was still a change. i hoped to become a skid row bum with a red nose living in my clothes and sleeping on benches because at least that was different than what i was living at the moment.
The good news is this story has a happy ending. i learned that binge drinkers are alkies like the rest and found a way out of my hell. The bad news is, it took me 23 more years of suffering to get there.
Today in the newcomer’s meeting, the woman sharing–sober since 1975–said that her brand of alcoholism was “public & violent”. She repeated this a couple times in her lead, “public & violent”.
Then after, a guy sharing picked up on this and said that while he’d been listening to her, he asked himself what his Two Words were to describe his drinking years. “Dark & Lonely” came to him right away.
When he said this, i wondered what the words i would use to qualify my drinking. i immediately thought of, “Chaotic & Desperate”. Which was also a good way to describe my life at the time. But that was then, and now the chaos and desperation have evaporated…
So now i’m gonna ask you, what are your two words? What two words would you use to describe your drinking? Have they lost a little of their punch for you?
Thank you all for your participation in this post (and to those of you who have yet to answer)! Looking over the words we’ve listed, i see a lot of common themes and feelings, and if your drinking was anything like mine, these weren’t just words used to qualify our drinking at the time, but our lives as well.
That sobriety has lifted these burdens from us is one huge addition to our gratitude lists, and something to keep in mind and heart the next time we’re tempted to take a drink.
Even as a little boy, i thought too much. i remember at the age of five asking my mother for the definition of ‘happy’. i also told her that life was unfair because it’s easier to break a chair than make one.
And i feel this way still today. A craftsman can spend weeks carefully assembling a chair with skill and artistry, using only the most valuable materials, and yet that same chair can be destroyed in a heartbeat. i know that i left a hell of a lot of broken chairs in my wake when i was drinking.
It feels like there’s something wrong with a universe where breaking is easier than creating.
Or maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling us that the easy way out isn’t necessarily the best way.
Sober parents are stars shining over the sea of their kids’ lives.
In times of smooth sailing our stars are simply a reassuring and pleasant presence, but in stormy times our children will be able to look up to us, and navigate through their difficulties by the light of our examples.
i’m Puzzled. Puzzled in the sense i feel like i’m in pieces, with rough edges trying to force myself to fit in. Yet no matter how hard i push, i’m still out of place and if you look closely you’ll see i don’t measure up.
Last Friday i got lucky. (No, the other kind of lucky.)
i went to a meeting i don’t usually go to, that starts at 10:30 pm and finishes at 11:30. When i got there, there was only one other person.
We had a small meeting, just the two of us, and in that meeting she said we alcoholics have a “weakness for devastation”.
i loved that expression because i understood it on a deep level the instant i heard it. i was the kind of alcoholic who drank because i had a crush on destruction and drinking was the fastest way to get into destruction’s panties and screw it up.
We got on this subject because i realized something in our tiny meeting.
Here in Yeaman–because of some fluke alignment of religious and war holidays–i had a 5-day weekend last weekend and, even better, my ex had the kids. i had 5 days left to my own devices and there was a time a few years ago that my own devices would’ve been bottles of wine and cocktail inventing, fast food binges, internet porn, no sleeping no showering no leaving the apartment…i would’ve viced out.
Sharing with this young lady, i realized that i’d been to an art show, two movies, discovered a cultural walk here in Yeaman, written some good stuff, started riding bicylces, wrote fiction on café terraces with a founatin pen, cleaned, ran several errands i’d been putting off, woke up at 6:30 on a day i didn’t work to go to an 8am AA meeting and then hit a 10:30pm meeting that same evening, just because.
i didn’t tell her that then and i’m not saying it now to get pats on the back or collect brownie points…it’s just sometimes i forget how far i’ve come in 2 years.
i got lucky that i decided to go to a meeting just for the hell of it, because talking with another alcoholic in recovery helped me see that my life, while far from perfect, keeps getting better all the time.