“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
-- Ernest Hemingway
It was always difficult for me to keep away from a liquor store. The cool air-conditioning inside of these places, especially in the summertime, made me feel alive. I used to smile wide, upon entering, knowing that I was only moments away from selecting a cold beverage. It was the freedom of the availability of alcohol that made me so inclined to keep myself employed, even if it meant that I had to work at something arduous and hollow. I avoided docility with frequent splurges on wine and beer.
But the morning-after always came back to haunt me. Not in the way that most people experience -- “When I get lonely, I fuck weirdos…” -- but when I saw the empty bottles next to where I’d fallen asleep, or peering in the recycling bin. That always got me. The evidence of my unquenchable thirst. Usually it kept me nervous, jittery, worried. I feared that I would never be able to save money. I drank it faster than I could make it.
This presented a great problem in my life, for which I am still dealing and consoling myself at night -- when the visions of drink encircle my sobriety, and I can’t tolerate another moment of spasmodic and, at times, uncontrollable dread. For the future of the alcoholic is most certain, just like the unemployed, the homeless, the psychotics and the handicapped. We can’t really rely on ourselves for anything more than a great dose of terrible or stubborn decisions, which almost always backfire. Well … the handicapped, you know, that’s not their fault. Usually.
Anyway, when you have to deal with your own faults and vices, from which there isn’t much of an insulated cocoon, you harbor the guilt of missing out on growing your wings. This is a heavy experience, especially when you realize that what you are doing to yourself is stupid, childish and wrong. It makes it even worse when you can’t knock it the hell off.
So the debts and the bills pile up, and the shakes become more noticeable. People at work start asking you: “Hey, are you all right?” Of course, you will deny that anything is wrong. Because that’s the nature of being caught in the grips of a vice: delusion. You ignore the shaking just as much as you ignore the concern of your co-workers. And you pass your debilitated emotions and body off as something chemical or genetic. Or maybe it’s just because you are having problems with your significant other. Yeah. The depressive fits of life, though, become much more acute when you can’t learn from your own mistakes and misbehavior.
It creates a vortex -- and not the vortex that says BRAINWASH YOURSELF INTO BELIEF AND ALL GOOD THINGS WILL BE YOURS -- no, it creates an inverse gravitational pull, which begins attracting all the unnecessarily evils and people and circumstance that comes with not being able to control yourself. You will feel the weight as you begin to see yourself surrounded by stoned souls, heavy hearts, free-wheeling boozers, junkies, pill-heads -- whether male or female -- each of whom will be just as you are.
If you are resistant to these occurrences of your own doing, you might even become somewhat of a loner. You will resort to drinking alone. Hemingway said that the definition of an alcoholic is somebody who drinks before noon. When you start drinking by yourself, in the mornings, with nobody else around … my friend, you have got yourself a problem. And the problems that contaminate our daily, social and “professional” lives will, over time, shape our emotions and define our relationships. It could even disrupt and distort our work. I mean, look at Kerouac.
When I was at that point -- drinking beer for breakfast -- it would be false for me to say and write that I was worried about it. The delusions were creeping into my future, and I was not doing anything to stop them. Only when I was out of beer, out of money, out of a job, without a friend -- whether male or female -- did I ascertain that I was on a path that I would never wish on anybody. The path to being a guilty, shameful, self-loathing drunkard.
O, I know what you’re thinking. This is the self-regulating nature of the religious experience where I opened up myself to god after seeing all the sins that I was perpetuating.
Truthfully, I just learned how to be a happy, functioning alcoholic.
And I never considered myself one, either. Not until somebody I cared about looked me in the eyes and questioned my behavior. Because my bosses and co-workers didn’t know shit. How could anybody know anything about you when you didn’t talk about it?
I was a silent, simple, withdrawn, internal mess of emotional dysfunction. And I solved that with beer(s) for breakfast.
There’s nothing complicated about that. Just as there isn’t anything humorous or ennobling -- not unless you wanted there to be something jovial or righteous about lifting a bottle of Budweiser above your head before most people have eaten their lunch. And I did. It’s true: I glorified drink. And I kept it a secret, from everybody.
So I went through my days, and I worked when I had to work. But I didn’t acknowledge that the chains of the habits which I cultivated by lying to myself were growing tighter around my neck. Soon I found myself unable to control the urge to swindle, swig and run up a bar tab. When I tired of that, I drank alone. Needless to say I didn’t feel like George Thurgood, nor Hemingway or Kerouac. I just felt like myself. And not wanting to have anyone around or be around anyone else -- that festered in my soul. Obviously that would grow to affect my working relationships. But I wondered if that was the real me.
Being constantly alone, of course, is almost impossible in today’s world. Are there any jobs where you don’t have to deal with other people? And did I really want to distance myself from all of my relationships? I couldn’t trade in my life for the bottle. Could I?
On some days, I did. I remember the nights -- and the mornings -- very well. And so do some of my friends and exes. They saw a side of me that I never wanted to show anybody, let alone myself.
But it happened. And I had to deal with it. I had to face myself, in all my inglorious, bashful shame. Finally, I knew what it felt like to wake up knowing that I had pushed people away. That was hard to accept -- that because of who I was becoming, I could lose everything.
And, oh, I slowly did.
Try having to drive from New Jersey to South Florida, thinking about how badly your drunken decline was affecting people who cared about you. While terribly hungover. It ain’t fun. And it fucks with your head worse than anything you could imagine. Which, with my type of mind, was like being forced to walk through hell.
This mental state does not bode well for dealing with others. But it could wake you up to the fact of what you are doing with your life. And if the job is getting stagnant, or it’s ripping your soul from your body every time you drive in, or you can’t keep from your mind all the other things that you could be doing … then maybe coming out of your stupor is necessary, if you want to alter the path you’re on.
Shit, this does sound like one of those self-regulating, seeing-the-light stories.
Either way, I did open up … but it wasn’t that I opened up to god. I opened up to myself. Or, I just opened up. Yeah.
The rest of this story actually gets a bit complicated…
What’s the moral here?
If you’re going to drink beer for breakfast, you might want to invest in strong mints or mouthwash. Preferably ones that sanitize the conscience. (Especially if you’re heading into work.)
Or just quit your job(s) and become a writer and use your crutch as an excuse for your “artistic” side.
Image Sourced: Hemingway