It’s been a while, but i’m updating the GlosAAry page with a new definition:
An alcoholic who’s sober but still an asshole. Someone who put down the booze but still clings to the issues that put it there in the first place.
i’m in a crappy mood.
The best way to deal with this is for me to meditate a minimum number of hours on what might be the source of this discomfort and, after penetrating introspection, write a long treatise in which i analyze my thoughts and feelings and float hypothesis as to the possible origins of my malaise and, through a dialectic process and expository reasoning, develop a list of courses of action that i might feasibly take, not forgetting to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal.
Or maybe i just need to go to bed earlier.
Sometimes the easiest solution is in front of your eyes…after you close them.
“Sleeping It Off”: It’s not just for drunks anymore.
The Three Asshole Rule
When you meet your third asshole of the day, it means you’re probably the asshole.
Heard in the rooms last Saturday
i went to a blues concert last night by Jake La Botz, a man who partied his demons to death and came out the other side with a sacred clarity that is so scarred it’s poetic.
While the show was superb, the thing i didn’t like about it were the drunks. The gig was in a cafe here in Yeaman and most of the patrons were either too young to know the blues or too drunk to feel them.
Then, in a moment of clarity, i realized that this is Live Music. It also explains why i prefer to sit at home and listen to studio recordings through my headphones; still, in a live concert the noise and the talking and the mistakes are all part of the music. That’s when i understood that Life is “Live”. That even if i want Life to be a pure and flawless studio recording filtered through the bubble of my headphones, Real Life is full of noise and mistakes and surprises. And all of it is part of the music.
Here’s Jake La Botz singing an apt song for this blog, “Lay Down The Bottle”.
Also, i interviewed him for the Bar None, so be looking for that soon.
PS Thanks are owed my wife, Celeste E Hall, for her permission to use her great photo!
When is a reason not a reason? When it’s an excuse.
i am not totally insane. When i am angry, i have a reason to be angry. When i am sad, it’s because i have a reason to be. Then again, when i went on a binge, i always had a reason to as well.
i would wager that most if not all mass murders, rapists and serial killers have a reason to explain away their actions. i know for a fact that Hitler, Pol Pot and Ben Laden had reasons to justify their atrocities.
Reasons, however, are not “get out of jail free” cards. Having a reason, obviously, doesn’t make you right or mean you are doing the right thing.
The next time you find you have a reason to drink, to yell, to pout, to scream, to run away and hide, substitute “excuse” for the word “reason” and see if that makes any sense.
Sometimes, doing the right thing means ignoring the reasons to do the opposite.
The following is a short story i wrote decades ago and which was published in a magazine in the mid 90’s. i decided to post it here because 1) a friend’s blog post reminded me of the story and 2) it includes alcohol.
i do realize the short story format isn’t well adapted to blogs so if you have neither the patience nor the desire to read this, please don’t feel obligated to. Also, while friend’s post inspired me to write this, it has nothing to do with her situation. i would hate for her to think i’m trying to draw parallels that aren’t there! Finally, because the story is written in the first person, most people assume it happened to me. It did not. Ever. Not even close. It’s fiction.
I remember. I remember as if it has happened tonight. That evening is more real to me than a memory.
I was twelve years old, living with my father on a small farm in Wisconsin. My father: the man who explained the facts of life to me by leaving a book on my dresser, the man who blushed when people kissed on television, the one who never kissed me or hugged me or told me that he loved me. That had been my mother’s job. She died when I was eleven. My father stopped trying a year later. On that night.
The summer dusk had been lazily smoldering to twilight as I watched alone from the front of our house. The farm seemed a huge quilt beneath the clouds purple with dusk, as the harvest moon peeked her blushed face from under the dark blanket of corn. My father had built a porch swing with wood salvaged from our first barn and hung it himself overlooking our front yard. I was on the porch, listening to the crickets in the tall grass and the squeak of the chains that held the swing, feeling the smell of the earth wash over me in the warm breeze.
After having helped my father with everything from spraying the corn to changing the oil in the pickup to fixing the mailbox, I was remembering my mother without remorse. Memories of my mother’s funeral were making me feel grown up. My legs dangled innocently from the edge of the seat, because men do not swing, until I began softly rocking. A glass of lemonade was trapped tight between my thighs and I shuddered as the chill rushed through me. Because adults never gulped, I would only sip from the lemonade. But with every swallow my undulations increased and soon I was hurling my legs in front of me, watching as my toes kicked the clouds. I was pretending I could fly, but whenever I flung my legs out some of the lemonade would spill onto my thighs and stain the hairless skin with a sticky, sugary coating.
The screen door squeaked and brought me back to the porch swing. I stopped pushing when I heard my father’s hollow footsteps on the wooden floorboards. My father was a thin man, and though he had enough muscles to run a farm and though he was young enough for me not to think of him as old, his strength had already begun to sag in the pouches of his cheeks and his spine was beginning to curve into a reaper’s scythe.
He held one of the chains to stop me swinging.
“Mind if I join ya?”
“No,” I said.
He sat beside me and the swing shifted with his weight.
“What’re you doin?” He reached for my lemonade, took it from me, and set the glass on the rail before us.
I told him I was just thinking.
“Here.” I turned and he offered me a beer. “I guess you’re old enough to drink.”
The relationship he had built and hung as carefully as the swing we shared blew away in the shallow breeze. Tonight, for the first time in his life my father was going to try to be my friend.
“Can I ask you somethin, son?”
“How’d I do? Raisin you, I mean.”
“Fine,” I answered, without thinking. I put the beer between my thighs and studied the top of the can so I did not have to look at my dad.
“I tried hard, y’know?”
I did not know, but said so anyway.
“I wasn’t really cut out for it.”
I sipped the beer. The taste sat thick and heavy at the back of my mouth. I felt as if it were tugging at the base of my tongue. I forced the ale past my throat with a loud gulp, then retched a wet belch. Neither of us said anything. He moved the swing a little with his toes and leaned forward, his arms on his knees, and stared at the bones on the back of his hand.
“You always were your mother’s son. Her responsibility. I tried to do best by you.”
“Sure,” I said.
“I’m just no good at it.”
My second, smaller sip of beer tasted worse than the first. I could feel my lips twist involuntarily.
“It’s just that women have ways of trickin you, y’know?”
“Yes,” I said, but I was lying. I did not know.
“I don’t think I ever loved your mother. She just tricked me into gettin married. Kind of snuck up behind me.”
His disclosure rocked me so hard the swing moved. The truth hurt going down, hurt worse than the beer, it fell straight through me like a rock. And when it rose again it burned my throat and stung my nostrils and pricked my eyes and for a moment I thought I was going to vomit my father’s confession over the railing and onto my mother’s deserted flower bed.
“I want you to love her, though,” he told me. “She was a good woman.”
“I do love her,” I struggled, but it was difficult to admit now, while he was there, teaching me how not to.
Silence again. The sun was all but down now. The clouds burned from purple to black.
My father stood up. “I guess that’s all I wanted to say.”
“I love you too, dad.” I said so, though now I knew that too was a lie.
His expression startled me. Fear flashed in his eyes like lightning in freak summer storm, but his expression faded. He regained his composure, nodded, and walked back into the house.
After my father left I could not swing, nor did I finish my lemonade. I held the can of beer with both hands and sipped the drink like a man. As I drank, my father’s words poisoned my veins and brought back to me a memory so distant I wondered at first if it were not a bad dream. And inside the remembering, I drained away my childhood with each sip of beer.
I had been in first grade. It had been Parents’ Day at my school, and the adults were invited to eat lunch with their sons and daughters. My mother and father made special plans to visit me, and it said a lot for them to do that because the farm needed a lot of looking after. But they were making the effort for me, wasting an entire day to appease my constant pleading.
The night before I’d slept even less than Christmas Eve, so elated was I that my folks cared enough to spend two hours on the road just to eat lunch with me. All the next morning kids were bragging up their parents, about how great they were, about all the things they could do. And I was no different. I watched the clock, waiting, almost sick with the anticipation of showing off my parents to my friends. I imagined how they would envy me, congratulate me, and the whole school (even the grown up sixth graders) would want to be my best friends because my folks were so much better than everybody else’s.
Finally lunch arrived. I got my tray and sought out the same table as Amy Lynn, the little girl I loved. My plan was to profit from my parents’ presence by impressing her into loving me back.
Since our school was in the city, most of the students were ‘townies’, a word my father used with as much passion as ‘nigger’ and ‘hippie’. Amy Lynn was a townie, but that did not matter. As soon as my parents saw how much she loved me they would see she was sweet; and then my folks would stop hating townies.
Finally my parents arrived. I tried to hold down my smile but I could not. My father appeared taller and his muscles stretched the fabric of his shirt. He’d combed his hair impeccably and had washed his face so much he shone beneath the florescent lights of the cafeteria. My mother had spent three weeks sewing the dress she wore. She’d had her hair done especially for the day and had even put on some makeup. I walked up to them and proudly escorted them through the lunch line, basking in the admiration the school was showering on me. We sat down, and I glanced at Amy. The expectation was delicious, like the long ride to the top of the track when I rode the roller coaster at the state fair. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her looking at us. When I turned to meet her glance, she was talking to her parents. Though I could not hear what she was saying, I saw her smile and for the briefest of moments I felt the pride of a man reaping his first harvest. But then Amy held her nose and pointed to where we were sitting, and she laughed. And her parents laughed. And I looked at my father all dressed up in clothes he wore only to church or to funerals; his shirt too small and his hair greased and combed to one side with the sweat on his face reflected in the lights above us. He smiled a weak smile, and I turned away. My mother spoke but I saw only that she was overweight and absurd in a dress that resembled curtains more than clothing. Her hairdo was beginning to shift, and the ridiculous paint she had spent all morning applying without knowing how was melting on her face. I saw them as I had never seen them before. I saw them as a stranger would see them and I was ashamed of them.
Tonight lives long after midnight. I am lying alone in bed, awake like a little boy afraid of the dark, afraid of the bogeyman, afraid of his own mother’s ghost. Tonight there is no one to give me the reassurance I need to sleep. I think I wish I had apologized to my father, that night on the swing, for having seen him and my mother as they were and not as I had believed them to be. The adult thing, however, was to guard the hatred and the fear. So as an adult I fed my doubts to the monster who had never been under the bed or in the closet, but hiding inside of me.
He hurts me. Some nights he eats me alive.
Maybe that is why I never went back home after I graduated college, but became a ‘townie’ instead. Maybe that is why I did not cry when my father died. And maybe that is why I cannot sleep at night, and why I still hate the taste of beer.
Dad, I’m sorry you were such a terrible father, and I’m sorry I was such a lousy son. I still hate you for making me realize I never loved you, and for making me doubt my love for my mother. Forgiving myself for Parents’ Day took a long time and a lot of faith, like a boy believing in Santa Claus again. Like a boy trying to prove his love to a dead mother. Love is a hard thing to prove when it cannot be displayed. I guess I learned that from you. Like how not to be a grown up. And the grandson you did not live to meet is sleeping down the hall, and it scares me to think there are times he is ashamed of me, not because he should not be, but because guilt stays with a person for a long long time. Father, I pray I don’t make the same mistakes you did and I pray if I do he’ll forgive me more easily than I forgave you. And dad, I pray that he won’t end up like you or me.
Good news! Mrs Demeanor, my wife, has graciously acquiesced to begin a blog detailing life with a recovering alcoholic. Be sure to get in on the ground floor of what is sure to be an impressive edifice rising high on the horizon of the blogosphere.
Check out now what? and leave a comment of encouragement!
i’ve been working on Step 6.
[We] were entirely ready to have God remove all [our] defects of character.
“Willingness” is the operative word here. Nobody is perfect, but in my heart i have to be willing to let my Higher Power take my defects of character.
Fear is a big defect of mine. Guilt is another at the top of the list. Then there’s Anger.
When my children were toddlers, i refused to take sides in their arguments. i told them they had to work out their disputes between themselves and i always told them “It takes two to fight.”
If one person doesn’t want to argue, an argument cannot take place. If i find that i’m in a heated discussion, i am doing something to perpetuate the spat. A tool my Sponsor told me about is the question, “What is my role in this?”
The trick is to consciously avoid the situation—to catch myself out when my ire begins to rise and shut it down. The second i notice my tone is cutting, there are tools i use to dull the edge in my voice and remove the sting my words bring on the tip of my sharp tongue.
- Agree with the other person’s perception (“I see why you would think that.”)
- Ask for precise details (“Can you be more specific about that?”)
- Stall (“Let’s talk about this later.” “I’ll get back to you on that.”)
- Don’t say anything
i have to remember:
Not one single disagreement has been resolved because a person talked more…, l o n g e r, or LOUDER than the other.
One of the guys in the rooms is a pretty choleric guy. He’s got more time in than i do, but also more anger. One time, he shared that he comes to AA meetings to hear how much people are hurting and their difficulties in sobriety. It’s not so much that he doesn’t care about other people’s happiness, he actually finds it offensive.
Last week, he was with a group of guys after a meeting and i started hanging out with them. i mentioned that this is the first Christmas in 28 years that i don’t feel the need to run and hide in the bottom of an eggnog, or where i’m not curled in a ball under the Christmas tree cursing myself for being a failure and praying the holiday will, like Santa’s weighty sled, pass over me as quickly as possible while causing as little permanent damage as it can.
This year, i’m happy. This year, the Holiday Spirit is overflowing and not the holiday spirits. i have more energy and not just the stones to confront the season, but a desire to go out, shake its hand and invite it into my home. It’s a feeling i did not bargain on at all when i went sober. There are a lot of fringe benefits to sobriety that fall in your lap like Christmas presents you get after you thought you’d opened everything.
i was explaining this to a group of friends after the meeting and, before i’d even finished my first sentence, the Angry Bird flew away and found another flock of fellows to crash.
And that’s OK because his anger is not my business. i get that a lot of people are going to be hurt or jealous or angry that i’m in a good mood. Like Life magazines they use for toilet paper, those are their issues.
As for me? i’m obnoxiously happy and refuse to feel guilty about it.