It is certainly tiresome to me to keep writing of the same thing. Some have said they enjoy the hell out of my descriptions of affliction. I refer, of course, to alcoholism. But it is a subject I am sick to death of. One acquaintance said to me during a recent and fairly lengthy period of sobriety, "Why don't you get into heroin or something, liven things up? Your recent stuff leaves the rest of us nothing to relate to." He may have meant "feel superior to," but I don't know that for a fact; and I am constantly surprised at how many people are relatively sympathetic.
Equally, I am astonished, in 2007, how many people have Victorian ideas about the thing. Talk of willpower and moral failure still pervade. I am referring, at the moment, to a recent experience at a local hospital. A nurse, who should have known better, said to me, "Why don't you just stop? It's a waste of my time, our time, and everyone else's. I know lots of people who stopped. What's the matter with you?" What I wanted to say was that the trick is to stay stopped. I have had reasonably long periods of abstinence/sobriety -- whatever you want to call it -- only to relapse within the year.
Diabetes is a comparison that comes up quite a bit, and it's not a bad one. But I've had cancer, heart failure, liver failure, bronchitis, emphysema, hypothyroidism, and pancreatitis. I'll take any of them over alcoholism.
Now there's no pity like self-pity -- like no pity I know. (sung to you know what tune). And it is likely that is exactly what I'm indulging in. But I've been asked to write more about this, and though I am loathe to, I am obligated.
What can I say that hasn't been said in Lost Weekend, Days of Wine and Roses, Leaving Las Vegas, Eight Million Ways to Die, not to mention the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous? The incomprehensible, pitiful demoralization, the general ruination. Would you like to hear of me being refused service at a liquor store, only to seek out another one a mile away? With rent money? Pawning a friend's amplifier (hoping to retrieve it before it is too late), and a good friend he was, too. The amp belonged to his beloved and dead brother -- who died of alcoholism.
Shall I tell you about a friend in the same profession who died of the same thing? In the hospital he lay, purple, yellow, bloated, begging me to kill him.
How about the millions out there who will never admit they have this problem -- and the number, I am convinced, is far underestimated. You may be one, I don't know. That's up to you.
I'll tell you something that kills me: normal people (and of course we all know who and what they are) who will take a drink, begin to feel it, and find it unpleasant. Once they've imbibed a bit -- and I mean a bit -- and they begin to feel it, they sense a loss of control, which alarms them. With me and every other drunk, that is the starting gun.
Alcoholism is a progressive, unstoppable disease that wants nothing more than to kill you. Oh, it can be arrested, put in jail for a time, but it is well said that disease is doing push-ups in there every day, and one day it will be released. It is almost inevitable. Those are the odds, far and away. When it is out, it is stronger than ever, meaner than ever, and it wants its reckoning. It knows you and knows exactly what lies will be most convincing to you individually. To compare it to the devil may be absurd, but its presence is beautiful and comforting to those in its sway. It will convince you he/it does not even exist -- or if so, is no threat.
It has been around since Dionysius and will go nowhere. It has been outlawed, and that was a laugh. Today, it is quite legal -- until you open the bottle and take a drink. Then it poses a dozen legal problems that are ineluctable in California. Sooner or later, you will go to jail in this state if you partake. And you can tell yourself that at holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., a few little nips won't hurt. And you may as well pick up a revolver with a single bullet in it, rotate the barrel, put it to your head, and pull the trigger. You might get an empty cylinder, and another, and another. But those are only half your odds.
Happy Holidays. May you feel a warmth inside that does not kill you or someone else.