Heads up: it’s about to get emo up in this bitch. If you’re looking for week-ending giggles, I’d suggest you peep this shit out.
Otherwise, let’s get into it.
It’s 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon and I want a beer very badly.
Last Saturday, there was a party at my house. A lot of my friends made the trip into the city for it. My brothers, sister-in-law, cousin and some friends of mine from Rochester came in to have some drinks, play some basement cornhole and basically have a little fun.
I didn’t really get drunk. I drank a lot, but I also spent a lot of time going between rooms talking to people, trying to get folks involved in other things, cleaning up little spills and generally trying to be a good host. I had some beers while I did this, but I probably could have driven a car.
The same could not be said for all the nights before that night. Saturday represented the cap of what had become something of a bender. Look at the facts: out until 2 p.m. on Friday, getting half-drunk at a concert Thursday, getting full drunk at a restaurant on whim Wednesday, a date with some light drinking on Tuesday, and day of rest Monday.
I stop there only because I can’t remember any further back at the moment, but if I put my mind to it, I’m sure I’d come up with some other drunken thing I had done.
So, with this in mind, you can understand how, come Sunday night, I decided that I should take a little break from drinking.
Then I saw the movie Flight.
Flight stars Denzel Washington as somewhat high-functioning alcoholic. High-functioning enough, at least, to land a malfunctioning plane while drunk on booze and high on cocaine.
What I like about movies like this is that they make me feel better about my drinking habits. I mean, sure, I drink too much sometimes and I might say or do something hurtful to a friend of mine on occasion when drunk, but I’m not drinking gallons of liquor while I drive my car. I’m not doing rails while I fix an airplane. I’m not getting so drunk on mini-bar liquor that my coke dealer has to be called in to get me balanced enough to appear before a hearing board (uh, spoiler). Movies, TV and books like this make me thing my behavior is not only OK, but normal: I’m not doing this, and this is what a problem looks like, so I don’t have a problem.
Except that isn’t really how alcoholism works, and I know this personally. Sure, there are times when someone gets drunk and tries to drive their car. I’ve read stories about someone getting tuned up and breaking into a school and setting fire to it, but those things aren’t the outliers. Most times, in my experience, everyday alcoholism manifests itself in drinking a lot and still trying to interact with people on the day-to-day.
My uncle Paul is an alcoholic. He’s tried to get control of it a few times, but hasn’t been able to get out from under yet. He’s in the hospital now, and I’m not sure how he’s doing. I’m not sure if drinking put him there, but everything in his history suggests that it probably played a part. He probably wasn’t doing some outrageous thing that would make an outsider gasp. He was probably just drinking too much and he fell. You know, the kind of thing that has happened to every teenager without a drinking problem. The difference is the frequency and distance between first drink and last tumble.
In other words, it isn’t usually slugging liquor while driving next to a cop car, like Nic Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Usually, it’s wanting a beer at 3 p.m. on a Friday and acting on that impulse. Then acting on it again. Then getting on the bus and drinking some liquor out of a coffee cup. Then going to a bar.
Exactly like I want to do right now.
So I haven’t had a drink since Saturday night. Six days of complete sobriety. Tonight, I’m going to meet a friend I used to work with at 6 p.m., then I’m going to meet my parents for dinner. Tomorrow, I’m going to watch two of my friends get married, surround by some of my best and closet friends. They are going to want to drink, and they are going to expect me to do the same.
If I’m honest with myself, I’m probably alcoholic-dependent. It runs in my family. I know what it looks like. If I have a drink tonight, I don’t think I’m at the point where it means I have to have 10 more. Yet. If I have a few drinks at a wedding tomorrow, I don’t think that means I’m going to have to keep drinking until the sun comes up. Yet.
I can still put a lid on this, I think. The question I find myself facing right now, at 3 p.m. on a Friday, is this: what are six days of sobriety worth to me? What are seven? What are eight? Are they worth as much as one drink? Are they worth as much as 20 in a weekend? Can I do what my grandfather and uncle couldn’t?
Seriously though, go see Flight. It’s got its bad moments and some of it is pretty on-the-nose, but I liked it a lot. A very well-earned story, that one.