Sunday, 30 April 2017

An Alcoholic's Day

YOU WAKE UP with a start, and as awareness returns, your heart begins to pound and the shakes begin again. Oh God, it's morning and you must leave the safe womb of darkness and the bed. You reach down for the bottle, knowing already that it's empty. It always is, in spite of your nightly resolve to leave a drink for morning. Never mind, there's some in the garage, if you live to get there. A quick gulp of coffee later, you're fumbling for the bottle hidden inside the old tire casing. The whiskey is tepid and revolting, and the first gulps won't stay down. But at last one does, and that wonderful, warm glow starts to spread. A few more quick ones before you back the car out, and at last your heart stops pounding and the shakes begin to die away.

You get to your office, where you work for yourself, by yourself, in a field of personal service to the public. Your main supply of liquor is there, and now you have a few more drinks before you begin work--such work as there is. Before you started drinking on the job, you had a thriving business. But now it is dwindling steadily. Between visits of those who still do come, you take controlled nips at the bottle until noon. The thought of food has become nauseating, and you can't face the prospect of lunch at home, so you sit and drink for a half-hour or so, trying to work up a false appetite. When you finally get home, the family glares at you and attacks the delayed meal, while you pick and push at your plate, muttering excuses about this not being your favorite dish. Nothing has been, for a long time now.

After lunchtime, it's back to the office, a few more quick ones, and then to the afternoon appointments. Pleasantly glowing now, you'd rather talk than get down to business, so long, rambling monologues destroy your work schedule and put you far behind. Some of the people who have been waiting impatiently leave quietly, never to return. Occasionally, one may say on the way out that he'll phone later, but you know he won't, and after a brief flash of resentment, you're glad about it. One less person to take up your time. You don't even get upset about some of the ugly things that have started happening: bitter arguments over bills you've been neglecting to mark paid; complaints about the poor quality of service you've been rendering; incidents like yesterday's, when a woman walked out, saying that you didn't look or act fit to be at work.

Some afternoons, in spite of trying to control it, you drink too much and have to lock up the place and lie down. People come, try the door, knock, then go away, many for the last time. But most days you stick it out until the closing hour, then fortify yourself for the ordeal of dinner. Before you go home, though, every few days there's the vital task of replenishing your liquor supply. You have a system of buying in rotation from seven or eight stores in your own and neighboring towns, so that no one will realize how much and how often you buy. Sometimes this involves a twenty-mile drive, at breakneck speed, but then you're secure for a few days more.

After dinner comes the best time of your day, an evening of uninterrupted heavy drinking. You have long since become a solitary drinker, so it's back to the office again, where the liquor and privacy are. You used to make excuses to the family for returning there, but now you just go, and be damned to them. Simply drinking and daydreaming would be satisfying enough, but some nights there's a ball game to listen to on the radio, or a new magazine to read. Best of all, maybe there's a letter to write, prompted by a controversial remark heard on the radio or read in the newspaper. You'll put that character straight about things! He won't make that mistake again! So out comes the typewriter and the letter begins, but is never finished. As drunkenness progresses, so do the mistakes in typing. Have a drink and start over, you tell yourself. Have another and do it again. By midnight or later, the floor is littered with crumpled balls of paper. The devil with it! You'll do it some other time. It never gets done. Next time, it's someone else's turn to get the ax.

By now it's safe to go home, with everyone there asleep. Maybe this is a routine night and you make it home safely, with perhaps only some paint scraped off the side of the car from going into the garage at a bad angle. Some other nights aren't so good, and the local police spot you and take you home in the squad car, while one of them drives your car for you. This is a benefit of once having been a respected businessman. The respect is gone now, and only some kindness remains. You don't like to remember those few disastrous times, en route home, when you wrecked your automobile and were lucky not to be seriously hurt. But this night all is well, and finally you lie in bed, a bottle within reach, and drift off into sleep.

Some nights, though, and more often lately, sleep doesn't come. You think, "Oh God, why am I doing this to myself? How long can I keep on this way? What is going to become of me?"
But then your master, cunning-baffling-powerful alcohol, soothes away your fears. And although you know, deep down inside, that you have a bad drinking problem, and your business is nearly ruined, and the small savings you have left are nearly gone, and your family is about through with you. . .in spite of all this, you tell yourself, "Well, I'm getting along all right yet. I go to work every day, and I've still got money in my pocket, and the family hasn't left, so I guess I'm still managing everything okay. Anyway, if things really get bad, I know I can quit the stuff--and I will. But not yet."

Maybe things will be better tomorrow.

J. G. T.

Negaunee, Michigan

AA Grapevine February 1973   
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