This is me in the winter of 2000. My grandmother had requested a formal portrait for her Xmas present, so I squirmed into my suit and went to the J.C. Penny Gallery. I'm pretty sure I was drunk at the time. I was always drunk back then, but I functioned well on the surface, held a job and even did some real-life dating, although the alcohol made me pretty worthless in that respect.
Five years after this was taken I would be in intensive care, suffering seizures, surgeries and the joy of alcoholic withdrawal.
This is me five years after I was released from intensive care, taken on a work trip to Florida, 2010, right around my 44th birthday. I'm nearly sixty pounds lighter than I was in 2005 and my once-dismal prospects are looking up.
I'm in good health, I'm doing music again, I am moving up at work and I feel like I'm 21 yrs old in certain ways.
I'm not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, nor have I ever been in any sort of rehab or treatment ; I can't knock those who take that route, but I personally refuse to admit that I'm powerless over alcohol and that I need assistance from some Higher Power just to do something as utterly simple as not drinking. Alcohol is a vampire and it can't hurt me unless I let it in. So I don't let it in and it remains powerless over me. Sobriety doesn't prevent me from doing anything except collecting DUIs.
As soon as I typed that last paragraph, I realize the falseness of it. Alcohol is hurting me now because it is hurting people that are close to me, my family and friends. There is no use enumerating their stories here, suffice it to say I've recently talked to three different drunks in three different places about three different things and they all gave eerily similar excuses for being in bed in the afternoon and having pretty much forgotten or blown off what it was they needed to do with me and/or talk to me about in the first place.
Listening to them reminded me of how I used to sound. No one believed me then, which was fair since I was usually lying. But I'm sure they are different, in fact all three reminded me that I was the one who had the serious drinking problem, not them. They said they feel "misunderstood" but they aren't. I do understand. That is the problem.
After I quit drinking, I found it surprisingly difficult to stop making excuses for things that I didn't need to make excuses for. If I was five minutes late to a meeting or forgot a minor detail, I'd find myself wracking my brain for an excuse for what I did, giving unneeded information about what happened...there was this old lady crossing the street and she made me miss the green light and then someone took my parking space, blah, blah...
After a while I realized that nobody really gives a shit about why you are five minutes late. Usually it is of no consequence at all and would be unnoticed unless remarked upon by the offending party.
Of course, as I type this, my father has been AWOL for over a week. He is actually at the point where he no longer even tries to makes excuses, he has moments of lucidity when he is aware of what he has done, but his self-realization is an uncomfortable thing and he drinks to blot out the mess he is in, which makes it worse. But he knows better than to lie about what he does with his huge surfeit of spare time.
He is a huge problem for my brother and I. Dad can't live with either of us, neither of us has time for his alcoholic bullshit and since he never held much in the way of a job, his Social Security is minimal and he has no savings. At 65, he is too broken-down to do much of anything except drink while sitting n place. A good night for him is one where he doesn't fall down and hurt himself more than once. He has been living this way for years, he must really enjoy the smell of his own piss by now.
Drinking can be a problem even if you don't drink.
I once hit it off with a really intelligent and attractive woman who had a long history of drinking, she had been sober for months when we met and that made us closer. I wanted to take it to the committed relationship level, but by that time she had started drinking again and cited my harsh attitude toward alcoholics as a major reason why we couldn't live together. That was incredibly painful to hear, but I refused to give an inch, it being life or death to me. So that was that.
My take is this: Normal people can drink responsibly and probably benefit from it to some extent. Alcoholics are not normal and should never drink, under any circumstance, ever. It never helps them. I would wager that the only person who would argue otherwise is either an alcoholic who is rationalizing his drinking or the enabler who allows the self-destruction; I mean, if you aren't an alcoholic or an enabler, why would my take on alcoholism offend you?
Is that harsh?