Joyless, “‘Six-Faced and Three-Hearted…'”

Saturday, Jan 24, 2015

Saturday morning: My days are getting a little easier. Granted, I’m still not “full-force” into change, yet, but I am making strides in some of my problematic areas. I’m having my worse struggles in the evenings, where weak with a day’s exertion, I still find that I give in to television and junk food. I didn’t eat much yesterday, but the second I got home from work I polished off a pound of leftover holiday candy that someone was kind enough to bring in. Sugar comas and idiot boxes…I keep making the excuse that it’s educational (but is it really?) but how long until I revert back to cartoons? Nearly  immediately, it turns out.

If I’m going to continue to slip in this manner, then I have to find a better means of slipping. I need to fill that time with something uplifting (like a movie) versus zany, slap-stick-based antics replete with anvils. I guess I have to make the feeble argument that I could just go to bed.

No cigarettes for ten days. That’s pretty good. It’s been about a week for alcohol, but I haven’t bought any for personal abuse since the holidays and I feel pretty good about that. I can’t say that “I don’t miss cigarettes,” because I get sudden urges from parts of routine that would normally have a cigarette present. The same is true with alcohol, though the pull isn’t as strong.

However, Saturday is one of the biggest, if not the biggest problem day for me. When I first arrived in Springfield, OH, alone and afraid, there were plenty of public houses around to welcome me. I settled in at a bar that was right next door to my work and I became a fast regular there (as a stranger, people left me alone!) and a work buddy and I coalesced our friendship by drinking our weekends away, most notably on Saturday nights.

I still feel that anxiousness on Saturday nights: looking at the clock, impatiently shepherding drunks to their bottles – their first, second, or even fourth… Speeding through the reports and locking up the money… but now, for what?

When the bar days were over, the reign of the pint began, and that’s the age I’m trying to overcome now. It may have been less damaging to drink at bars since a public setting would demand that I remain somewhat socially acceptable in my behavior; plus drinks cost more leading to less consumed. Now I can grab a couple of cheap pints for the week (…;) and let loose at any time. (The “letting loose at any time” is a problem, too.)

I can’t even explain why I like alcohol. If you asked me soberly, I would say that I hated it. It makes me nauseous, it makes my head hurt, it makes my thinking labored and base. But, while drinking, especially in the public setting, I do have that moment where I think that maybe, just maybe, people aren’t so bad. With my guard down and the same genetic need to “belong” to a group or community, I metamorphose into a social butterfly, contrary to my very core. And wouldn’t you know, I actually enjoy that feeling.

Saturdays now have a lot of “good” feelings associated with them, thanks to the regular use of booze. These feelings I would love to feel again! And my body tells me so: “Hey, it’s Saturday! Call your friend, get the pint! Time to be a normal member of society!” The cry gets more fervent the closer the day dwindles to an end. Right now, at 9:57am, I feel as though I can ignore that plea through the course of the day. I have before. Realistically, on any given Saturday night at a liquor store, I’m going to see more than enough examples of why continued alcohol use is bad.

But – the “if you can’t beat them, join them” phrase must have been invented for drunks, because getting drunk is about the only pleasant way to handle one. That doesn’t make it right, just easy.

I’ve already broken down what I would do with a pint if I had one in the evening. It’s time for that to carry that into the next day.

If I bought a pint of whiskey tonight, alone, tired, I’d finish off a quarter-pint. If I didn’t somehow already have cigarettes, the first shot of whiskey would probably have me at the store to buy some before the burn wore off. Having forbidden myself from drinking and writing, I wouldn’t even look at the computer, but would make for the video games. There’s a particular one I love to play and for that reason, there’s a lot of drunken hours logged on it, too.

Even in the evening after a Saturday night at work, I’d be in the chair, drinking and smoking for about five hours. At least! I haven’t played a video game since Wednesday; I’d make up for lost time. I have to admit that if it was five hours, I’d probably drink half the pint, too.

That’s just one part of the problem, though. In the fight of booze and body, relinquishing control once usually means that control is gone for the rest of the battle. As stated, that pint would lead to cigarettes and video games and the old “good” feelings. That means, tomorrow I’d be weak, both in body and willpower. The first thing – coffee and a cigarette. Then yes, back to the video games.

Now, as hung-over as I might be from this proposed night, I’ll make the poor decision but easy excuse for “hair of the dog.” Since this is now Sunday, I know that I’ll have even less responsibilities at work today, (what’s worse, I’ll be the one representing authority in the store), so there may not even be a fight from me to refrain from this. That’s the continued lapse of control that the first one led to. With up to half the pint left, that means I have however many hours before work (up to four) to drink the rest of it, having somehow convinced myself that there’s more than enough time for me to sober up before work, no matter what time I actually finish off the pint.

It gets worse. I work a liquor store! Sunday or not, once my buzz dwindles enough, I have two choices – feel bad physically or continue drinking. Most times, I don’t continue drinking; I sweat it all out in front of the oven and feel better by the hour. Sometime, I get another pint.

No longer am I working off a buzz in public, I’m in public, working, with a buzz. And one who is supposed to be in charge! I’m not so brash that I would carry around the pint, although I’m sure if I had a hip-flask, I’d use that.

This is a horrible scene; it feels ludicrous to write, but it’s true. There’s been more than one day like this and that is not to say that I’m proud of it. Completely destructive, certainly alcoholic behavior would lead to another month or two of reckless abuse of all my favorites. The loss of willpower would spiral downward rapidly and maybe not even until Wednesday next week can I look up soberly and curse myself.

Fortunately, I understand that this is bad behavior still. I haven’t yet become so full-fledged in alcoholism that my brain is wired to be drunk all the time. I’m close, though. Before this renewed effort to change, I was already curbing my alcoholism by almost never bringing anything home and only drinking in bars (not the same one with all the good times) and leaving after a drink or two. Some of this improved behavior has been in place for a year or so, none of these instances are recent, but I must confess that I’ve never truly given up drinking.

It wasn’t until last Wednesday when I had the free booze and I threw it away (I did that poorly, too.) that I really had my first moment of “strength” where my mind showed my brain just how it was going to be.

I believe my “never drink and write!” rule was so successful so quickly because I already knew the harm that I could do to things I cared for while under the influence. Nevertheless, that event showed me that it could be done and I’ve known for a while that I have to believe I’m changing if I’m going to actually change. Before, I never really started believing that. Is it different this time? So far, I’ve avoided having that “talk” with myself, hoping the ground rules will serve as guidelines enough. That isn’t the way to success and I know that, too.

It’s hard to admit any weakness, especially the ones that reveal how flimsy, fragile, frail, and afraid we really are. I think this is an instinctual part of any person’s behavior, stemming from tribal days with the first communal split of “strong versus weak.” The minute any leader faltered, he was set upon. This sort of behavior still happens in the human animal; it may be the basest reason for most of the harm we do to others.

I don’t have many examples of showings of conviction to draw strength or inspiration from. As a great and grand lover of cartoons, I do have one that means a great deal to me; one that I can even draw from the past, before I ever discovered (not true for media, video games, and sugar, salt, and fat) addictive substances. It pertains directly to givin’ up booze, though, and that’s important here, today.

In the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the character Eddie Valiant is having his own life-changing moment in the wake of alcoholism. He makes to throw back his bottle of whiskey, has that Eureka! moment and instead throws the bottle into the air, drawing an animated revolver and blowing it to smithereens. And without dialogue! Even as a child, it was clear what he was doing; now as an adult (with the same problem the character has), I can almost hear the mental monologue in Eddie Valiant’s mind: an almost perfect Bugs Bunny-esque shriek – “WHAT AM I DOING?!”

“What am I doing?!” indeed. Like Eddie Valiant, I threw my liquor away. I had bottles and I tossed them into the dumpster. Not quite as dramatic, but the same message. Again, I do have to admit to taking a shot first, but with the burn fresh in my mouth, throat, and stomach, it was easy to fling the bottles away, like ridding myself of a stinging insect. I mention all of this because this is my motivation today.

Last Saturday night, I returned home and downed some 1oz bottles of cream liqueur and played video games, not even bothering to take my shoes off and fully relax first. I’m disappointed to recall that, but it happened. And it happened very recently, within the same period of “change.” It’s going to be a strong impulse to do that again today, especially if I try the “give in to one so you can ignore the others!” excuse.

I think I’ll make it.

I should say “I know I’ll make it!” and make a series of pantomimed motions symbolizing my own methods of blowing up my various addict behaviors. That would be quite the performance. I could, at the very least, also acknowledge the dumpster like an old friend; crazy, yes, but if I imagine that “he’s” the thing that allowed me to conquer my alcoholism last Wednesday, then today I can draw strength and inspiration even from the dumpster.

That’s not poetic, but damn, is it beautiful.


Justin Lehman

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