Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Don't look away.

Sometimes in those odd, beige moments after the third drink but before the pass out, I wonder about addiction. 

I don't think I am. I don't think I was. I know I don't understand it. 

Let me say this as an adult with some distance between who I was and who I am and between young man and whatever the fuck I am today: We drank too much. 

Some of us walked away from it, and some of us didn't. I don't understand the who or the why. 

Here's the thing: I have engaged in certain apologetics in the past (notably on this page) about the sorts of people we were - the "good, clean fun" in spite of the chemical abuses - but as a now 47 year old man I would be remiss if I didn't confront the fucking elephant I have always lived with:  

We had drinking problems. I had drinking problems. 

I have a wagon load of shame attached to decisions I made under the influence from the age of 19 to my early 30s. I'm not going to itemize, but if you have found these words and we were close: I know I hurt you and I know some of that was because of my drinking. Some of it was immaturity and some of it was ego and assholery, too. I'm not trying to be that guy who blames my past on alcohol like it was the only factor or as if there was no agency in my decision to consume the amount I did. Some of the hurt I left behind was because I was a dick. I was short sighted and callous and callow. I own that. That shit is between me and my therapist and I'm so damned sorry if this finds you now: too far gone, too poorly summarized, too incomplete in acknowledgement or reparation, too little, too fucking late.  I did a lot I'm deeply, profoundly ashamed of. I still lose sleep over the ways I treated people in my pain and arrogance. 

I'm avoiding where I mean to to go with this. I had drinking problems and if I looked around the stage and sound board and after parties, I wasn't alone in that.  I remember having an informal rider that we got 5 cases of beer to show up for some gigs, and between a 4 guy band and a sound guy we never left a can. Later, as a five piece, we worked without a rider, but once played an almost empty bar in a little town and drank every Coors Light they had in stock. There were frat parties we played for the beer. There was a bass players legs sticking out of an empty, ten foot wide beer pit at 3 in the morning: swimming through ice to try to find one more. There were the delays recording World's End Café because I couldn't stay sober enough to get there or do the job when I was there, or get myself home. I drunkenly hit Jay at the end of a show and put my foot through his guitar. I showed a lot of humans that I cared about parts of me they didn't need to see. 

I said I wasn't going to do the accounting on this and I meant it. The above is token rather than exhaustive: these were anecdotes but our (my) drinking was daily. 

Fast forward an I don't drink much. I know one of us, one of the dearest and one I love so much, doesn't drink at all and there are chips and years marked. I'm so proud of him. I love him all the more for that. At least one other I suspect has made at least as many crappy decisions as I have due to drink, and maybe for a lot longer than I did. I've let others go: I don't keep up and I don't knw how they drink, now, but I know - for me - I don't drink much and it isn't hard. I can have a drink on a Sunday night and go to bed. I can order a cocktail when I'm out and I can have a beer with dinner. A lot of the drinks I pour are still half full in the morning or end up with the last half inch going down the sink before I go to bed. 

I have no excuse for not having a bad relationship with alcohol anymore. I should be in recovery. I should have that story to tell, but I don't seem to. I don't seem to struggle with starting or stopping. Most of the time, even when I'm out or people come over I don't much want a drink. Rarely during the day. Never if I want to do something after. I don't really drink beer anymore, it's not agreeable with my diabetes. I still enjoy a whiskey when I play out, but it's rare to have a second and I can't remember the last time I ordered a third. Sometimes, at Jake's or Ron's house I'll have a whiskey while we practice. 

I do not understand what switch just clicked into the off position for me, nor do I understand why it didn't do that for other people I loved. If you're looking for an answer the rest of this is the best I can offer: Hint, it isn't a silver bullet. 

I watched a video the other day about why we go numb in our relationships. Why we go cold. 

It's short and worth the time. It seems to think that we have untreated trauma, pain we don't resolve. Going cold seems better to us than facing these things. It's far more manageable than dealing with life head-on. That makes a lot of sense and I think it has a lot to do with why I drank so fucking much when I was a younger man. Numbness is sugar: We know it's no damned good for us, but it's fast, easy calories and it solves the problem for the moment. 

For most of my life I have walked around with the W.H. Auden Quote in my head "Needing, above all, silence and warmth/We produce brutal cold and noise". 

For me, the reckoning is in how we know a thing. Knowing things in a complete, empathic, deep and understanding way creates in us a debt. To actually understand what it means to be someone else as completely as we can understand it, requires that we change who we are and adjust. Knowing that climate change is man-made and causing our own slow extinction would mean that we have to give up some of our conveniences. Knowing that aspects of our behavior and attitudes causes trouble, pain, and difficulty for another asks us to stop that behavior. I suspect that, a lot of the time, we chose to be ignorant because we don't want to change what we are and who we are. 

Something in me changed. I can't claim it like I'm a super great guy who had an epiphany and made difficult changes. Likely, I traded some of my shitty coping mechanisms for different ones. What I know about me is that I don't want to be numb so badly as I once did. 

What I seem to have a better grip on is that every little subtraction I did to my own agency and my own culpability had a consequence. Every numb took me a little further away from the people I love. It still does. I don't do it with a bottle, but I still do it. And I keep trying to look at these things and open myself up to knowing them, because looking away kills us with a thousand cuts. All of my Brutal cold and noise, man, I'm so sorry for those of you who lived through me. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace and grant me some small share of whatever silence and warmth is available. 

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