Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alcohol and Ink

If there is one thing I know for certain that one thing would be my knowledge of what chemicals are doing once they hit my bloodstream. I know how much is too much, I routinely ignore such thresholds, and I usually pay the price later. This has been a particularly brutal pollen harvest and usual chemical cocktail overreacted and it didn’t do me a bit of good. I whittled down the list to one pollen knocker and coffee, and that’s it. Yes, I know what that means; I quit drinking.
I’m a Writer. I claim the right to drink because it’s what we writers do. Show me a writer that is sane and sober and I’ll show you someone who is hiding a bottle in the desk and a studded leather collar under the bed in a locked box. Drinking goes with writing like peanut butter with jelly, rice with Chinese food, and child molestation with Catholic priests. It’s a time honored tradition. Not drinking while being a writer is like being a Vegan football player.

The list is long. The damage is as obvious as it is dramatic. We writers, as a class of artists, have destroyed more of who we are than anyone outside what we do ever could. As many books that have been burned, for as many writers who have been banned, as many lives ruined by a public unwilling to accept the future was coming, hell, we’ve survived the worst of that. But drinking? We embrace it. We carry a flask in one hand and our sorrow in the other, and we wonder why we’re depressed. We idolize those before us who committed suicide in a liquid form, and we wonder why we’re staring at the bottom of a glass at the bottom of the night. For some reason ink attracts alcohol, and once both are in your blood you are really and truly and honestly, fucked.

Here’s my theory; we writers are by our very nature more in tuned with all emotions human. We don’t necessarily live this, but we can translate it. We do feel it. We soak in it. We’re emotional symbiotes. The people we create, the people we live with and through, all the lives trapped inside of us rushing to get out with each new sentence begin to pile up, crush one another, and then they all start screaming. Alcohol drowns out the screams. It washes away some of those souls on the rocks, as it were. Alcohol shuts off higher functions first. Judgment goes first or we would never drink again, or we would stop early and go home. But alcohol numbs the many voices, the other lives, and in a sense, makes drunk writers almost normal.
You’ve thought about it. I know you have. I have. You knew that before you read this, before any of this started, you knew that of me. You toy with the idea of emailing me, talking about it, but you haven’t yet. You are afraid if you drag it out it will become more real. You’re afraid if you say it, write it, then that makes it real. Your fear is justified, and your fear is as real as they come, and you, in your heart of hearts, know this to be true. You are afraid I’ll make it worse, by saying what you want to hear, because you know I will say it, and you know it is true.
I will say it. If you ask, I will speak with you truthfully. If this frightens you, seek help, or validation, or another drink, elsewhere.

I will not speak of that last paragraph. If you do not know there is no way for me to explain. I can be in the same room with someone for ten minutes and know if they write, or want to write. Odd thing, is I frequently confuse poets for writers, and they are not anywhere nearly the same. It’s like confusing dogs and cats, or single malt with blended. Really, there isn’t anything that is more different. They can me the same, but if they are one, or if they are the other, you would think I would know.

I wasn’t drinking heavily before I stopped. I had it down to once a week, on Saturday night so it wouldn’t interfere with getting things done Saturday morning. I was drinking alone, again, and that is never a good thing. Four beers is my limit, so it’s not like I was drowning in the stuff, and the nights I could knock off a whole six pack alone I felt it for two weeks. I liked to drink with Boone, my favorite barchick, but I quit doing that because I had to drive. You can’t look at my drinking before I stopped and say it was a problem in any way.

But it’s the flirtation. It’s like hitting on the wife of a well armed serial killer who comes home once a month. At what point is it a problem? How much control do any of us really have if we slip too far? Remember that judgment thing? Why do I tempt fate by drinking when in the past it’s been a source of serious trouble, even if it was good writing material?

Mike, you were drinking between four and six beers a week. Dude!

I am a writer. The list of damage done to the class of artists I claim as my own is a terrible thing. For the vast majority of my life I have drank, drank to excess, and by fortune or will, I have never done anything to harm myself or anyone around me, at least nothing that caused permanent physical damage. Writing has helped me become more sober. Wring helps silence the voices by giving them their own life, and by giving me mine. Writing and drinking, they go together like drinking and damage. Any excuse to separate the two ought to be looked at as a gift.

Take Care,

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