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Triggers for alcoholism and other addictive behavior.

As some of you may know one of the central contradictions in my life is that I'm a non-drinker who chooses to spend a vast amount of time in a bar, surrounded by heavy drinkers. I don't drink because I self-identify as an alcoholic who has been clean and sober (one day at a time) since New Year's Eve of 1986. I spend my time in the bar because one of my addictions that I still practice is to singing Karaoke. If you want to sing and have an audience, the bar is pretty much a necessity.

The people I hang out with, some of whom are very heavy drinkers and some of whom I strongly believe are alcoholics, know I don't drink. They see me sipping my club soda and getting up on stage to humiliate myself in a state of sobriety. I don't judge them as bad people for being either heavy drinkers or alcoholics, however anytime one of them indicates an interest in not drinking I'm certainly supportive.

It should be noted that although I am clean and sober lo these many years, by some definitions, I am more often in my disease than not, because I'm also a compulsive over-eater and sugar-addict. Although I've found Overeaters Anonymous to be ineffective for me in dealing with the addiction, I do accept the basic premise. My behavior around food is profoundly fucked up and self-destructive. This is another reason I'm not in a position to lecture my fellow bar denizens, no matter how fucked up I think they are. (Although I once did tell my friend David, "you're really drunk" just as a descriptive phrase, because it was like three in the afternoon on a Saturday and he was really drunk. He stopped for awhile. It didn't stick.)

One of the regulars is a lovely older gent named Scotty. Just a really sweet guy, although he can be just as deliciously bitchy as any Asian queen. He goes to the Mint, but never sings. Just enjoys the socializing and the drinking. Lots of drinking. He was a close friend of Brendan (RIP) and the two of them used to down a lot of shots together. I believe Scotty is in his mid 50's, although he could be slightly older. Recently, for medical reasons, he stopped drinking. (I think there were heart issues.)Didn't go to any meetings or do any steps. Just went on the wagon for six months. And he was doing great. Looked better. Said he felt better. Two weeks ago, I heard from Sebastian that Scotty was drinking again and I didn't want to believe it, but it was true. When Scotty told me, I said I'd heard. I could tell there was a certain amount of shame and guilt and embarrassment, but I think he just missed the social part of the drinking. I also think he's an alcoholic and the addiction asserted itself. I just smiled and kept drinking my club soda, because what else could I say?

WELL----apparently somebody did have something to say, and that somebody is Richard. (Not to be confused with my friend Rich. Rich is a guy I have a crush on, Richard is a guy I don't.) Richard is also a regular. He also drinks, but I don't really consider him a heavy drinker. He's a charter member of the Cult of the Hawaiian shirt and generally wears too much cologne. Mostly I duck him because of the cologne, but he's a perfectly nice guy.

Except on Sunday, he got it into his head to lecture Scotty about his drinking, and suggest he should stop again. He also compared him to Eddy, who owns the Mint and is in my opinion a stone alcoholic as well. There was also a knife brandished (Richard is an electrician and he carries an electrician's knife.) Scotty, who probably KNOWS that he should stop, went BATSHIT!!! He was bitching and grousing (and drinking) for most of the afternoon and then around 6:00PM, he went nuts and starting SCREAMING at Richard, telling him to shut up and then telling him to get out of the bar, which Richard did.

It was a SCENE! Big Drah-ma. Everybody just staring in shock.

So I don't know where we go from here. I assume everyone will just chill out and things will go back to normal. The thing is, I think Richard was totally 100% out of line. It wasn't his place to say anything.

I also think he was right.

But since I had a pocketful of Jelly Bellys that I was surreptitiously sneaking all afternoon, I'm really not the one to say anything about anyone else's addictive behavior.

More on this story as it develops.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
That sounds like a tough situation all around. It's hard to know when to say something or if you should.

I've told two close friends before that I was really worried about their drinking. I mean :( I loved them they were good friends and I felt like I couldn't say I cared about them and not say something!

But I did it privately, and totally non preachy just, I'm really concerned about your drinking. I love you and want you to be healthy and happy. are you okay?

It went okay enough. I don't drink because of the medications I take for my chronic illnesses but even before then I never drank frequently, it just wasn't my thing.

I mean we all have our vices and shit we shouldn't do - like I should go to bed at a decent hour. And my friends tell me they are worried about me about certain things too.

I dunno I'm just rambling now it's nearly 2am here XD
Sep. 26th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
The whole thing is compounded by the fact that the backdrop is a bar. Yes, there's a small tea-drinking contingent like me and Sebastian who are only there to get our karaoke fix, but the main reason the joint is there is to sell mass quantities of alcohol, and to keep people drinking them often to the point of insensibility. That's the reality of a bar. That's the reality of drinking. So once Scotty (or his disease) made the decision to pick up the first drink, that really should have been the end of it.

The really sad part is that I felt I could HEAR the guilt and humiliation in Scotty's outburst. He HAS to know that he'd be better off without the booze, but the disease is telling him he can't survive without it. That's the one thing we know about alcoholism. It's baffling, powerful and cunning.
Sep. 26th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to say here except to speak from my own experiences. 12 step meetings might work for some people but they're not for everybody (they wouldn't work for me at all because I'm an atheist and they can't shut up about god for five minutes) and you can't really make anyone go who doesn't want to. I try to avoid mean drunks as much as possible but that's just coming from all the fucking mean drunks I've had to deal with both in school and when I was a bartender. And it was worse in school. When you're the bartender you can make them GTFO.
Sep. 26th, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
I haven't been to a meeting in probably over 20 years, because I can't stand old-timers and I can't handle new-comers, but I still consider the 12 Steps pretty much the only way to go IF you are an alcoholic as opposed to a heavy drinker. AS you know, I'm an imperfect atheist and I wouldn't try to argue anybody into the program beyond the fact that I think it is the only thing that works, so everyone who goes in and wants to recover has to make their peace with the higher power of their own choosing.

It's still a fine line between who's just a heavy drinker, or even "mean drunk" and who has that deep disease in themselves that makes a alcoholic. It has to be a self-diagnosis of course. All the pamphlets in the world won't help if you can't see the disease in yourself.

I'm fine with alcoholics being alcoholics. I choose to spend my time in a bar and sometimes I just go into Margaret Mead Mode and write down the more fascinating behaviors and alcohol combinations. But I know that in some way my abstinence makes me an outsider in a fraternity of drunks, and for someone like Scotty, among whom that fraternity offers a deep, loving bond, it must be nearly impossible to give it up and therefore he will avoid taking the steps which would enable to actually do so.
Sep. 27th, 2012 03:40 am (UTC)
AA seems to use "higher power" as a euphemism for religion, although that's only been my experience with it. of course I'm not an alcoholic although I will cop to having issues with food. I did try going to meetings of Overeaters Anonymous but had the same thing happen.
Sep. 29th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
has to make their peace with the higher power of their own choosing
And what if they don't choose any?
I'm with chocolate_frapp on this. I went to the AA website, read the 12 steps, and it was the same fucked up self-loathing my church had been serving me all through my formative years.
I'd rather die than go back there (as you may recall I have no addictions, but a history of depression and pathetically low self-esteem, so it's not like I'm an unbiased observer).

It's still a fine line
I'm not sure that line exists. I've lost (at least) three colleagues to alcohol, one of them my most beloved and creative teacher. About each of them, as about a few of my current colleagues, I'd just say they're heavy drinkers. I think I'm deeply in denial.

And drinking has a social aspect, which seems stronger in the US than in Europe. With us going to a bar and drinking juice or a virgin longdrink (sodas always seem disgusting unnatural to me) is completely acceptable. Most of the social drinking I'm aware of is at dinner, and then you can just ignore your wine all through the meal and drink from the water glass.

As for intervention, I think it's only allowed when you're really, really close. As for someone pulling out a knife in a bar, I'd be very VERY afraid. I don't care if he's an electrician.
Sep. 29th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
The knife thing was seriously weird, because just before that Richard was sharpening the bartender's knife (at the bartender's request) the big one they use for cutting the lemons and limes and stuff. That knife looked a lot scarier than the electrician's knife, which was more of a switchblade or flick knife, which Richard showed us after I mentioned the big scary knife he was sharpening at the bar. I honestly don't think either one was being done in a threatening way. It was just weird.

We've batted the addiction/alcoholism conundrum around over the years in our House discussions and elsewhere as well as the nature/nurture components of the disease. It's something I doubt we'll ever reach consensus on besides agree to disagree.

I think I'm deeply in denial.

Well it's a start. Out of curiosity, what do you thing might change if you allowed yourself to believe that alcoholism is a genuine disease?

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )



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