Paul Rutowski. I was searching for a photograph that would visually describe the post I am about to pen, and although it has nothing to do with alcohol, I felt the need to share this awesome work of art. However, I could make a case for it:
This image describes the rift alcohol builds between the success of my life and the need to escape the reality of the lack there of.
How was that? Pretty lame, I know. Sounds like a drunk wrote it. Anyway, it’s good to know there are beautiful places like that on Earth.
Onto the subject at hand. Alcohol does for me what nothing else in my life right now can do: It relieves my anxiety. It can stop me from thinking about every problem I have in my life; although most of them can be attributed to alcohol. Today, I don’t feel the need to drink, to get drunk. But, because I know that won’t always be the case, I have chosen this particular GRH housing facility, the Hunting Hotel. And I’m going to be sincerely honest about this. The rule is that if you choose to drink and stay here, you will be kicked out. However, you don’t have to stay here every night. Bing! The light bulb illuminates.
There’s nothing to say that I must stay sober to live here. Because of this, I don’t feel pressured to stay sober. That is one major monkey off my back. When you’re surrounded by residents, staff, security guards, priests, AA members, doctors, and volunteers all praying, inquiring, prodding, and asking how many sober days you have, it’s enough to drive a man to cocktails. These people don’t feel the need to be casual about inquiring into your current relationship with alcohol; they feel it is their right. They feel the need to twelfth-step you to death, in the name of their own recovery.
You wanna help? Help me with the thirteenth step. I haven’t gotten laid in so long, my right hand is growing blisters.
At the Hunting Hotel, if you choose to drink, don’t come home. It’s as simple as that. I don’t have to come home every night, just once every 18 days. If I do get drunk, there are several places in downtown Minneapolis I can go. There’s the Tramp Pad downtown I can crash for the evening, or the detox facility if I need several days to sober up. I can even rent a hotel room, if I save up enough cash. The place I cannot go when drunk is home. (I never had this option when married to June W.; more on that in another post.) I can leave all my property at home – my wallet, backpack, anything of value – grab a few bucks for booze and a bus token, and I don’t have to worry about loosing my shirt when I inevitably black out from too much fun.
I’d like to elaborate on this part of leaving everything at home. When you’re homeless, you have very little in the way of storage choices. Most of what you value is on your back. Getting plastered risks all you own, yet we drunks still risk it. I have lost so much property from these drunken binges.
Once, I blacked out and ended up in Indian detox facility. When they took my property, they put my valuables – wallet, ID, social security card, Palm Pilot, cell phone, MP3 player, bus cards, money, etc. – in a little Tupperware container. Before they could store it in their safe, another drunk walk by and stole it. It happens all the time, from what the director has told me. I was devastated. Not having ID and social security card makes it impossible to get a job, amongst other things. Not having a home means you can’t just have them mail you a new ID either. But loosing my organizer was the worst. The Palm Pilot had my entire life in it (it’s like a smart phone without the phone). It had all my contacts, documents, financials, notes, appointments, applications, etc. The financial compensation I received from Indian detox was not nearly enough for me to replace all that was lost. It was yet another reason to drink, hard.
Let me make myself crystal clear about something. My history of loss in my life (friends, wives, jobs, property, reputation, etc.) has never been a major deterrent to drinking. Alcohol does for me something that at times I feel I need: relief from anxiety. I don’t have a friend in the world that can do that for me. My ex-wife, June W., used to, but she changed after marriage.
I don’t mind that it’s a one-way relationship. I buy my friend, alcohol. I let her in. She changes my outlook on life and I calm down. I stop worrying about everything I should be doing right now, which is everything. She says, “Don’t worry about everything at once, because you can’t solves most of them today anyway. Let me in and you can become that other person.” By the next morning, the other person usually finds a way to screw up another part of my life. But again, I now don’t have to worry about it so much.
Hunting Hotel does not require you to be part of Alcoholics Anonymous nor attend meetings. Some meetings have gone bad for me and have attributed to yet another relapse, from time to time. I’m no longer in treatment and am off paper (I’ve completed my DUI probation), so I have no AA meeting requirements. They do require you do drop on request (take a drug piss test and breathalyzer). I don’t do drugs, so that’s not an issue.
Mandatory AA meetings can be a burden to a recovering alcoholic, like myself. If you’re there because you want to be there, it’s not so obvious. But if you bring an AA card, everyone knows you’re required to be there, and you’re treated differently. They call it ‘court ordered’, but it’s not always. You could be in treatment for alcohol and/or drugs that requires a signed AA card. AAs have strong opinions about treatment vs. Alcoholics Anonymous, and they let you know that. And some AAs fairly new in the program like to compare their progress to yours, like it’s going to help the newcomer. It’s my experience that people like that wont stop that behavior until their first relapse. It’s only afterwards, when you see that sincere humility on their face, that you can sense that they know the meaning of the word ‘progress’. Again, more pressure.
There are times when the last thing I need is an AA meeting. I definitely have too much resentment against the folks at the Sober Barn to return there anytime sooner than I’m ready. I know of predictably healthy meetings, one of which in uptown I think I’ll attend tonight. One thing I really do not want to do is talk about how many fucking days I have sober. The next person who asks will get the living shit choked out of them...in a verbal way. No, seriously; I need to think of a clever misdirecting comeback to that question. I know, “The day after tomorrow, I will have two more days sober than I do today. How many will you have?”
If it becomes so fucking important that I must get drunk, I’ll simply head home beforehand and drop off anything of value, except what needed for the night, and head out. It is because I have this option that I don’t feel the need to drink alcohol today.
-- Without Wax