I knew I had a drinking thing, but I didn’t call it a problem. There’s an old joke found primarily on tee shirts: I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk, I fall down. No problem. That was me.
I could always gage the status of my “thing” by comparing it to that of my friend, Karl. Karl was a big teddy bear of a man whose dedication to booze was unsurpassable. He could – and did – drink hard liquor from dawn till dusk and back again. As long as I never caught up with his intake, I could assure myself I was okay. I wasn’t as bad as Karl.
Nor was I as bad as Stewart who relapsed within an hour of getting out of treatment and not long after, went to bed one night and never got up. Certainly not as bad as Stewart.
I never had a DUI or got in an alcohol-related accident. I never wrapped my car around a tree like Gordie. The last thing his buddy, Dave, remembered were the words, “Shit, we’re going 85!” A month later, Dave made the mistake of getting into a car a with Tom. They were coming home from the pub, a 5-mile drive at the most. Tom went off the road and this time, Dave didn’t make it. I guess he couldn’t go through that pain again. I wasn’t involved in either accident, since I wasn’t as bad as Gordie or Tom.
John passed out in the parking lot of the pub and was run over by another drunk who didn’t see him lying there. I wasn’t as bad as either John nor the unknown driver.
Scotty was passed out when his apartment building caught on fire. He never knew what hit him. I wasn’t as bad as David.
A friend of a friend of a friend committed suicide by throwing herself off a cliff when she relapsed. Having stayed a healthy distance from killing myself, I figured I wasn’t nearly as bad as she.
Eight years ago, I got sober. I looked back at my life, the comparisons, justifications, and denial. I now know they were symptoms of my alcoholism. As long as I surrounded myself with Karls and Stewarts and Johns, I could bundle myself in the comfortable fantasy that I was doing okay. The irony is that, in alcoholism as in all things, we stand alone. Addiction, though it takes different forms, is addiction, no matter how banal or how lethal the outcome. No one else’s behavior is responsible for my own. And chances are, there was someone out there watching my madness and saying to themselves: “I’m okay. I’m not as bad as Mollie.”
**I wrote this blog some time ago but didn’t post it because it’s harsh. Last week Karl passed away. In his early 60s, he went before his time. I can’t say I’ll miss him – I haven’t seen him since I sobered up – but I’m sad. Here’s to you, Karl – not a drink but a eulogy.