The first time I got drunk, I was probably thirteen. We used to drink our parents’ liquor. We didn’t want to have them know what we were stealing so we’d take an ounce of gin, two ounces of scotch, some vermouth, some vodka, some rye. It was gross. We called it jungle juice and we were never far from a sink in case we had to vomit.
By the time I was fifteen, when my friends were able to drive, we went to the deps in Hull and bought beer. To go to a party on a Friday night, three guys could buy a two-four for fourteen bucks. Five bucks each and you had your eight beers. You either hid them or carried them around. Eight bottles of Ex in every pocket or every hedge. My specialty was the crisper. No one ever looked in the crisper.
When I was in university, money somehow became more valuable. I wasn’t a drunk yet because I couldn’t afford to be. But I would have been if I could have been.
I was always shy with girls. I don’t know why. I’m 6’2″. I’m at least average looking. I know I’m smart. I know I can be funny. I can write a song or tell a joke. I have dimples and interesting hair. I’ve been generally well-liked, but I’m shy. And I’ve never been able to get over it. So booze was my thing.
I remember in about 1987 that I couldn’t get out of bed. I mean, I couldn’t do anything. I listened to records and went out for food and tobacco but that was the extent of my mobility. Thirty years now.
Depression is a wild and mean enemy. It’s stronger than I am. And it has controlled my life. At times I’ve held it at bay. I’ve kept myself distracted or busy enough but it has always been just about right there. Always right around the corner.
It may yet defeat me. I don’t know. I’m not arrogant enough to think I’ll be the eventual winner in this battle. It’s a toss-up. But I’m aware of it.
Not unlike 1987, there are days when I can’t get out of bed. When liquor seems like the only answer, as I self-medicate. And while I know it isn’t doing me any good, for a short time, I feel less pain. Until I don’t again.
I used to think drinking was for poets. That I was fueling my art. That I couldn’t write a song or a pretty letter without it. I don’t know that I was wrong. But like my favourite last line of a novel goes, isn’t pretty to think so?
I’ll keep you posted. I have battles. And demons. I don’t know how it all will end.
But it’s my intention to make it better. And if or when it works out, I may yet look at myself in the mirror with something more than pessimism. Maybe even with a glimmer of hope. Something I haven’t known in thirty-five years.
Isn’t it pretty to think so?