Alcohol

Alternative Facts, Incompatible Realities

Alternative Facts, Incompatible Realities

There’s no basement at Comet Ping Pong. 

 

Comet Ping Pong is a hip, family-friendly little restaurant in a comfy neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. There, you can nosh on wings and wood-fired pizzas while playing ping pong (surprise!) and listening to local indie bands. In a lovely alternate reality, this is all there is to say about the place. 

Kill Switch

Kill Switch

 

He hates me.

 

Lots of why will be spun up around this in the future I’m falling headlong into (it’s the alcohol, it’s the disease, it’s not him, it’s not real).

 

But none of you are here right now. None of you can see the way my partner, my husband, is looking at me. We’re two decades past and three thousand miles away from when and where we first fell in love, but there’s a longer time, a deeper distance: both immeasurable. 

 

He hates me, and it doesn’t matter why.

 

Empathy, that putative ability to feel the emotions of others as if they were your own… well, you can see how that would be a dangerous prospect at this moment. A thing to guard against. 

 

I don’t need two people hating me like that.

Consent is Not Enough

Consent is Not Enough

“We can.” That’s the response I received for years when I asked my wife, Sheri, if she wanted to have sex. As an active alcoholic, that consent was good enough for me. I didn’t know it, but I was looking to sex for the same dopamine hit I got from alcohol. A reluctant, “We can,” was enough.

 

When the question is, “Do you want to…?” and the response is, “We can,” that’s never really enough.

 

I’m not just talking about the psychological damage her consent did to Sheri. “We can,” really messed me up in profound and lasting ways.

Perfect Silence

Perfect Silence

I remember driving around behind Meteor Crater in Arizona, off Chavez Pass Road, on a deserted bare-bones dirt track. I was deliberately (perhaps illicitly?) skirting the crater from the outside, instead of looking into it from an officially-sanctioned observation deck. The crater visitor’s center had, honestly, offended my burgeoning amateur-astronomer sensibilities. It had a certain Diz-Nee no thanks, don’t mind if I don’t vibe, and the fee to venture onto the deck was exorbitant for me in my salad days. It seemed like someone had executed a daring daylight robbery, and ugly baseball hats with flaming meteors streaking across them sufficed to distract entire tour groups from even noticing.

 

I felt despair. This was ours, or at least I thought it should be, like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. And yet it belonged very specifically to someone, and they didn’t really care what I thought.

 

So in a vanishingly small act of rebellion, I took a drive instead.

Normalizing the Abnormal: An Alcoholic’s Solution to Chaos

Normalizing the Abnormal

“Come here and listen to this voicemail,” insisted my coworker, Loraine. She had a concerned look on her face, and she gestured in a way that assured me that my participation in her dilemma was not optional. She held her desk phone to my ear as I listened to the wife of another of our coworkers curse and spit venomous insults that would make Louis C.K. blush. “Jim’s wife dialed the wrong extension and left that on my phone instead of his,” Loraine surmised. “Have you ever heard anything so vile? I’m worried about them. If they talk to each other like that…that is not OK.”

 

More shocking for me than Jim’s wife’s language was Loraine’s reaction. I had heard vile, unhinged communication like that. In fact, I had heard a similar diatribe the previous weekend. And I gave it as good as I got it. For me, that voicemail was hardly noteworthy. For me, talking like that was normal.

 

I was an alcoholic. Vicious verbal combat had been normalized.

Write Out Loud

Write Out Loud

When I was ten, my kid sister caught me at it in the upstairs office.

 

“What’re you doin’?”

“Nothing! Go away!”

“What is that?”

“Nothing! Get out!”

“Oh, my god, are you reading… the dictionary?”

“Fuck off, and close the door!”

“I’m tellin’ Mom…”

 

I’m not sure if she reported me for that particular “fuck,” but oddly, she did mention the whole reading-the-dictionary thing at the table that night. Mom and Dad seemed benignly amused and a bit curious.

 

I was actually embarrassed. I assured them that the appeal wasn’t the plot.

 

And I tried to share the revelation: that words were so human; they had histories, families, secret lives, hidden meanings. And someone had thought to stick them all in one magic place, with their evolutions laid out like maps to travel? How bafflingly marvelous!

 

Ultimately, Mom and Dad seemed content that it wasn’t the worst thing for a kid to get up to.

The Fall

The Fall
Original Art by Barbara, 2018

It’s May, and a friend I haven’t seen for ages emails me out of the blue about an alcohol ink painting class she’s interested in. Do I want to go with her? My first thought is that it’s one of those paint & sip, wine & design numbers. I’m six months sober at this point (and someday I’ll unpack the fact that I quit drinking, after a lifetime in enthusiastic pursuit of intoxication, so I can donate my liver to my husband).

 

I tell her I’m not drinking, expecting that she’ll want to go with someone better suited. You know, someone fun.

 

My friend patiently advises that alcohol ink is actually the painting medium, and that there’s probably no cheese to go with the no wine, so we should plan on dinner before. She has her eye on a new place not far from the paint studio.

The Truth Behind the Perfect Pictures of Sobriety

Evergreen Rotting with the Turkey Carcasses and Wadded Up Wrapping Paper

I spent way too much time on social media during the week between the holidays. I usually post about my writing and podcast, then turn it off, so anything more than a few minutes a week makes me feel gross. I probably only scrolled fb and IG for a grand total of an hour, but I still needed to take a hot shower, scrub my eyes with bleach and submerge my phone in Windex.

 

In case I’ve been unclear, I don’t enjoy social media. I think my dislike stems from my borderline-perverted curiosity about your messy, dysfunctional lives. I don’t want to see your family’s strained smiles wearing itchy sweaters in front of a dead evergreen adorned with LEDs and third-grade craft projects. Great – someone held Preston down long enough to comb his hair, and Bill really did a nice job sucking in his gut for the ten seconds until the timer on the phone camera ran down to zero. Precious. Send it to grandma. I want the truth, damn you!