Wherever You Go, There's a Bar
I was never a closet drinker unless the booze happened to be in the closet.
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The idea of any one addiction being more socially acceptable than another doesn’t always make sense to me. Really, smoking crack is socially acceptable to a society of crack smokers, is it not? And pissing yourself never goes over very well no matter how nice your clothes are. I know this to be true because it’s the way I lived for a long time. I was never a closet drinker unless the booze happened to be in the closet. Then I would happily join the closet drinkers and tipple amongst the mothballs. To the bitter end, I took great pride in my guzzling, oblivious to the fact that the bottles had begun sucking out of me, just as Chief Broom suggested they would in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
There’s an old saying that “wherever you go, there’s a bar.” I have certainly found that to be true and when it wasn’t, I simply built one myself. About fifteen months before I got sober, I took my last “geographic cure” (or second-to-last, depending on how you look at it – more on that later) by moving from the city to a suburban island. My logic was airtight. If I live far enough away from the action, I’ll just go home after work and save my hard earned money. Perhaps I’ll just have a few beers and smoke weed while I watch old Pee Wee Herman movies. Sadly, the only part of that logic that worked was that I ended up watching Pee Wee Herman movies while I was stoned out of my skull.
About two months after moving into a friend's house, we found a decent pool table on Craigslist for about $50. A valuable find like a lopsided pool table with purple felt demanded that we build an entire bar around it. I say “we," but the fact is that my friend was the carpenter that built the bar and he was the sole owner of the pool table. I will take credit for the idea to build the bar, however. He built a sincerely beautiful bar. It was downstairs in a small room attached to the garage. It had a granite top, a foot rail, a kegerator, couches, high tables, neon beer signs, a flat screen television with cable, and a decent stereo. The bar was finished in time for his birthday which fell about one week after I got my tax return. Ring-a-ding-ding.
Because I didn’t have a car or a license, my friend drove me to the liquor store after I cashed my refund at a check cashing shop (bank accounts were a thing of the past). My Rube Goldberg logic began again and I thought to myself: If I spend a few hundred bucks on booze today to stock the bar, I can just drink a little each night and only have to buy a new bottle once a week.
You know, it’s not really fair to compare my logic to Rube Goldberg mousetraps, because those things actually work. I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when I grabbed a shopping cart to push through the liquor store. “I didn’t even know they had shopping carts here,” he said with a mixture of embarrassment and surprise. I wheeled through the store with the enthusiasm that only an alcoholic with more money than he’s had in a year can have.
I realized the wheels had fallen off my little plan about four weeks later when I was alone in the bar, drinking the last of the triple sec and wondering where I’d gone wrong. I was alone because my friend was not an alcoholic and it was probably a fucking Tuesday and he had to work the next day. I was drinking the last remaining drops of liquor because I’m an alcoholic and drinking alcohol was the only thing that made me feel connected to society. Or maybe it helped me forget that I wasn’t connected to society, I’m really not sure.
The point is, the concept of “socially acceptable” had become completely abstract. I lived as the lone alcoholic in a house of three people and believed that we were either all alcoholics or none of us were. I may have thought that my drinking was accepted socially, but when it came time for my roommates to terminate the lease and move into another house with three bedrooms, guess who wasn’t invited? That’s the thanks I got for buying all that glorious booze. I kid, of course. He remains my best friend today although we don’t see as much of each other as we used to.
Just as water finds the path of least resistance, so too, does alcohol. When my drinking became too much for some friends, some job or some family to tolerate, I’d just pick up and move a little further into the woods. I used that trick until I moved so far into the woods I needed a car to get home. Then it was only a matter of time until something really bad happened and my geographic cure finally worked.
In sobriety I’m rejoining society. This year’s tax return moved me closer into town and I find myself surrounded by happy, sober people. I even live across the street from a grocery store with a healthy liquor aisle and I’ve never felt the need to grab a shopping cart and take it for a spin.
Kevin T. Roberts is a pseudonym for a writer in recovery from alcoholism and addiction living on an island in the Puget Sound. He works as a waiter and a counselor at a harm reduction mental health and drug abuse treatment agency and is earning a Masters of Social Work at the University of Washington. He thanks you for reading his blog entries.