Walking Drunk: The Perils of Sobriety In The Zombie Apocalypse

By Neville Elder 10/10/14

In honor of the fifth season premiere of The Walking Dead this Sunday, here are some tips on how to survive the zombie apocalypse, one day at a time.

Lawrence Gilliard Jr. as Bob Stookey AMC

The fifth season of the The Walking Dead begins again this Sunday, October 12th, on AMC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the hugely popular dystopian horror series, it’s set in the state of Georgia or thereabouts during an outbreak of a disease that brings the dead back to life and turns them into Zombies (or ‘Walkers’ as The Walking Dead calls them). As you might expect this is not a good thing. Unfortunately getting to see Granny again isn’t going to be the heart-warming reunion you might have hoped for because, yes you guessed it! She will eat you!

This terrifying and addictive show is populated by hoards of flesh eating cannibals shuffling around the countryside looking for people to eat. The hero of the show is a .357 Magnum-toting, county sheriff named Rick, followed by his young son and a gradually dwindling band of ragtag survivors. Their aim—to try and stay alive long enough to make it into the next episode. Talk about one day at a time!

It’s scary stuff. Based on the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, it’s got some spectacular squishy, head squashing special effects and the characters seem to exist on a level of stress that often leaves me speechless. But the detail that has helped the series endure are plot lines that deal with both interpersonal relations and the larger societal issues of grief and morality, euthanasia and family and, of course, the breakdown of law and order that might come with the end of the world.

For instance, when our heroes come across a well-defended farmhouse, they make an uneasy alliance with one of the most likable characters—veterinarian Hershel Greene. Hershel, probably the most level-headed of the cast, was a recovering alcoholic who was beheaded by ‘The Governor’ in season four. It’s a long story, so . . .the role of the town’s drunk then fell to Bob Stookey, played by Lawrence Gillard Jr. At one point in season four, during a supply run to a hospital, Bob is attacked by walkers. Instead of running, he fights them off and it’s revealed that the contents of his bag are not the medical supplies he was sent to obtain, but a bottle of booze instead. Oops. Know that feeling. Even without a regular supply, it’s clear: Bob’s definitely one of us.

But it got me thinking—I wondered how, as a recovering alcoholic, I might fare in a world populated by the living dead. I know I would be at a distinct disadvantage. First of all I’m not very handy—It takes me 20 minutes to find my only screwdriver. I also live in New York City—alongside five million people and the strictest gun laws in the country. When the dead walk the Earth it’s going to be a really scary commute. But I’m sober right? That’s got to count for something.

As the premiere date of this magnificent show marches ever closer, and a degree of gleeful panic sets in, I fired up the Interwebber and went looking for survival tips for the inevitable zombie apocalypse that is upon us. How would a sober, graced guy like me fare? It turns out, according to the very knowledgeable Suzanne at Cheaper Than Dirt, the sober will be the first to die.

Cheaper Than Dirt.com (CTD) is your basic army surplus, guns and ammo website and comes with deals on lots of outdoorsy things like tents and bug spray, cold weather survival gear, and very dangerous looking machine guns—that sort of thing.

The Shooter’s Log is an extension of that site.  As I started skimming I noticed amongst the guns and accessories reviews a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and some quite quirky writing form the chief contributor, ‘Suzanne.’ Often, Suzanne writes about survival with the acronym SHTF (shit hits the fan); it’s a common phrase in the online survival community—referring to the day the world goes to hell for one reason or another. Suzanne also talks often about The Apocalypse. Not in terms of nuclear annihilation (bit old hat that one) or The Rapture—that would mean talking about surviving after the Chosen have left and if you believe in this particular interpretation of the bible, one assumes you’ve already booked a ride. No, Suzanne often talks in terms of the Zombie Apocalypse—a fear born of the current media infatuation with all things undead. It’s a straightforward horror movie plot: the dead rise again—because of a virus, global warming, bad luck, etc., and eat the living while those bitten then turn into Zombies themselves.

So, what are we going to do; those that are left behind? And what about the Zombies? What are we going to do about all the Zombies?!  

But I’m sober, right? That’s got to count for something. Actually no. According to Suzanne, we will be the first to die. 

Suzanne has collected 45 reasons why your best friend will be a bottle of Everclear and the low recoil 9mm SIG P250 handgun packing seventeen rounds of Federal HST 9mm. (Whatever that means.)

She says: “Liquor has its place in a post-apocalyptic world even if you are a teetotaler. Stock up on cheap, high-alcohol content liquors and add it to your long-term food and gear storage.”

Hmm.. Teetotaler? I haven’t heard anyone use that phrase since.. well the Big Book was written!  But it looks like you’re going to need booze if you’re going to make it through the night of the living dead. A craving is a craving where I come from and some of her suggestions may mean counting [end of] days again. And good luck finding an AA meeting without running into a reanimated corpse; no judgments, but some of those old timers are well known for cross-talking and they’ll eat all the cookies before you can say “Rarely have we seen...”  

So, with apologies to all the people who actually are prepared and take this shit seriously—after all they’re the ones with all the guns—here’s the highlights of that list with notes from your favorite alcoholic, with the proviso that you should talk to your sponsor before reading it. 

1. Fire starter – Not any old whiskey, mind you. It needs to be 100% proof —like Everclear, the real southern comfort (it’s actually banned in several states north of the Mason-Dixon line). Pure grain alcohol. The Proof part comes from the distillers of the 18th century who would toss gunpowder in their brew and set it on fire. 

2. Barter and trade - I’ve left Suzanne to run you through this most ancient of economies with her remarkably well-informed piece for CTD. Suffice to say, when paper money is meaningless and you maxed out your Amex card make sure your bug-out bag is full of useful tidbits including cheap liquor.

3. Alleviate boredom - Okay, this one is tricky for someone in recovery. I know what she means and as tempting as it seems, running into Zombies blackout drunk is going to put a real buzz kill on your evening. If you’re really that bored and the library is on fire, I recommend using the booze bottles for juggling.

4. Calm anxiety - Yeah. That one’s not going to work either. A little meditation might help, the Serenity Prayer, perhaps, or just crying.

5. Sleep aid - Not unless you hit yourself over the head with it. Who the hells sleeps through an apocalypse anyway? Have you seen The Road? If you fall asleep, someone will eat you.

6. Molotov cocktail - Okay now you’re talking. The name "Molotov Cocktail" was created as an insult by Finnish troops in the Winter War of 1939 toward Soviet foreign Minister Vyacheslav MolotovThe Finns called it a cocktail after Molotov’s Soviet radio broadcasts announced airborne bombing raids were actually food drops for the starving Finns. The ‘cocktail’ was the drink to go with the deliveries of Soviet ‘bread baskets.’ The Molotov Cocktail is a bottle of alcohol mixed with motor oil which uses a rag as a wick soaked in kerosene. First, you light the wick and and then throw it at Soviet tanks. Or zombies, of course.

7. Antiseptic for wounds -Yes, that makes sense. If you’re sober and don’t have alcohol you’ll die of Sepsis. You see? This isn’t going to be easy.

8. Relieve poison ivy - Really? I did not know that! Not one of my biggest worries as the sky is turning black and buildings are collapsing!

9. Kill odors - Or you could use deodorant I suppose. Loot a Rite Aid.

10. Refresh clothing - Hopefully the Wal-Mart will still be open, so let’s hold fire on that one.

11. Bug repellent - Bugs, right. Not scary.

12. Surface cleanser -Again. Scrubbing bubbles and a new Swiffer aren’t on my shopping list right now.

13. Lamp fuel -Yes! I want to see in the dark. Good one, hmm. Still for an alcoholic maybe a flashlight and a pocket full of Duracells might work.

14. Facial astringent and toner - For Zombies only.

15. Topical treatment - Coconut or pineapple? Oh I thought you sad tropical.

16. Fuel for vehicles - Mad Max anyone?

17. Stove fuel - Yes, I’ve got to eat! Here’s an excellent article about making a stove from a Coke can!

18. Gun cleaner - Ah. Now I wish I hadn’t let my NRA membership run out.

19. Mouthwash - Yes I tried that once. I woke up in Syracuse with a tattoo of a dolphin on my left buttock.

20. Rust prevention - Eh? 

21. Clean optic glass - Actually, that’s a really good one. I’d be really screwed without my glasses.

22. Weed killer - Wait! Let’s just fill up the mower!

23. Clean electronics - Electronics as in machines that need power? 

24. Cough suppressant (warmed whiskey mixed with honey and lemon works best) - I thought we were only taking Everclear? Hmm. Check your motives.

25. Muscle relaxer - Yes, I bet it does. 

26. Disinfect questionable water -That sounds like ‘Happy Hour’ to me.

27. Help repopulate - This is my favorite! I know exactly what she means!

The full list is available here.

Neville Elder is a regular contributor to The Fix. He's also a photographer and writer. Originally from the UK, he's lived in the unfashionable end of Brooklyn for 13 years. He last wrote about the farce of death penalty drugsrock 'n roll recovery and early morning sober raves.

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British born Neville Elder is a writer,photographer and filmmaker. He's been sober since 2006, lived in New York since 2001 and is in no hurry to move back to a Brexited Britain. He writes the odd murder ballad with his band Thee Shambels and teaches photography at the New York Institute of photography. Find him on Linkedin and Twitter.