Saturday, October 10, 2015

On getting fucked up


Yes, people really used to excuse a friend's uncontrolled drinking with the rationale that any one of us would  likewise drink to excess if we had the life and travails of the associate who's inebriation causes concern. We like to think that we've learned much since those days when alcoholic excess seemed a way for a sensitive sort to melt away the crucifying agony that is the human condition and enter into a consciousness that allows to reacquaint himself with his Muse, to dream dreams and greater dreams after that, to see from the waves and wanderings of their stupors a clear vision of heaven and the path to get there. And , of course, drinking was the means with which the artistic, the truly manly and mature among us handled our sorrows, those problematic feelings that are no less a part of the human drama.Would you drink if you had the same shortfalls, catastrophes, betrayals, disappointments as I had, if you lost lovers, jobs, missed opportunities, contracted fatal diseases, wrote angry letters to your father? Some of you would imbibe like I had , I suppose, but in 28 years of going without a drop of the stuff, there are millions more, from appearances, who walk past the liquo
r store and those taverns with the neon signs that blink and buzz with the promise of paradise and escape; somehow it occurs to the majority of the citizens to get busy and deal with the change in their fortunes.

Not every one who refuses to drink in the face of bad times come through their rough patches in better shape , but the point is that drinking to dissolve the problems, real and psychic, is not the default recourse for the majority of the population. It seems to be for romantics,though, who, as a species, are prone to wallow at times in the extremities of their emotion at the sacrifice of  all else. Hemingway comes into play; we imagine the spare code of conduct , the stoicism, the terse address of external occurrences in the world around him, the obsession with the super masculinity in which one is expected to bite the bullet and be honorable to an insane degree. Suffering in silence, writing poetry about drinking to make the disillusionment with the human condition tolerable and as a means of keeping hope and joy alive.  There was a time when I was part of this culture of self-reinforcing romanticism; life is hardship, you drink to cope and soon enough your other coping skills vanish as you rely more on drinking in order to cope. Soon enough your hardships increase because of the drinking and the pressure from family, peers and enemies for you to straighten out is too much, so you drink more to not just cope with the hardships of old and the new ones created by inevitable tragedies alcoholic drinking creates, but to make the world disappear. You become bitter, morose, morbid, cynical, continually inveighing against big and vague forces that destroyed your dreams.

So you drink in order to cope and escape, escaping the more important of the two intentions. Somewhere in an under lit corner of the brain is the nagging , chirping truth that you're drinking too much and that you should stop or perish, becoming an anonymous demonstration of Darwin's least attractive idea. Still, that five or so minutes of relief, the ahhhhhhhh that follows the first glottal gulp as the hooch seems to soothe the nerves and loosens the vise-like grip paranoia and anxiety have had on the brain are more or less worth the next several hours of binge drinking, from which more things get destroyed, dear friends and loved ones get called vile names, inexplicable phone calls to suicide hot lines are made, impossibly incoherent poems are written. The world becomes a small, sad place for you to be in. 
Most the world around sees a sad case of someone who is the grip of some malady, some soul-shredding scourge who will die alone in the trash of his own making unless something resembling a miracle occurs. If you're a poet, a songwriter, someone who has made a reputation extolling the hard life and the hard drinking that goes with it, you bear witness to what your romantic filters tell you is the Truth of the world and regard your rattled, besotted self as the price to pay for being so deep a reservoir for the boundless emotions of the human race, that a soul who feels so deeply the wounds of all humanity would have to drink in order to keep something like sanity and a sense of self wherein one can reside. A long, agonized spiral of self fulfilling prophecy.

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