Sunday, August 07, 2005


"Do you think I'm an alcoholic?"

Jete's eyes were closed as he asked me. His speech was slow and deliberate. He was about 2 minutes from falling asleep. I hate questions like this. He always asks me stupid questions when he's drunk.

"No. I don't."

I don't. Not really. I did know that he had a drink every day for the past 7 days. Not that it was excessive. I just notice things like that.

Of course, there were reasons behind his drinking each time. The weekends are a given. There is always wine at Sunday dinner. Normally, Jete and my dad polish off a bottle... A glass or two at dinner, then the trek to the couch, where the glasses are never empty and the conversation is never slow. Not always interesting, but never slow.

During the week, there is the stress of work, the kids, the bills. Life. A beer after a day working in the hot sun. A glass of wine after the kids go to bed. To unwind. Decompress. Nothing too crazy.

Other than me of course.

I don't know why I have the issues I do with alcohol. I'm unique, to say the least. I don't drink. Ever. Never have and quit. Just never started.

It's not that I've been sheltered. I've been surrounded by alcohol all my life. I remember being a child, and seeing my parents drink at parties. I'd stay up late when they had their friends over, watching from the top of the stairs, listening through the heating register. They became fun people for a few hours. They'd laugh like crazy. I loved it. I wished they could be like that all the time.

But I've seen both sides. I've seen an uncle pin my 12 year old cousin, his nephew, against a wall while drunk. I've seen my cousin's father, also drunk, attack my uncle, who then disappeared for the rest of the day. Wandering the city streets, unheard of for hours.

I've heard about the pain it causes. My grandfather, who I only know as a sweet, old man, was a mean drunk who blew his paycheck every week sitting on a barstool. I've heard it from my mom. From my grandmother who struggled to make ends meet with whatever was left. He stopped drinking when I was two years old, quit cold turkey. But my grandmother never let him forget it. He is constantly apologetic. Thirty years later. Time goes on, but that hurt, it doesn't go away.

Like everything else in my life, my relationship with alcohol is driven by fear. Fear of that fine line. The line between easy laughter and bitter rage. Between secret crushes and wounding secrets. I've watched that line crossed often. I've seen it happening, and I'm powerless to stop it. Mostly, I'm terrified to cross it myself. To lose control.

I'm afraid... what if. What if I like it? What if I never want to stop? What if, like everything else in my life, it becomes an obsession? I don't "enjoy" things, I don't sample. I devour. Cookies, chips, whittled down a few here, a handful there. If I know they are out there, I can't stop until they are gone. Even reading... If the book captivates me, I can't put down until I finish it or pass out at 3 in the morning. My self-control shifter is broken. If I like something, I'm always in high gear. There is no slow. There is either on or off.

So I hold back. And I watch everyone else. They drift into this other world, and I'm envious at first. They can shed this tension of life, the hardness that I can't seem to move away from sometimes. But there is always a price. If they go one step too far, that extra glass of wine, that last beer, they might hit the wall. Where the relaxation meets sadness. Where the reality of life becomes even heavier than it was before they started. Where the tears flow as quickly as the laughter did only minutes before.

But in the morning, everything is a little fuzzy. They move out of their haze and go back to living. And I, who never had the benefit of the haze, keep on going too. And wonder if I missed out on something.

Jete asks me again. "So you don't think I'm an alcoholic?" I don't even know what that means. Alcoholism is fuzzy ground. My grandfather hasn't had a drink in thirty years. He's "recovered". But he's still an alcoholic. Will be all his life. One slip, a single beer, and he could spiral back into his old ways. It controls him, defines him, even when he's nowhere near it.

Do I think Jete's an alcoholic? No.

But sometimes, I think I am.


Easily Amused said...

I agree with your "sometimes I think I am" comment. I feel I am sometimes too. But not with drinking. Mostly eating and scrapbooking. I eat with every mood shift. It's an addiction. Scrapbooking, I just get into a zone. Then sometimes I go back and redo pages because I know that I could have done them better. I'm just never happy with them.

Hope things improve for you guys. It's okay to drink as long as it doesn't start running your life.

Mete said...

Oh, the eating? I'm definitely addicted.

And scrapbooking? Ohhhhhh. I'm a crazy girl. My cousin will have done 6 pages in the time I set up 1. I'm never satisfied. Kind of goes along with my Indecisive nature, I suppose.