My great aunt died three weeks ago. Beginning of a downward spiral that has hopefully ended. Maybe a binge, or a relapse. Not sure, exactly, but when Mom called to tell me her Aunt Mabel passed, I turned to Jack. Daniels. My nemesis and catharsis both. I just couldn’t face losing another relative. I’d spent this entire year taking care of Jenny, my youngest sister. When the melanoma took over, I quit my job, moved in to be round-the-clock watchman. And it worked; I focused on beating the illness, she focused on the drugs. But eventually she gave in to the elephantine pain, and her struggle evolved into gentle surrender. It was the day Jenny died, I bought my first bottle of whiskey in over fifteen years. I couldn’t reconcile why Jenny went and not me.
My drinking began in my youth, around ten years old. My parents were boozers, especially Dad. I would hang out with the Matteson boys. We started by stealing cigarettes from the local Wegman’s. When that lost its zeal, we moved to alcohol. Dad had an entire room of boxes filled with hard cider in the basement. We drank through a case or two of those in no time. I’d puke easily, so in my mind I thought I’d never become a drunk. Not like him. Guess again.
I stuck to beer after I got married. Not to say I didn’t overdo that on occasion. That was the case until my wife left. She wanted to open our marriage to other partners. I was too scared. Or too conventional. She wanted more, more, more. I wanted a simple life. Then she had an affair. I had an epiphany: booze helped remove the fears. Helped mask the pain. Helped me to escape when she left, when she moved in with him. Escape what?
Only answer I can fathom is death. So, would I rather avoid death by hanging onto sobriety by a hangnail? Or would I rather tempt it. Possibly. Who knows?