Final Fantasy


wine-fireplace-top

Doesn’t this look luscious?  All we need is some Enya and a game of cribbage.

There has always been a romanticism surrounding alcohol for me.  There was, at all points in my drinking career, a sense of sophistication and “adult-ness” of drinking.  There was that cabinet by the dining room table that only the grown-ups could open.  Deep conversations and slapping of backs came when you opened up those clear bottles.  People seemed to slip into a new coat, at ease with their surrounding and that much more witty, charming and intelligent.  And certainly there was that lovely stemware to be used.  I never drank juice out of those.  Those glasses were for the sophisticated crowd.  I wanted to be in that crowd.  As a lonely guy, I just wanted to be in any crowd, period.

So it was easily put into my mind that alcohol was a the way to achieve a certain level of quality – quality of mind, quality of emotion, quality of class.  I need not sit at the children’s table of life any more.   I remember when I was younger, being kicked out of the adult section of the local library.  I found the books there a lot more interesting, even if their advanced language flummoxed me  at times.  But I wasn’t allowed to be there.  I was in that gray zone of being past the young people’s section and the revered upstairs adult shelves.  A gray middle…vague in nature.  That is how I felt most of life. I very much wanted an adult life.  Alcohol gave me that immediate adult life, without the part of actually growing up.  Instant cache.

And that is what I chased all my life – that feeling of being someone beyond myself, but to be myself.  I felt like my own understudy, yearning to be front and center, yet not having the chance to take it.    My alcoholism was in many ways driven by this desire for finding somewhere soft to land that wasn’t me.  It was like I was trying to shake my own life off of me.

My alcoholism was like Mr. Roarke – inviting, open, friendly, always wearing a cheerful smile.   My ego was like Tattoo – sidekick extraordinaire and always by Mr. Roarke’s side, doing the dirty work.  My alcoholism had always been a genius at concocting the perfect blend of fantasy for me – a pound of delusion here, a cup of  deceit, a few tablespoons of dare and heaps of empty promises.   My alcoholism could transport me to a place where all my wishes and desires can seemingly come true. My alcoholism was always waiting by the side, trying to interlace it’s wants into my wants, fiction into fact, fantasy into reality.

Smiles everyone, smiles!  Welcome to Paul's mind!

Smiles everyone, smiles! Welcome to Paul’s mind!

My alcoholism wanted me dead – even now.

My early drinking was a take-it-or-leave it kind of thing.  For about two whole years, I didn’t care so much if I had an adult beverage in front of me or not.  I could have had a root beer and been just as content as I would a pint of ale.  But at some point, something switched over.  Something changed.  The gentle coaxing whispers of alcohol started to allure me, started to enliven my feelings of low self-worth of low self-respect.  I felt wanted.  I felt the flutter of aliveness awakening within me, the doomsday dearth over my head shifting and molting into a tropical isle of serenity.   I could finally be and not fight myself and who I thought I was.  It was like getting off that water taxi and being greeted by well dressed gentlemen who embraced me and told me that everything was going to finally be ok.

I believed it all.

Alcohol did for me what I couldn’t do for myself – it made me believe in myself, made me taller, gave me wings, put me up there with other, made my insides feel like how others looked on the outside, transformed me into a man.  I didn’t have to cower at my own shadow, bow before you or coddle my seemingly silly dreams.  I could live.  I could come out and play.  I could look you straight in the eye and feel for once, that you didn’t hate me or that I didn’t hate me.  Courage, strength, confidence….all in spades – I could even lend you some, if you asked.  I had arrived.

As the shine and glitter of the fantasy started to fade, Mr. Roarke  created newer, more vivid “realities” for me.  Tattoo spoke quietly to me, chattering non-stop, enticing me to go down other paths.  “This time will be different,” he said with open arms and tooth-gapped grin.  A true salesman.  I used to follow blindly, not seeing the pain and suffering I was causing others.  I didn’t see how I trampled over myself trying to find myself.  The sad thing is that I would go down the same path over and over, grasping at the same fantasies, nothing ever changing.  The idea that I could find the magic that alcohol once had sprinkled over me was as gripping as it was the first time I experienced it.  At the end of my drinking career, 25 years of trying to capture that first shine, I was still in that middle section between boy and man.  The fantasy that things would always be different no longer mattered.  I was done.  I could finally see, through bloodshot eyes and hurt heart, that it was all a mirage.  My alcoholism had nearly killed me.  Almost killed others.
Those romantic pangs don’t call often any more.  Early on in recovery, they certainly did.  Now, there is the occasional faint vibe that reverberates towards me.  I observe it and move on.  But Mr. Roarke and Tattoo are patient…cunning, baffling, and powerful too.  Through a loving God and a program of action, I need not heed the tom-tom calls of those fantasies.  I have moved into my own skin, even if I squirm through it at times.  I don’t romanticize the bottle any more.  I don’t see something that will take me away.  I am where I need to be.  Feet planted.  Mind clean. Heart open.  A crowd of me.

38 responses to “Final Fantasy

  1. Love it Paul.

    Oh the romanticising of alcohol – I think that’s a struggle for us all. The advertising smoke and mirrors is just so incredibly GOOD. It is so, so hard to combat that I think we’re all frankly geniuses for being able to see through it 😉

    But seriously, I have realised that at least for now I need to avoid, where I can, those places where alcohol is being particularly glamourised. The swish cocktail bar, the dimly let restaurant with the centre-stage rows of gleaming bottles and elegant stemware. I hope one day it won’t faze me as much, that I’ll be able to just see it as the clever marketing it is but this stuff is sooooo deeply ingrained in our culture and therefore psyches that it takes a lot to resist.

    It’s so, so ironic when you really look at the deeply ugly flip side of alcohol addiction. I guess the contrary messaging HAS to be that strong to allow us to turn a blind eye to the domestic violence, the crime, the road toll, the brain injuries…

    • You’re right that it’s ingrained in our culture – someone could write a book on that topic alone. Look at beer ads – everyone is perfect, no one getting silly, clean wholesome stuff, etc. They are selling a lifestyle, really. But we know the true reality, don’t we? Same thing with the swish cocktail bar, etc. It’s inviting and chic and warm…it’s like a shiny toy.

      But it takes everyone their own time to be able to get into those situations and not think of the drink. Some avoid them altogether. I mean, for me a bar doesn’t do much for me, as I was a closet drinker. But I still don’t go unless I am there with others and usually dining. Early in my sobriety (not that I am an old timer, or even a mid timer), I certainly had to make my way around certain places and situations. Now it’s not much of a concern. But I still need to be vigilant.

      Thanks for being here. 🙂
      Cheers
      Paul

  2. Great post!

    I laughed when you referred Mr. Roarke and Tattoo and then to see the image — priceless!

    I suppose my drinking was a fantasy, too. I became someone I wished to be when I drank.

    • I might be showing my age a little bit…lol.

      Yeah, the chameleon came out for me when I drank…wanted to be anyone but me.

      Now the challenge (and the fun, really) is finding that true self. It’s a wonderful journey – glad I can bear witness to your journey through your blog, Fern.

      Thanks for swinging by!

  3. Wow great piece! Great writing, the fantasy island motif was perfect… Oh man, I have a big imagination so I definitely have and can romance the drink. I don’t let myself “go there” because I don’t trust my mind. I just look away or don’t look or quickly block the thought.

    • I agree, R. No need to go there. We have the thinkin’ problem, not a drinkin’ problem…lol. I sometimes need to avert my eyes, but just stick to what serves me and avoid what doesn’t serve me (no pun intended). Good advice there 🙂

      • It’s ironic that you say, “We have a thinkin’ problem, not a drinkin problem.” My sponsor said that exact sentiment tonight and now I get it. My thinking is a problem at this very moment and it’s leading me to want to fall back on my old habit of drinking. I won’t because I want to learn new coping skills but I can see it’s going to be a slow process. Hey, I’m really getting this AA stuff!

        • Terrific! Another way I had it shown to me in looking at it was: my *best* thinking, my absolute best thinking got me drunk, arrested, in hospitals, getting asked to leave my house, jumping therapists, being unable to keep jobs, battered relationships, detox and treatment. That was *me*, at my very, very brightest…lol. So indeed it’s how we see things, our perspective and also our soul sickness. It’s all tied in. And like the big book talks about “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” So that is how the steps, and my Higher Power, God, has helped me out in changing my ways of thinking. These are the coping skills you seek and we do get! That I can guarantee 🙂 Glad you were with your sponsor tonight. AA is simple, not easy…but simple. 🙂 Thanks!

  4. Paul, I am a fan of your writing. I thought I was blunt, honest and open but you are so much more and it is both beautiful and extremely interesting. Thanks for sharing so much so beautifully.

    • Wow – that’s very kind, Erika! I have no reason to not be open. I spent my whole life covered up and covering up…hiding with me and not opening up to anyone. So it’s my pleasure to share what I can, and hope that someone gets something out of it. Even if no one reads it, it’s still helpful to myself just to put it out there into the universe…all part of the healing process. But the great thing, is that as I read everyone’s wonderful blogs (like yours), I get something out of each one, and I start to feel a part of something greater than the sum. There is an energy that builds upon itself, and it begins to grow outward and create more.

      Thanks for being a part of this all.

      Paul

  5. I find my thoughts in your writing. You paint a vivid picture, my friend. Start out with the romance and finish with how it had to end for life to move on. Great piece of writing. Thank you.

  6. Yes, yes. And yes.

    You know, to this day – after 8+ years of sobriety – I STILL miss things about drinking wine. I know they all have to do with the ‘romantic’ relationship I had with the stuff. At first, it was true love, passionate, crazy love. Then it became a codependent relationship, and finally it spiralled in to full-on abuse.

    I know all that. I know it’s bad for me. We are divorced and do not speak and have no contact. But man, I miss it sometimes, despite it all.

    • Great description of the relationship with booze there! I can relate for sure. It’s funny that people use the idea of an ex when people wax romantic about alcohol…yes, there were a few good times, but there is a reason that you broke up right? I don’t think I romanticize the alcohol itself as I do the feeling of how it was to be outside myself, or how it was having that intense connection with others. But I remember it was not real…and that I can do that now…without booze.

      Thanks for the comments, Michelle – muchly appreciated 🙂

    • Thanks! Unfortunately there was lots of bumps and bruises and worse to get to that point of being able to take stock of how it was. I don’t think any of us can look back without having had some sort of shift or change in our lives. Everyone who’s blog I read has gone through a change of one sort or another, and it’s wonderful to see the insights and lessons learned. Thanks again for commenting 🙂

  7. OMG! So depicted it so perfectly! What a fantasy it was for me! And such a love affair! In my fantasy, I was always well dressed, super skinny(of course,) and sipping some fancy drink from a martini glass, and holding one of those long glass filterer cigarettes, just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. LOL! I pretended well too by going to wine seminars and tastings and trying to mingle in with the rich crowd. Till I got sloppy dunk few times and made a complete ass of myself! Yes, that was my reality!

    I have to say, I still do have a glimpse of the fantasy here and there, it comes up at some weird remote time, but it is a dangerous territory and I have to play it all the way thru. Thank you so much, another great post!

    • I too did the wine seminars, etc. (I am in the hospitality industry, so that was almost part of my job) and it did bring an air of sophistication (look, I am spitting this out into a spittoon like the sommeliers…that’s very grown up of me, isn’t it?). I remember a speaker mentioning “If I knew it would be my last drink, I would have made it a fancy one”….hilarious. Fantasy is everywhere…and we not only bought into it, but we bought shares into it.

      Thank you for your wonderful response…a pleasure having you here. 🙂

  8. Sometime, early on in my recovery, a guy told me to “picture Day Three.” In other words, when my mind starts to think about how nice it would be to stand at a bar and pour that first beer down my throat, to picture what my drinking will be like on Day Three.
    For some reason, even when I can delude myself into thinking that first day will be “fun,” and somehow, through heroic effort, I may pull off Day Two, I just KNOW that Day Three will be bad. No matter what. It always has been. Always would be. Energy reserves tapped. Money drained. Wreckage racked up. Shame and guilt like hounds on my trail. There’s something potent and visceral for me about picturing Day Three.
    Well, the good thing is there’s no Day Three without the first drink. Really enjoying your blogula, Paul. Grateful we ran into each other. Peace.

    • I can relate to the Day Three rule. I may have squeezed a Day Four in once in a blue moon, but by that time I was depleted in all categories and it was a nightmare. Near the end I couldn’t even get past Day One without being in a hospital bed or something like that. You really speak the truth there.

      Thanks for swinging by – means a lot to this alcoholic. Grateful we ran into each other too.

      Cheers, Paul

  9. What a brilliant write up. It really got me thinking about all the messages that we receive through the media about the glamour and promise of alcohol. Of course being an active alcoholic at the time the portrayal of drinking as adult, mature, romantic, confidence boosting, attractive etc. simply fed into my need. Thankfully I’ve wised up!
    Your description of trying to be t’someone beyond myself, but to be myself’ was something I could definately relate to. A great reminder of how things used to be and why I never want to go back!
    So glad you have been able to move into your own skin!

    • Hi Carolyn – thank you so much for your lovely response. You are certainly correct that we look to what feeds our needs, and the romantic ideal of alcohol certainly was up there with mentally fortifying our selfish and addictive ways. And yes, moving into my own skin has been challenging, but rewarding. There is so much for all of us on our journeys to grow into and experience and share…and for me to do so I need to be stripped of the old me.
      Thanks again for visiting my little neck of the woods!
      Blessings,
      Paul

  10. Stunner of a post. I would love to go on about every sentence that impacted me!

    To some degree, this happened to me (I think in many ways every kid in N American culture experiences what you described), but it summed up the thought process of the drinker in my life to a T.

    “We have a thinkin’ problem, not a drinkin’ problem.”

    And that sums it all up. 🙂

    Thanks, Paul, so much for this post! Gave me a ton of insight into the mind of an alcoholic.
    Celeste

  11. Beautiful post and so well written. i can totally relate to this as i fell for myth as well. i thought there was something dark, poetic and romantic about drinking but the difference between what i thought i looked like and what i was like…well, it explains why i hated people taking pictures of me while i was drinking.

    “Alcohol did for me what I couldn’t do for myself…” Nice slant on The Promises, and how true!

    • Forgive the late response, Al! Thank you for reading it and commenting…means a lot. I can identify with the hating people taking pics of me with a drink…or a picture at all. I didn’t like looking in a mirror, let alone looking at a photo of myself.

  12. Ah… the romantic fantasy of alcohol. The fireplace, the crystal glasses, the scented candles, the bear skin rug, the tall-dark-handsome man by my side… yeah, it didn’t work like that for me. I thought it did. My disease convinced me it did. The reality was much uglier and involved hangovers, blackouts, cheap hotel rooms and men who weren’t so lovely without the wine-goggles. I thought the alcohol made me intelligent and beautiful. It didn’t. I was a slurring, ugly drunk. I am so grateful for a new inner glow that comes from my Higher Power.

  13. Pingback: Back When The Beaver Hit The Bong | Message in a Bottle·

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