Remember, as you read this account, that I first got sober in 1996.
And that rumors can be as contagious as any disease.
The caverns of my mind had their own conspiratorial thoughts.
I had mostly been the solitary drunk at the end of the bar that nobody much noticed.
When I did finally stop drinking, I stopped going to bars altogether. It felt like the whole world was plotting against me and any pains I felt were served up by an unjust universe. Why can't I drink? Why am I being punished?
Gratitude would be a long time coming.
Anyway, here's how this episode went down:
"No one could believe that I had stopped drinking when I did finally stop. Of course, I couldn't have known this, because for the first few months [this 2nd or third time] I had severed all connections with the 'Bar Scene.' In retrospect, they must have guessed that something catastrophic had happened to me. This was borne out much later when after a sustained period of sobriety I entered a bar just off the Boardwalk on South Carolina Avenue called Reflections, one block from Resorts International, Atlantic City's first casino.
An old drinking buddy and pool player, Donald, came up to me there and asked me how my 'prescription regimen' was going. I must have had a fairly perplexed look on my face, because, to tell the truth, I had not an idea in the world what he was talking about. It turned out that since I had suddenly stopped showing up to take part in the local bar scene, the rumor mill wrongly deduced that since I had been such a hard partier (and every other euphemism for drinking that ever existed), and that I had quit drinking, I must have AIDS.
I guess that when you are confronted by a bar crowd whose regulars are fully in denial of their own alcoholism, it shouldn't be surprising that they would have to concoct some outside reason for anyone quitting drinking. After all, who in their right mind would quit drinking for drinking's sake? Wouldn't that be insane? 'Cunning, baffling and powerful' is how the rooms of recovery describe the insanity of alcohol. How odd that the reason for picking up the next drink is rarely for the simple 'I am an alcoholic.' There are always reasons, people, places, things."
I guess I had become so adept at holding my liquor and so often appearing to be loving the Drinking Life that no one could know the pain the addiction was causing me hidden from the public's view and the way the progression of the disease had sped up.
Truly, I was beyond QUIT OR DIE. That thought never occurred to me.
I would have continued drinking each and every time I hit bottom, but for emergency rooms strapping me down after being dumped off by ambulances.
The Bar Crowd never got to see all that hot mess happening.
They were right about one thing though, I did stop drinking because I was dying.
But I wasn't dying of AIDS.
I was dying of drinking.
Passages in quotes are excerpted from ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal