The World of Franyo 76: Siren Song

 

Now that Jofka and I were in our own apartment, my drinking went into high gear.  In New York I didn’t need a car, and that single fact gave me license to hit the bottle harder and more freely. I could get home by taxi, bus or subway. I wasn’t going to kill anyone driving under the influence. But there were other dangers.

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Did I know I was an alcoholic? Of course. I’d answered yes to all those questions on AA pamphlets for years …. Did I feel guilty or ashamed about my drinking? Did I lie to others about my drinking? Did I need a drink in order to relax? Did I black out? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I figured I was a functioning alcoholic and would have to do the best I could with the hand I’d been dealt — an attitude which, in and of itself, was an excuse to keep on drinking. But alcoholism is a progressive disease. In my case, the more I drank the less I could tolerate it. And so I began to noticeably slur after only a few drinks. I’d hear my voice go thick and sloppy but there was nothing I could do to twist my tongue around even the simplest words for a crisp delivery. My behavior became more and more unpredictable and I’d go into blackouts sooner. I’d put myself and Jofka into dangerous situations without a moment’s thought or hesitation. I had more accidents — tripping, falling, leaving burners on, doors unlocked, cigarettes burning in ashtrays. And we won’t discuss my slutty conduct with men.

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I very rarely drank during the day. My pattern was to begin craving alcohol around five or six in the evening and once that set in, I was powerless. Even if I’d sworn to myself I wouldn’t drink that night, my body’s urgent desire for booze would take over and I’d find myself in the kitchen opening a bottle. With the first drink (actually the first sip) I had to have a second and a third until all thought was banished from my brain and I drank myself into a stupor. In the morning I’d wake sick and dehydrated, with a roaring headache and no memory of what had happened the night before. Sometimes I’d wake on the bathroom floor, passed out next to the toilet. Or with a strange person in my bed. I’d promise myself this wouldn’t happen again, I wouldn’t give in to the siren song of alcohol that night, I’d stop the pattern. But come late afternoon, even as my brain whispered, “No, we’re not going to do this, remember?” my feet would march me into a liquor store, seemingly of their own volition, and I’d buy a bottle of scotch or a big jug of wine. And for all of you burgeoning alcoholics out there, here’s the image to take away: I’d get into my apartment and without taking off my coat, I’d pull that bottle from its brown paper bag, unscrew or uncork it with trembling hands, and lift that sucker to my lips.

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All of this was done in secret. If I was out with friends I’d limit myself to one or two drinks, which was very painful. Throughout the meal, the only thing I could focus on was sipping slowly and trying to savor and enjoy — rather like watching money drain from one’s bank account without being replenished. Most alcoholics are, by nature, glass half empty types. Put another way: If no more booze was going into that glass, it felt like a death warrant.

So unless I was with a drinking buddy, I pretty much stopped going out. Far easier to stay home, where it was safe, and get blitzed all by myself. I’d put Jofka to bed, take the phone off the hook, and have a party with a single guest: me, myself and I. Because I was so prone to blackouts, I kept a yellow pad by the phone just in case I got the yen to talk to someone. In the morning I’d find a bunch of scribble that made no sense.

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Obviously I was headed in a bad direction. Jofka was not well-cared for and nor was I. Our clothes were shabby, meals were meh, appointments were missed, homework wasn’t handed in, relatives were avoided. For me the worst thing was I couldn’t write. I’d sit staring at the typewriter and not a single word would come out. The words of my old teacher, Stanley Elkin, came back to haunt me: “If you want to write, you have to stop drinking.”

STOP DRINKING!?! Well now. Just how in hell was I going to do that?

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To be continued…

(Cover photo ~ wackymania.com)

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