My friend Dan killed a guy. Hit him with his car when he was drinking. He didn’t stop drinking after it happened, either.
I love judging people. It’s what feeds my ego. If I can make myself out to be better than you — in my own mind — then I won’t have to change one blessed thing about my thoughts or actions and I’ll finally feel better about myself. All I have to do is feel worse about every other living person.
It may not be the best plan, but it’s the best plan I’ve ever come up with.
The Tampa Tribune used to have a page devoted just to keeping in touch with alcoholics who’ve left the program. It was page 2 of the Metro section and it had all the great stories about “1 car accidents at 3:00 in the morning“, “Man beats the shit out of his wife over TV remote“, “Child drowns in pool while mother asleep on couch at 2 in the afternoon“… I used to love that shit. You can justify a lot of bad behaviour on your own part when you fill your head with crap like that.
“News of the Weird” and “The Darwin Awards” were always good for that, too.
The kid drowning was one of my favorites. I LOVE kids! They’re the most precious thing on earth (that’s why I’ve personally had 5 of them). I can’t even look at a happy kid without bursting out in the most ridiculous grin in the world myself! Little fucker just has to waddle down the aisle of the grocery store with his arms out to the sides for balance in his brand new Stride-Rite’s and I’ll stand there grinnin’ like an idiot until he’s out of sight. Can’t help it. Love ’em! So I could work up good head of “Righteous Indignation” when I’d hear about a baby drowning.
Because you see, she was a “Bad Mother“! She was drunk! That’s why she was passed out at 2 in the afternoon. She was passed out on the couch and that poor little angel was wandering around by himself and fell in the pool. It would make me cry every time. And I’d be so damn angry at that Bad Mother. People like her shouldn’t even have children! I hope they lock her ass up!
I don’t have to know one god damned thing about her or the situation in real life, and I could feel lots better about my own drinking.
My friend Dan is a mild mannered guy. Started chairing meetings when he was sober a year and he doesn’t “run” the meetings, they just sort of “flow”. I like that. He has a beautiful wife who’s just as sweet as can be! Every Sobrenity party I park my ass next to her. Did it just yesterday at 4th of July; sat between “my only ex-girlfriend who’s never blocked me on Facebook” and her. When I’m “between women” she’s my wing-man; hooks me up with cute girls. She’s just a hoot! She’s a Special-Ed teacher who just looooves her kids… She and Dan have got 2 beautiful daughters — teenagers now and still quite respectful — but I’ve known them since they were little. They’re just a great Family and I love seeing them.
So my friend Dan is a great guy with a great family. Couldn’t think a bad thought about him if I wanted to. Love him! So it rather shocked me when he told me his story about 5 years ago. He was driving down the road and hit a pedestrian. Killed him.
Now, I wasn’t there — so I don’t know — but he claims he “…wasn’t really drunk, but [he’d] been drinking”. I know enough about defense mechanisms to know that that could mean absolutely anything or absolutely nothing. Might just be his mind’s way of protecting his drinking: “I don’t really have to quit drinking, because this wasn’t CAUSED by my drinking!”
And no, it was not his last drink, though he quit a few months later.
So I have defense mechanisms, too. Seeing his out there so blatant made me take a closer look at my own.
There used to be this guy who lived at my apartment complex — never met him, don’t know who he is — who used to trash the shit out of my car every time I got blind drunk. I’d come out of a blackout and find brand new dents, dings, bangs and bumps that hadn’t been there before. I knew I didn’t do it.
Sometimes I’d wake up in a panic, run out to look at my car. I’d search it for blood and hair. Seriously. Shaking, I was so nervous. I’d work my way around the car, even look up under the front bumper, half-expecting to find a little kid’s shoe or a doll… Saying that foxhole prayer the whole time: “God, please don’t let there be any body parts up under here and I promise I’ll never drink again!”
And before the sun went down I’d be drunk again.
After I quit drinking and accepted that I was an alcoholic, I wondered what would have happened if someone had taken a ketchup covered toupee and stuck it to the side of my fender. I think I would have had a heart attack — and I KNOW I would have shit a live barking dog! — but I don’t think it would have made me quit drinking any earlier. Because, you see, “Nothing really happened”. That’s the best defense mechanism ever. If nothing happened, you don’t have to make any changes.
Which brought me to another realization about myself and my drinking.
My wife came home from a shopping trip. Had her arms full of bags, I can still picture the smile on her face. She’s just had a great shopping trip, relaxed, had some time to herself… I’m in the kitchen, in front of the stove, making dinner. What a beautiful scene, right?
She asks me where our 2-year-old is. I say: “I don’t know, I thought he was with you!” and laugh. You see, I was just coming out of a blackout.
She drops the bags and goes running around the house calling for him. I take the opportunity of her absence to take the lid off the pan. I had no idea what I was cooking or how far along it was.
She comes back frantic. “He’s not in the house! When was the last time you saw him?” I repeat that I don’t know, and that I thought he was with her. As drunk as I was I figured if I repeated it often enough it might sound like it was her fault. Truth is, I didn’t remember anything that happened all day.
She found our son in the back yard. We lived on the river. He was by the sea wall. She was furious. I explained to her: “Nothing happened!“. Oddly, it didn’t help.
You see, my mind tries to protect me. I need to always remember that the outer cortex of the human brain — where all the thinking happens — is version 1.0 software; it’s full of bugs. If our lower brain were as error prone we wouldn’t live one day. We’d simply forget to breathe.
So my mind told me that I was completely different than that woman whose kid drowned. Because you see, she was asleep on the couch. She was a “Bad Mother“. I was making dinner. I was a “Good Father“. And most importantly, “Nothing really happened“.
I was sober for several years — and had worked the steps multiple times — before I realized that the only difference between us was not the choices that I made, but the choices that God made. When I didn’t remember how I got home I was eligible for DUI Manslaughter. When I was drunk and minding (or not minding ) my kids I was eligible for them to die due to Child Endangerment. I deserve every consequence out there. God’s grace is the only reason I don’t have them.
And really? I knew it. Even at the time.
And I didn’t quit drinking.