The Things I Miss.
I’m pretty healthy these days. I haven’t had a drink in well over five years. I haven’t had any tobacco in more than four. I run. I’m happy. I know I’ve written about euphoric recall here; when we recall our drinking days as great fun and conviviality. When we can’t see the consequences and focus on what we loved about drinking. It can be a real stumbling block for some alcoholics. Especially when we have a little time, and are removed from the serious effects of our drinking. I have bouts of that – all of us do – but for the most part it’s not a factor for me. Because I don’t really miss the good days.
I miss the sickness. My disease is one of seductive degradation. Of deliberate self-destruction. I saw something artistic and important about being a drunk, a smoker. A cutter. I took on a narcissistic depression. I imagined I was some intellectual – studying math and reading literature and writing poetry and composing music and drinking and smoking and bleeding in the bathtub. I fantasized that my diaries would be read posthumously like Dickinson’s poems. Grandiose arrogance intertwined with a virulent hatred of my self.
I say I miss the sickness. I don’t miss it. Being liberated from that is now the core of my foundational identity. But I remain, from time to time, compelled by the juvenile impulse to self-destruction for the sake of self-destruction. Waste for the sake of watching things burn.
It changed when I realized, and I still don’t quite know how, that my behavior and my fantasy of my future were incompatible. If I was to be successful, happy, have a family, gain the respect of my community, I couldn’t proceed along the path I was walking. Crawling. No matter how much the spiritual squalor appealed to me. What I was doing wasn’t leading me to what I knew I wanted.
And so I found that I had to make changes to either my behavior, or to my dreams. A lot of alcoholics make a different choice that I did. I wish I knew what the difference was. I wish I knew what it was that allowed me to change, when so many die. But I don’t. All I know is that I did not have the power to change alone. My best efforts led to me staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, full of hatred and shame, with another shot of vodka, forcing myself to watch myself drink it. When I knew it was lethal to me and to those I loved.
Now, I don’t miss the alcohol much. I know I would still love the taste, and the effect. I know that a drink is both seductive and deadly. I don’t miss it much, because I know what it is. It’s just toxic anesthesia. The soap-bubble film I used to like to watch the world through, so I didn’t have to see it, to see me, as it really was. No. I don’t miss the alcohol.
What I miss sometimes, it hating myself enough to drink it.