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An Alcoholic’s St. Patrick’s Day.

17 March 2015

I guess this is the seventh March 17th in a row I’ll be sober. I have nearly no memory of St. Patrick’s Day as a drunk. Not because I was too drunk to recall, but because I never bothered to note it. I was a daily drinker. In the 5 years prior to my getting sober, I bet there were only 5-10 days I didn’t drink at all. And probably only 15-20 I didn’t get drunk. So for me, there was nothing special about the holiday. But for many other drunks, holidays were really special.

First of all, let’s dispense with the notion that all alcoholics drink or drank the way I did. Yes, I was a pretty common archetype, but there are no rules when it comes to alcoholic drinking. Science and medicine have defined “abuse” and “dependency” and those are useful for studying physiologic effects, etc.. But they don’t define alcoholism the way we do. The way that’s important for recovering from alcoholism. There are alcoholics who drink every day, like me. There are alcoholics who drink monthly. The frequency and the amount don’t define an alcoholic. We tend to use this:

When you drink, can you reliably predict and control how much you’ll have? Do you drink more than you want to, and do things that wish you wouldn’t?

People who answer yes to these questions may or may not be identified as alcohol abusers or alcohol dependent. But they are likely in need of recovery, lest they end up suffering severe consequences in their lives, and cause irreparable harm in the lives of others. Which is why people like this, like me, tend to hide their drinking. We pour vodka into coke cans, we hide bottles around the house. We fill the gin bottle back up with water. All the little things that add up to attempting to conceal how bad the problem is.

St. Patrick’s Day, and other drinking holidays (which, let’s be honest, is most of them), allow us to throw off the cloak. It’s socially acceptable to get drunk today! No one can hector us and criticize us. The whole world is drunk today! Why shouldn’t we be as well?

The answer, of course, is long and categorical. First of all, we alcoholics manage to get far too drunk even for other drunks. We ruin even things that are centered around inebriation. I’ve done my share of that. And yours. And as well, when we are able to drink in public, instead of in secret, our resentment at having to hide our ordinary drinking often reveals itself in hateful ways. Recriminations against those who love us but who want us to be different. Against bartenders who think we’ve had enough. Against decorum and society itself.

But I preferred the closet. Or strangers. I preferred to drink around people who wouldn’t judge me. Didn’t hate me. I liked to drink alone and in quiet. I could get what I needed from the alcohol and not have to justify myself to anyone or expose myself to greater risks than I was used to (driving drunk was habitual.).

I find the ridiculous paeans to drunkenness of St. Patrick’s Day mildly annoying, at least at some point during the day. I can often tell who’s spiraling toward irretrievable alcoholism and who’s just having a fun time. Not always. But I’m not tempted by the holiday. I count myself lucky for that. I know lots of sober drunks who really miss it on the manufactured drinking holidays. March 17th. May 5th. I’m fortunate that those have never been stumbling blocks for me.

Because I still like to be alone. Or, now, in intimate company. Real companions, quiet places. I just don’t need the alcohol to be there anymore. So go enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day. Get drunk if you like. I’ll be going to the gym after work, and then relaxing in the bath. Without my booze. Without my razor blade. I have roasted pork loin in the fridge. And a much simpler life than I used to. And a much happier one.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    17 March 2015 08:00

    I too never saw St. Patrick’s day as a drunken day when I was drinking. In fact, I didn’t even notice that others were doing so. Maybe that is because I quit drinking 34 years ago and the hype/marketing machine hadn’t gotten in full swing. I agree with the false belief that I had cover of attending events where the normies let their hair down. I would think everyone is getting hammer and people will just think I am doing the usual wedding reception drinking. One of the great surprises of sobriety is that very few people get drunk at even wedding receptions and birthday parties. Virtually none of them pee in potted plants! I had no coverage and that’s why people were angry with me! I agree with your concept of alcoholism. If you need to control it, it is probably out of control.

  2. 17 March 2015 09:57

    Frankly… I hate St Patrick’s Day when I was drinking. My main weapon of self-destruction was Guinness. Now whilst not unpopular in any average pub on any normal day I’d be in a very small minority drinking it. Now Guinness requires a slow pour… the settle whilst you pay the barperson and then then top up. If you are the only person drinking it you get a personal service.

    Then along comes 17th March and they all come in and start claiming that they love the black stuff since their wife’s Uncle’s Wife’s Second Cousin once lived in Dublin therefore they are flipping Irish now. So suddenly everyone is drinking MY drink. I’m not given the nod by the barman to start pouring my next one when I get to a certain point on the one in my hand. He has too many Guinness’s to serve so I have to wait! WAIT!!! FOR MY DRINK!!!!

    Frankly… it’s a blessing I don’t drink any more – one St Patrick’s Day there would have been a bloodbath I tell you…

  3. Syd permalink
    20 March 2015 10:51

    That society celebrates getting drunk baffles me and certainly points out that eventually many of these people will have problems. Hopefully, they will get into the rooms of AA where there is a chair waiting.

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