Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down

“Alright, I’ll see you later, dude” I said, as I slammed the door to my friends Chevy Sprint. The walk to my front door seemed like an eternity as I wobbled from side to side to reach it. I grasped the knob and turned it, almost falling with the door as it opened. I used the bathroom and stopped to look in the medicine cabinet mirror. Looking at my reflection and the cheesy grin on my face, I let out a bellowing laugh and left. I climbed into bed and turned out the lights, both the lamp and my brain.

Earlier that evening, I was preparing for my usual ritual. I donned my best shirt and jeans, grabbed my wallet and waited for my friend and his 3 speed wildebeest of doom. Sputtering into the driveway, he arrived. I got in the car and off we went. We both we laughing, whooping and hollering and chanting the mantra “Oh boy oh boy we’re gonna get drunk, we’re gonna get laid.” About 20 minutes later, we we’re there. I had adhered to the Black Swan’s beckon call.

I bellied up to the bar and was served my usual Corona. A lot of laughing and drinking transpired that night. There weren’t any single women there that night so I consciously checked of “getting laid” off my list. No matter, I’ll just get completely shitfaced and sing some karaoke instead. When I got to the stage I did an off key version of “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” but still got applause. The small studio audience that night didn’t care how bad you did. They usually don’t at that point of inebriation.

Now let me flashback and go below the surface. I had been going to bars since I was 13 and they were some really rough joints. I also remember taking my first drink of alcohol at age 8, from my dad’s homemade wine barrel. I’m sure most everybody takes a good shot or two when they are teenagers but by that time I was on my way to using intoxication as a crutch. I had the pot belly, the yellow skin (from a strict alcohol diet), and constantly empty bank account to prove it. I knew the names, Budweiser, Coors, Guinness, etc but did they know my name?

“Wake up, Jeff” I heard. It sounded like a thousand miles away. With one eye opened, I looked and saw the blurred face of my wife peering down at me. “Frank is on the phone and wants to know where to meet you at so you guys can carpool to Richmond today” she said. With a grating and breathless voice I said “tell him I’m sick” as I rolled over in bed. It felt like a womb to me. Appropriate since my excuse to Frank was pretty infantile.

And as I laid there with rubber thoughts it all became abundantly clear. I have no explanation as to why the thought came to me. It’s not like this was the first time I woke up with a bad hangover. But that kernel of clarity stuck with me and has been there for the past seven years. I can’t explain it and probably never will. No AA, no rehab, no 12 step program. After a decade plus of heavy drinking, I just stopped completely. Hard to believe that the same person who would come and greet me each drowsy and headache filled morning would point out the way to my salvation. I guess I liked it that way because I was a flop.

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