We Choose Our Own Poison
I never hit rock bottom
But I could see it a few times.
It would be nice, in a simplistic effort to pare away the extraneous bullshit, to blame alcohol. Sure, booze had a hand in my downfall. Sometimes two hands, either figuratively wrapped around my own throat, or literally wrist deep in the ice bucket. Choose your simile.
But this is a rather easy chicken and egg conundrum. The problems and issues that drove me, both conscious and unconscious, were embedded well before alcohol became my escape of choice. And therein puts to rest the alcohol issue. It’s where I chose to look for respite once my problems became overwhelming. And though with sporadic success, this route has been the one I have taken.
It got to the point where alcohol circumvented my personal quandaries as my worst enemy. I’d replaced the psychological demons with a liquid demon. When looked at this way, there is an odd sort of sensibility to it. Alcohol is, was, a way of coping. I’d take it over denial any day, and twice at Happy Hour. Ideally, sure, I’d love to have conquered my doubts, locked them away, rendering them feckless and fangless.
That last option, as with most ideals, of course, exists only in the mind. Man’s demons have always been stronger than man. The better opponent, the more resilient foe. Stories and legacies of man’s triumph over evil exist, but pale next to man’s surrender to, and prostration in front of, evil.
It’s not even an ongoing battle, but a struggle that was lost centuries ago, and has evolved only slightly over history. We gussy up the conflict with flashy terminology and pithy phrases designed to render toothless the single most fundamental conflict known to man: good versus evil.
We have allowed the dupes in the psychological profession to slap useless band aids all over the problem with nary a result other than creating delusion. ‘Syndrome’ this, ‘complex’ that; this ‘disorder’, that ‘condition’. All meant to obfuscate. Maybe not consciously designed for that purpose, but the end result is the deflection of the ultimate fruitlessness of the struggle. Giving people false hope through pharmacology or ‘feel good’ phraseology is fraudulent at best, dangerously destructive at worst.
I’ve had no therapy, no drugs prescribed to ‘help’, and have not bought into any of the medical world’s compunction to label afflictions in a way that people can blame something, anything else, but themselves, for their predicament.
Has it been fun? For the most part, hell no. I don’t remember, however, anyone promising me that life would be fun. Outside of the world of dealing with personal demons though, my life has been, in pockets, compelling, interesting, stimulating and yes, even fun.
These lyrics by Jimmy Buffett come close to putting this mindset into perspective for me, from his song “If It All Falls Down”:
“If it all falls down, falls down, falls down
If they solve my life, if they find me out
Never thought to keep all I have found
I have had my fun if it all falls down
If it all falls down, falls down, falls down
I have had my fun, I have bought a few rounds
And been out on the town, way out on the town
Way, way, WAY out, if it all falls down”
Some of these lyrics are worth interpreting. He writes about interesting issues we all probably think about.
“If they solve my life, if they find me out”: A vague but interesting reference to having given up trying to figure his own existence out, the ‘why’ of his life, and simply laying his cards on the table and letting others figure it out, define it, and then pigeonhole him. He’s tired of trying to solve the riddle, and instead chooses to simply live it. Anybody who knows Jimmy Buffett realizes he has packed more life into his stay on earth than most people.
“Never thought to keep all I have found “. What’s the point? He clearly, early in his life, chose to Carpe Diem, live for today as tomorrow is promised you by no one. No reason to hoard material things. Sure, he has his toys, but he could drop them in a heartbeat for an island, a hammock and a twelve pack; strumming his six strings till he moves on to his island in the sky.
“I have had my fun; I have bought a few rounds”. My favorite lyric, maybe out of all of this prolific songwriter’s lyrics. This speaks to me. I interpret it as Jimmy’s tropical, party animal vernacular hinting that he has done enough for his fellow man to keep his Karma squared up and in good standing. Using the metaphor of ‘buying a round’ is both classic Buffett, and incredibly evocative to those of us who imbibe. It is a powerful metaphor, and even more impactful when performed literally.
Jimmy’s approach, which could easily be painted with the brush of denial, though I don’t think it is, has worked for him.
Could I travel that road? Lord knows I have tried on more than one occasion. Living for the moment has proven to be my biggest hurdle. Turning the mind off to consequences, to the instinctive leaps my mind makes which are completely out of my control, the way it measures potential impact of my actions down the road. This makes staying true to the present very tough, and is something I battle to this day.
I love my mind. Hell, I’ve spent my entire life constructing it, I better love it. But as I grow older, I slip occasionally into a little fog where I long for moments, hours, even days where I could be void of reflective thought. Not stupid, or vapid. Just shucking the yoke of introspection for brief periods of my life, allowing myself to breath in the fresh air of the moment, to enjoy the sway of the hammock without concern about the angle of the sun.
In bringing this all the way back around to booze, that is what drinking has given me at times. A brief respite from me. Nobody likes themselves 24-7. Taking a vacation from me can be a wonderful journey (just ask my ex-wives) and I’m always able to return and fit back into the cargo shorts and loose fitting Hawaiian shirt, rub on the lotion, toss the little umbrella to the sand, and take a healthy slug of the Margarita.
I have bought more than a few rounds in my life.
And that will continue, as long as I do.