Today, as a recovering man there are so many things in my past that leave me laughing hysterically at the absurdity of my old ways of thinking; it’s like watching a tragic comedy.
It wasn’t until several years into my sobriety before I began to understand why I was willing to sacrifice so much to remain in my addictions.
Back then, the word sober felt like a death sentence to me. I remember hearing a guy say, ” that was a real sobering experience,” while referring to some shit show happening in his life and thinking to myself, ” man… it sucks to be him.”
It wasn’t until I began rewriting my own life story and going back to edit some scripts that no longer served me, that I began to understand.
In my personal story, men and beer went together like ham and cheese. From the day I was old enough to be aware of my surroundings I associated alcohol with everything good in my life. As a little boy, I’d watch my dad and his six brothers playing volleyball or softball while enjoying their ice cold beers and I couldn’t wait to be one of them. Even today, when the scent of beer drifts my way I get that warm, safe feeling while remembering dad kissing me goodnight after we said our prayers.
I didn’t experience some of the horror stories of many friends who were victims of violence and abuse at the hands of their drunken parents. My dad was a kind loving father and still is today. I associated beer with love and one’s ability to express it. In hindsight, I see that it didn’t have that same effect on me when I got drunk because I just became an asshole.
It would be many years and many relapses before I came to the awareness that I viewed alcohol as my rite of passage into manhood and my greatest fear was in not knowing how to be a man without a drink.
I guess you could say the bar was my mitzvah.
At least, that’s how I perceived it. After all, every male role model in my life, to that point loved their drink. Outside of my family, my idols were men like Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. From the time we visited his home on a class trip in the second grade, I knew I wanted to be just like him. Everything about him fascinated me, including his passion for alcohol. One of my favorite quotes from him was
“Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself or others. And NEVER refuse to take a drink under any circumstance.”
I didn’t realize at the time that I couldn’t do both of those things together. As my love for the pen and paper grew I became a fan of many more great writers who also shared this passion. Men like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Poe.
Then, there was my passion for sports- particularly baseball.
Mickey Mantle was God to me during my early years in little league. Anyone who grew up loving baseball in those years probably knows all about his relationship with booze. I remember watching a game where they had to retrieve him from the outfield in a golf cart because he was too drunk to stand up.
Mickey was so much of a man that he even had Man in his last name.
My third passion was rock and roll. I’m fairly certain that I don’t have to expand on how I associated drugs and alcohol with that one. These men didn’t just have the creative juices that so attracted me but they also had another allure that I was now passionate about as a young boy in puberty…CHICKS. In my mind, they were the epitome of manhood at its finest because they were getting laid even more than the athletes. It didn’t even matter that some of them looked like ugly women themselves.
Later I realized that these men were all great in spite of their love for alcohol and not because of it. By then the marriage between booze and manhood was deeply buried in my subconscious beneath many layers of bullshit. It would take years of recovery and personal development to unearth this unholy matrimony and begin to discover what being a man truly meant to me.
Today, as I see the whole man in all his archetypes as that King, Warrior, Mystic, and Lover I realize that adding a fifth one called drunkard just doesn’t fit for me.
Previously published on Life Beyond Clean