Some of you may have noticed that my recent articles are devoid of many of the brandy stains that accompanied my contributions. Granted, these new articles will still have the odd typo here and there or a few comma splices, because I only proofread articles for which I am paid, and those always take top priority.
By comparison, my time on the bottle was brief. In hindsight, I don’t have anything to complain about, nor do I have any sense of something left undone: a final mix not tried or a particular high (or low) not reached. I can put this ‘phase’ behind me as I did with masturbating to Japanese porn and spending my all my money on cars and guitars.
The power of alcohol cannot be denied. It has been said that alcohol is both the cause of and solution to all of life's problems, and few people know better than some members of my family. I went to bolster the vineyard's frontlines at the ripened age of 25, as the old geezers started washing out their puke buckets and hanging up their bottle openers.
You see, a few dire warnings from doctors and some salvation work by the church had cost my family a few heavyweight drinkers over the last couple of years. Outsiders try to put a positive spin on this and say that at least some ‘smart’ people in my family regained the vertical, but many of the old-timers still carry on the tradition, such my recently departed grandmother who died with a bottle well within reach.
By my math she was on the bottle longer than Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne. (Respect gran!)
It has been a reflective three years for me since I first shouldered my crate. Alcohol helped me overcome many things in my life, but it also forced me to succumb to many others. It also helped me through tough times, but sometimes made times tough, too.
I never really felt like I could totally control it, but it also never really had total control over me... a compromise many are not so lucky to have. But before I talk about the boring sober future that now awaits me, perhaps I should digress and reminisce about the sloshed past from whence, at least, one side of my family come.
They say that long ago, the surnames given out in accordance with the family business or trade. In South Africa you don’t see much of this legacy anymore, but in Singapore there are still entire families who do nothing but knead dough and make noodles--as they have for the last nine generations! I don’t know what my surname means, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with a brewery… or a bottle store.
Somewhere in the middle history of my bloodline there must have been a distillery parked on a hill in the German countryside. I'm pretty sure that this distillery was stocked only with private reserve and frequented exclusively by its owners.
Though, if the speculation that my dad's side of the family are actually runaway Jews is in fact accurate, then it still takes no effort for me to imagine my great grandfather bringing hope and courage to the other Jews incarcerated at Auschwitz as he circulated a bottle he had smuggled in upon his capture! I can just imagine the old bugger starting the morning with a sermon to enliven the camp: blessed are ye who drink, for thy stories will be thrilling!
Perhaps our relentless consumption of this natural embalming fluid is also the secret to our health and longevity. We don't die; we just keep on drinking. Though, on my mother’s side of the family, the story reads like the tragic fate of a peasant family decimated by the black plague that ravaged much of Europe in the Middle Ages.
Those who were not afflicted with fucking Rimmitiek Koors, Lek Hart, or some surplus vertebrae at birth simply drained their own life force through hard work and stubbornness. Spirits enliven the spirit of the drinker and thus contributes to his long and stress-free life! But tell that to the church-going kings and queens of gossip and hypocrisy that constitutes my mother's side of the gene-pond!
As a child I used to listen to my mother recount the horrific death of her mother’s youngest sister. The child pulled a pot of boiling water all over herself and consequently died. Perhaps it would have been better had her parents been too drunk to boil water in the first place. (Sometimes having drunk parents can save your life!) Another story detailed how my grandma's brother died at age 27 from a heart attack.
I'm 28, out of shape and still drying off from my dip in the booze pool, and I have yet to suffer a decent ass cramp! To cut a series of tragic stories short, while the Yugoslav side of my ancestry dropped dead in the fields, one after another, the Jewmans (Jew-Germans) were raking their hops and sticking it away a bottle a day!
There was, however, one person on my mother's side of the gene-fence who did not go out like a potato farmer: my uncle, a lone warrior who faced life bottle in hand, so to say. Word around the dinner table is that he was supposedly poisoned by 'that woman' he lived with.
Of course, his three-decade long genocide of Castle Lagers, coupled with his unabated massacre of bottles of Bolls brandy, could not possibly have causing his liver to rupture at age 58! What absurdity! It was all a plot by 'that woman' to get to his pension. I would be surprised if he had much of a pension left, for the company and services of alcohol are not cheap - not even in South Africa where the Rand per little of poison is free from obsessive taxation.
More recently, though, I had to hear how my younger brother finally got his dream job. He was working as a barman at a nearby pub, and his boss had no problem with him taking his salary in liquid form! After a few weeks, the owner had seen the thirst of a Jewman, first hand, and realised that his livelihood may soon be at stake... and so the inevitable dismissal commenced.
So, here I am. Even with such a soaked past, I seem to be the only one who did not get lost in the vineyard. Rather than a warning or a boasting, I think more this article is like the final log of a depressed rebel who realises that his career as an alcoholic is a stillborn. Some days I feel as if I am being robbed of my freedom by my marriage, work, and society's fucking depressing conformity rule that we all have to 'grow up' and become 'responsible,' some day.
I know that when I'm under the influence of Satan's Oros I am sometimes not on my best behaviour, but the depths to which I could experience myself, my own happiness, and my own pain always seemed to me like the pinnacle of consciousness.
Needless to say, I can't promise that I will let my throat dry out completely (I still have my whiskey fetish). I have sufficient time away from the peering eyes of those who only want to see the negative in the situation to chug down a few cold ones or a half-jack . But, is this what it has come to: I have to be subversive about my drinking to sustain some relationship with alcohol? People just don't get it.
We can't all be satisfied with the mundane, the daily, and the ordinary. For some of us, life is a series of highs and lows and the more amplified these polar opposite emotions get, the more we feel alive.
I have much to be thankful for and proud of, but what I want most is just a Friday night where I can get drunk in peace and not hear about the wife's office tragedy regarding the lost and found stapler, or my employers latest call for overtime because the new customer can't read the instructions given to them!
Alcohol was my social airbag. Drunk as a lord, I could walk away without shame, regret, or a fractured ego from events that would be to others like salt to a snail. It seems that around every corner is someone waiting on me just to tell me how much shit they have and how it is my job, duty, and responsibility to solve it for them! I can see why people become substance abusers.
Dealing with everyone's problems and not having an outlet for one's own is the road to ruin. I seriously think that society expects us to grow up just so it can pass its responsibility to us and remain irresponsible and carefree.
Just something to think about for those of you facing similarly non-alcoholic choices.
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