Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / Themes / Stupid Stories /
I’m sorry to report that alcohol, which had come several years after the tobacco, didn’t get similarly set aside within a similar period after my last cigarette. But get set aside it did. A couple of decades later. Again, I had a business problem to solve. Again I thought temporarily-constant sobriety would help. But I wasn’t doing it. It wasn’t the start of Lent. There was no sore in my mouth. I needed a trigger, some seed for the rain drop to form around. I was losing my trust in myself. What if I vowed? To myself? And then didn’t keep it? That would be worse to my ego than killing myself and five other people, even my family, in a wreck.
I needed a trigger. A vow would be fine, but I’d have to make the vow to someone. What friends I had were no good. I didn’t want to mention it to them. Either they had the same problem, so I couldn’t trust their conversation on this issue; or they didn’t, so ditto. Neither did I want to walk up to a stranger on the street and say, “Excuse me, but I vow to stop drinking not for a day, not for a week, but till I’ve solved my business problem.” How would they know whether I kept it? No, it had to be someone, like the doctor when I was twenty-one, who I could report to, who could see whether or not I was telling the truth. (See .) There are strangers you can impose on at their invitation, strangers you can hire. I went to a psychologist. “How can I help you?” “Tell me to stop drinking until I’ve solved my business problem.” “OK. Stop drinking.” “Thank you.” I got out my check book and got up to leave.
“That’s it? Are you sure you don’t need something else?” “That’s it. I’ll be fine. Thank you.” “If you need to be told to stop drinking, you can’t give it up, just like that.” “Oh, yes I can. You just watch me.” “How can I watch you? You’ll never come back again.” “Oh, yes I will. I’ll make an appointment once my business problem is solved. You’ll be able to see. I intended that all along.”
Somehow she talked me into coming again the next week. She was astonished. Not that I’d been drunk at the previous meeting, I hadn’t been. Just dehydrated. Hung-over. Used-up. I’d spent a lot of time dehydrated, hung-over, and used-up. I’d never been drunk all the time. Just too often.
Long before that week was up I’d realized something that had astonished me: my business problem that couldn’t be solved with my former habits couldn’t be solved while my wits were at their sharpest: not by me, not with the other people involved being who and what they were. It’s being a problem hadn’t been an illusion; the illusion had been that sobriety and hard work could solve it. (Who knows? I may go into detail on that situation someday. But not in this file.)
So screw it. Have a party? No. I’d been having the best time in years not having a party. My balance was even coming back. For a while there I’d noticed that I no longer hung out over the railing of my 6th floor terrace on the beach.
Have you too experienced what it’s like to smell freshly mown grass years after you’d forgotten that it had a smell? Have you too experienced the power you feel when you don’t relapse six months later? Have you too awakened filled with joy that you don’t
have a raging thirst? Do you know what it’s like to drive down the highway late in the afternoon and realize that you’ve finally stopped noticing every single saloon? That you can actually go into one and just make a phone call? That you don’t owe it to them to spend more money (and vitality) there than you can afford?
To recapitulate the above theme, it didn’t take very long before an analogy to the cigarettes occurred to me. I hadn’t loved cigarettes; the addicted me thought I loved them. I didn’t love alcohol: I had never loved alcohol; sober me hated it!
The psychologist had said that I must never, never take another drink. I hadn’t even replied. I wasn’t there for advice. If she’d added that to the command I’d originally requested from her, I’d have told her to fuck herself and looked for another witness. Or maybe put it off and still be drinking, if I were still alive. Who else would I have gone to? I’d long since learned that trusting a pastor was misplacing your trust. I don’t believe I could have taken a permanent vow. I sincerely believed that I liked at least part of what the alcohol did for me. But within a few days of the first day, before the psychologist had gilded the lily, I was already beginning to think: this is great. You might want to keep this up.
And I did.
I did quit drinking. Apart from once thinking that a friend’s scotch and soda was my ginger ale for the duration of one sip, I made no slips for a decade and a half. When I was diagnosed with hypertension and told that alcohol in moderation was therapeutic, I let my girlfriend talk me into being served one glass of wine with dinner. Then, visiting a restaurant with a friend’s wife while he played Dixieland clarinet on the stand, we ordered a carafe. Then another. Within a month I’d find a beer amid the ginger ales in the cooler of the boat. My son comes. I offer him wine with dinner. “I don’t want to drink with you, Dad.” Then I noticed an economy size bottle of wine in my studio. Where did that come from? You put it there yourself, you egregious ass-hole.
Don’t misunderstand. That time in the club I know my cheeks had warmed up a little. I felt the blood coursing. But I’d hadn’t been so much as tipsy since the late 1970’s. Still, one glass had become more than one glass. I’d tried to warn my girlfriend: “If I ask for a second, then stop giving me a first.” Now here I was hiding a second glass. That’s when I made my first permanent vow. Half a dozen years ago. I envy Catherine for seeming to have a totally non-addictive personality. For others of us, moderation is not an option.
People who are drinking can’t think. I don’t believe too many people who are sober can either, but I iterate: don’t trust anything a drinker says about drinking while he’s drinking. Put him in a cage.
By the way: do you want to hear the most ruthless solutions to narcotics addiction? Listen to the junkies themselves. No mealy-mouth schmuck social-worker or politician would dare say what the addicts themselves say. I know. You want to hear one-world politics? don’t waste your time at some liberal college: go to a methadone clinic. To stop narcotics addiction, you have to stop narcotics. To stop narcotics, you have to stop nations from having different laws and borders. No pussyfooting. Stop them.
Addicts know no shame.
Giving up booze had an unlooked-for effect on my life. Unexpected, it was not altogether unwelcome. I’d been a rich kid in a poor family in a very rich town. (Even my father wasn’t rich, lawyer though he was: he drank most of his career away.) I was gainfully employed throughout high school. My first job since the paper route was as a soda jerk. My mother declined to tolerate sixty-odd hours weeks for a sixteen year old, even in the summer, so I tried the supermarket. (“Dr. Knatz” is what they called me. It was an MD that they anticipated; none predicting the Ph. pursuit.) I was there for years. (This supermarket catered to Jewish émigrés from the Bronx: man, could those guys carve lox! you could see through it!) After high school I retired from the grocery and “appetizing” line to join the town’s parks department. Cutting grass, whipping weeds, painting fences, even digging an occasional ditch … It was a nice change. The following summer I let them move me over to garbage removal: better pay and much better body building. And I’ve never had regular, if you don’t count a bit of teaching, employment since.
Naturally, I was behind in my college work after the first day. I am a slow, careful reader and however “good” I meant to be, I couldn’t let college interfere with the ten hours a day I had to listen to jazz, or all the science fiction I still had to read, or the time I needed to spend staring at the sky … It got worse once I was an upperclassman and women didn’t just come around: they stayed. Then I had to go and add movies as a new addiction. By the end of my sophomore year, I was hopelessly, permanently behind. For the first time in my life, I took a summer off: to study. Naturally, before I could do that, I had to visit the museums a couple of times, subway down to the Village a few times, get tanked at the Whitehorse Tavern …
Besides, I was on track for real money. Perhaps my rise through Columbia’s Refreshment Agency warrants a file of its own. But in a word: tipsy me was a millionaire; sober me can’t make a dime.
Less money, more freedom
The latter two files were added Spring 2001 when I’d given up chewing tobacco upon finding, not for the first time, pre-cancerous sores in my mouth. Three weeks later I found my belly expanding: and began chewing again. I was chaw free for most of 2002 but began again early 2003 as I found myself too chicken to get on the scale, my belly making me a person I didn’t recognize and didn’t want to know. This 2003 03 30 I put on a pair of new 32″ waist briefs and they feel just right. Another ten, fifteen pounds and I’ll be ready for the crew team again, or tennis.
I expend more energy fishing than most people would believe: what with rowing, padding, fly casting, wading through muck, through tangling lotus stems … But it’s nothing like running, skiing, tennis … used to be to me. Indeed, I used to burn thousands of calories just sitting still. Anyway, if I don’t quit the damn chewing for good once the next dozen pounds slide off me — and then keep myself away from the snacks — just shoot me. And, if I don’t shed that last dozen or so pounds, use a dum-dum: make it hurt.
2005 09 02 The chaw is with me still. My smallest pants fall down over my hips.
2012 Long gone, must have been 2005 or 06 I finally got severe. But that nicotine is insidious, keeps retempting.