drinking darkness by Phil Hilfiker
Lately, I am sorting thoughts about alcoholism and how it has touched me and members of my family. I don't dwell on it very often, but when I do I tend to dig deep. Inevitably, I read from three topical books that have been the most insightful and enlightening for me in my own sobriety. Each time I gain more insight and am further enlightened. The following excerpt is from one of those three books.
-from A DRINKING LIFE--A Memoir, by Pete Hamill:
If there's another Depression, he said, you'll always work.
My mother said nothing. I was beginning to understand what the Depression had done to both of them. I took the test for the Navy Yard and passed.
That summer, I was in another kind of depression. Day and night, I felt that I'd lost my way. It was as if some long steady tide were flowing out of me, the waters rising in my skull and then tumbling me along with that tide I couldn't control. It seemed absurd to think anymore about being a cartoonist. Or a bohemian. Maybe everybody was right, from my father to Brother Jan: it was arrogant, a sin of pride, to conceive of a life beyond the certainties, rhythms, and traditions of the Neighborhood. Sometimes the attitude was expressed directly, by my friends or the Big Guys or some of the men from Rattigan's. More often, it was implied. But the Neighborhood view of the world had fierce power. Who did I think I was? Who the fuck did I think I was? Forget these kid's dreams, I told myself, give 'em up. Do what everybody else does: drop out of high school, go to work, join the army or navy, get married, settle down, have children. Don't make waves. Don't rock the boat. Every year I'd do my Easter duty, whether I believed in God or not. I'd drink on the way home from work and spend most weekends with my friends in the saloons. I'd get old. I'd die and my friends would see me off in Mike Smith's funeral parlor across the street from Holy Name. That was the end of every story in the Neighborhood. Come on: let's have a fucking drink.
I didn't know it at the time, but I had entered the drinking life. Drinking was part of being a man. Drinking was an integral part of sexuality, easing entrance to its dark and mysterious treasure chambers. Drinking was the sacramental binder of friendships. Drinking was the reward for work, the fuel of celebration, the consolation for death or defeat. Drinking gave me strength, confidence, ease, laughter; it made me believe that dreams really could come true.