Friday, July 1, 2011


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.



Anonymous said...

Lydia this is a great post - that was just how Sean was - in the end drinking became a reward for getting out of bed.

Strength to you for kicking it into touch - I know it couldn't have been easy.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

its very true that there's certainly an ethos in life that if you dont drink you're a bit weird

I very rarely drink and never to excess and there's a lot of pressure to conform - and as the piece above says its almost seen as the norm, what is expected that you will fry your liver each night

Have you read "A Million Tiny Pieces"? which was by a man coming off drugs. Herself enjoyed it a lot, although i was less enamoured

How approproate - the verification word is "hydrate" wierd!

distracted by shiny objects said...

Welcome back. Identify much with this post, except mine was a mother. And a father who stayed late, late, late at work. The fifties and sixties...
Got a lot of reading on your blog and catching up to do now that I'm up and about. I'll talk at you later, girlie :>)

Looking to the Stars said...

My foster mother drank her whole life. She couldn't live with the decsions she had made in life. Close to her death she asked for my forgiveness, I gave it but sometimes I feel that was an easy out for her.

Glad you cared about yourself to quit :)

Hattie said...

Wow. That is great. Isn't that what alcoholics hear: who do you think you are. I guess they drink in order to dumb themselves down to the low expectations on them.
I am moved by people who have achieved sobriety, some of them my good friends. Many of them dedicate themselves to restitution and are some of the best people in the world.

Rob-bear said...

Sometimes I think the life of contented sobriety is over-rated. But I'm continually reminded that it is better than a lot of other possibilities, even the "wisdom" of the "Neighbourhood," as Pete Hammil described it.

Lydia said...

jane~ As sad as your comment was about Sean's drinking in the end truly is, it also made me laugh. Your insights are just great.

Pixies~ "A Million Tiny Pieces" is not one I am familiar with. If Herself recommends it then I have put it on my (lengthening) reading list!
Cudos to you for the way you live your life (and for attracting the most appropriate word verifications recently!).

distracted~ So good to have you here. And, likewise, I have catching up to do at your blog. With the role models you had as parents it explains all the more why you are such a devoted mom. :)

Looking to the Stars~ If she was a foster mother appointed to your care by the state I am surprised that you were not removed from her home. Different rules applied in different times/states/cases. I'm glad you forgave her because what may have seemed like an easy out for her ultimately was a blessing for you...good to release the bitterness. xo

Hattie~ Your comment gave me much to consider and I loved it. I think many alcoholics hear "Who do you think you are?" and it warps into a false ego that makes them think "Do you know who I am?" As I said, lots to think about...

Rob-bear~ Now. Your first line is a stunner and gave me a real pause. That pause button is still pushed and I am still thinking about it.....



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