Alcohol killed me years ago

June 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

I can’t pretend I wasn’t warned or that I didn’t see what alcohol does to people first hand. There are a lot of heavy drinkers in my family. Both my mother and my father drank, as did many of their relatives. I don’t know if I can be called an alcoholic. I didn’t stop drinking because I hit rock bottom, sought out a higher power, or what have you. I simply stopped. I was about 29 and I stopped, and even today I couldn’t tell you why I stopped.

Before I stopped, however, I consumed. I was consumed, too. In fact, alcohol ate a lot of me before I was through with it.

My memory is rotten and full of holes because of it. Not my short term memory, nor even my memory of facts and dates and so on. Rather, what alcohol ate in my brain was my connection to my life.

I remember my past as if I were looking through a set of old albums left in a moldy attic in a house that burned. Images, snippets, the occasional scene blooms out into view, but even the things I remember I don’t inhabit. My childhood, my teen years, even my twenties are stories told to me by a me that hasn’t any real connection to the person I am now. A gossamer, a filament me, a ghost who wears a face I used to wear and whispers gibberish I almost understand. Alcohol is what I used to cauterize my past away.I started drinking when I was twelve. I remember sneaking Genesee Cream Ale out of the fridge in the basement of the house. I don’t even remember why. It tasted awful. I know that I was at that time abused by someone I trusted, but to be honest I only know that because I remember a psychiatrist telling me that’s what happened. That was four years later, and I’d already been drinking long enough that I’d forgotten it, at least consciously.

The strange thing about it is that while I have no road back to the memories, the memories are still there. I can be sitting in the living room with my wife watching TV and suddenly I’ll be flooded with emotions, images, sounds, smells I can feel as if they were happening to me at that moment. Divorced from context, these burst against the mind and then like fireworks leave trails I can’t relate. My childhood is still buried down there, clawing at the walls, but alcohol has burned the maps and I have no idea how to go there on my own.

It’s hardly just bad memories I lost. I couldn’t tell you what my first time with a woman was like, or how I felt the first time I sold a poem to a magazine. I know those things happened, but I don’t feel anything, can just kind of vaguely see them out of the corner of my eye. I can squint and have an impression of my maternal grandmother, but in order to remember her I have to tell a story about Thanksgiving and a stolen turkey. If I tell that story, I can see her face. If I’m not telling it, I don’t recall what she looked like.

This is all divorced from all the other negative side effects of alcohol poisoning. You’ve heard all that before. We all know about hangovers, violent behavior, emotional instability. What I most wish I’d known about though was that alcohol would kill the place between who I was and who I am, so that I stand here today with no memory of why I feel what I feel.

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