Bottles, Blondes, Bombs

Medic! Sergio's been hit by a 30 pounder of Smirnoff and a jug of Merlot
“Medic, quick! Sergio’s been hit by a 30 pounder of Smirnoff and a jug of Merlot!”

War stories.

We’ve all got ’em.  We’ve all heard them.

There are some stories that describe harrowing and death-defying acts. There are others which are absolutely hilarious. And then there are some that make you hug yourself where you sit and thank God that those things didn’t happen to you.   I have none of those stories.  My bottoms and down-and-outs don’t involve dancing monkeys, ninjas or full SWAT team take downs.  I don’t have a funny tale of blacking out and finding myself in Saskatoon with one shoe, a tutu and a banjo handcuffed to my arm.  I don’t have an endless stream of bizarre and reckless episodes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  I can’t recount a time where I leaned over a tall bridge, broken and desperate, about to leap  into the dark brimming water below.  Those aren’t my stories.

In treatment, we were required at every Sunday in-house meeting to stand up, introduce ourselves and describe what had brought us there.  This opened up a raw and jagged world of painful memories, some even only a few scant days removed.  Men laid bare horrific stories of abuse, violence, rage, despair – and even some of the so-fantastic-they-couldn’t-have-made-it-up variety.  Most of these guys’ bottoms were heartbreaking in their breadth and depth and were punctuated with emotions so ragged and visceral that you could feel them practically dripping onto your own skin.  My “what brought me here” was pale and lame compared to the other guys’ shares.  I started to think that I didn’t belong there…with them.  The pathetic thing was that I was actually jealous of their stories.  I have to say it again. Ahem.  I was jealous of other people’s stories of how bad it got for them before they needed to get treatment for alcoholism.  How sick is that?  A counselor would later tell me that “you are where you need to be”.  Thanks, Joe.

When it comes down to it, I was just a run-of-the-mill, boring, lonely, angry drinker.  That’s it.  End of story.  I hid my drinking in the last few years, I rarely spoke to people, didn’t like being the center of attention, was never a party animal, tried to be a nice guy, tried not to rock the boat and was happiest when I could just be on my own.  So that definitely didn’t set the stage for titillating tales of steamy loose morals or dynamic bang-’em-up tales of bravado and crazy barroom antics.  Just a dull drunk.  So you can imagine why I would get upset when I heard other people’s stories – even at my reckless worst,  I was still boring!   Again, how sick is that type of thinking?  I should be grateful that I never go into hair-raising stuff.  I should be thrilled that I wasn’t in some bombastic police shoot up.  I should be chuffed that I wasn’t in a situation where I had a knife to my throat or was facing serious jail time.

And I am grateful.

But that is why I don’t talk much about my war stories.  I mean, I do have stories – don’t get me wrong.  I may not have actual physical wounds, but I do have the spiritual shrapnel, the emotional lacerations and the mental gashes to show for it, or at least I did early on.  But I don’t discuss war stories because they don’t serve me to do so.  The only times I tell them is when I am working with a newcomer or I am the speaker at a meeting.   In both cases, war stories (judiciously doled out) are the best way to connect with another alcoholic.  Alcoholics only listen to someone who has been there, who knows what it’s like.  By telling my story, I am plugging into another alcoholic.  They get me and I get them.  They know that I know what the deal is.  Boom, instant jazz between us.

Drink up lads...gotta give the  Huns something to talk about.
Drink up, lads…gotta give the guys at the home group something to talk about.

But other than that, there is no reason to get into the old stuff.  Identification, yes, glorification, no.  I gain nothing in the re-telling of my pathetic drinking.  I know other alcoholics know how to drink, so why bother describing my drinking?  We’ve all been there. And I am nowhere near into other people’s war stories as I was when I got into treatment and AA.  I still like to hear them – there are some doozies out there, but there isn’t much I haven’t heard by now.  It’s old hat. We’re old hat.  The wonderful thing now is that we get to stash those stories away and create new stories.  Like soldiers who have come back from the war, we trudge past the horrific sights and sounds we were a part of out on the battleground, learn to deal with and move past the pain and forge new lives with new insights and perspective.  We have a renewed energy. We learn to embrace life having gazed upon death, or possible death.

For me, the reverberations of bombs past may still echo now and then, but I live in today.  I live in hope.  I live for a new me.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I am jealous and awe of you because you didn’t use those horrific stories to excuse yourself out of recovery and back into the black hole. You didn’t tell yourself, “Hey, I’m not that bad, I’ve still got a ways to go.”
    I spent way too many years looking for stories more horrific than mine to justify my continued drinking. They got harder and harder to find. Even now I hear some, and I have to stop myself from thinking, maybe I wasn’t as sick as I thought.
    It doesn’t matter anymore, it only matters that we’re here.

    1. Thanks KMH – you are absolutely right regarding this. There is always going to be someone further down the line than we are, and I know many of us use that as a loophole to get back to a drink. You can see the progression, through your words, about finding it harder to find someone worse off than you. But you too are here with us, and that’s the most important thing 🙂

  2. sherryd32148 says:

    Don’t beat yourself up…I was, like you, just a plain old drunk without any harrowing tales. AND, like you, I was also jealous of others’ tales of woes.

    Sick? Maybe. Normal? Yes. We just wanted to find a place where we belonged and, at the time, we thought that if we didn’t have those same kinds of experiences, then we didn’t belong there either.

    So glad I’m past that. So grateful.

    Wonderful post.


    1. Hi Sherry – yeah, I have had to put that puppy to rest too. That comparison thing does come up for me, on all levels, but no where near how it was. When I do hear war stories, I am just filled with gratitude not only for myself, but for the person telling the tale, who has lived through it and are well again. Lots of miracles out there…and we’re examples of it!

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear (read) today. In a meeting today a gentleman approached me and said he had a friend who needs a sponsor, because she had been rejected by another woman in the program. And the simple reason was… lack of identification. I told him to have he call me, and I now know exactly how I can reach her, just as you described in your beautiful post. Thank you!

    1. That’s awesome! I am so glad to hear that you might be sponsoring another woman again (I believe you are sponsoring already? I could be wrong). It’s funny how the guys I work with are very much like me – quiet, shy, etc. My sponsor is quite the opposite of me…but it’s all good. Identification is so important. Only an alcoholic knows another alcoholic. Good luck with your protege!


  4. Boy, I hope I never come off like I’m glorifying my drunken past. That’s why I always throw in some mention of pants-pishing. Just to keep it grounded the humiliating and embarrassing cost of “a good story.”
    I certainly appreciated people sharing there sordid pasts with me when I was new. Because they seemed to be okay now, it gave me hope. But today, I get more out of other alcoholic’s stories of living in the solution. How they applied the principals to their lives and how that has brought back wonder and joy back into their lives.
    I guess the ideal little pitch is a pinch of this and a handful of that. That’s the recipe I’m trying to follow these days. Will keep you posted when disaster hits.
    Thanks for this, Paul. Good cracker!

    1. Ha ha…yes, we all have that pants pishing part to many of our stories, don’t we? Yikes. But what you said is bang on – I too appreciated, and even lapped up, the stories. I needed as hell to hear that others were like me, and even worse. And like you, they gave me hope that I too can be ok in the end. But as I mentioned, I have heard a lot, and after a while it starts to blend into one thing. So it’s living in the solution, and a lot of “how did you get past that?” kind of questions that interest me and keep me back in the rooms over and over.

      Thanks for being here – always love your insight here, and your blog!


  5. zachandclem says:

    Hahaha, my first CA meeting I meant to talk, but a girl started as I wanted to open my mouth. She took off on this incredible story about sedatives, crack, alcohol and court, and I was like………………………………………… Ok nevermind. What you wrote couldn’t have been easy to admit, it’s not exactly a story about your strength in sobriety… Or is it? 🙂 x

    1. Strength in my sobriety? Hmmm, I guess it’s a reflection of where I have been and where I am now, and hopefully about a shift in perspective and how I approach things. But I totally understand about someone going on in a meeting and doing a drunk (or drug-) alogue. I haven’t experience that too many times, which is fine by me. Those stories are great before or after the meeting, unless there is a tie in to the solution, and not just dwelling on the problem. That’s just my opinion 🙂

      So nice to see you here – thanks for the comments! I appreciate them 🙂


      1. zachandclem says:

        The fact alone that you recognize the jealousy that was in your heart, and can openly discuss it, is a sure sign of your strength to me.

  6. I have often thought I may have judged myself too harshly when I hear the worst of the worst drunk-a-logs during and after the meetings. I know that it takes what it takes to be done so I try really hard to focus in the solution and tell my story if what it was like in a ‘general way’! Keep seeking the solution!

    1. Yup…really important that we live in the solution and not the problem. I look back at how things were and hear how it has been for others, and I am just thankful beyond reproach at where I and others are at. Sober…happy, joyous and free. How incredible and miraculous is that?
      Thanks for stopping by…I look forward to reading more of your new blog!

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