A life in addictions: alcohol

Initially it was my intention to start my series of articles about addictions with the addiction to alcohol because it is such important one in my family and such a persistent and insidious habit overall.

Unlike smoking, the consumption of alcohol is still widely accepted and even seen as a welcome act. There are many advertisements that show a happy person, a joyous couple or a merry group of friends drinking or about to drink. Or not even drinking, but being associated with a drink. I recall an advertisement of whiskey that shows an attractive couple in a woolen shirts, all done in a warm brownish color scheme,  laughing.  Then a brand of whiskey is shown whose colors scheme matches that of the clothing and surroundings of the couple.Drinking beer is associated with friends and couples(lovers) having fun in pubs, bar or at concerts and the like. Fun is no fun unless you drink alcohol. That is the message.

Why do people actually drink alcohol?

The simple explanation is: because everyone else does and because alcohol is a relaxant. It helps in socializing. Like many addictions alcohol is one that you pick up from your friends and family.  You drink, because they drink. And if you refuse to drink you are frowned upon or even made fun off. Alcohol is almost an unique addiction because other people, not companies, actively promote the use of alcohol.

“A round of beer for all!”

“Yeah!” the group of friends roar.

“Not me.. I want a spa.” A lone figure raises a finger..

Ho-hum. Everyone thinks.

Eventually you don’t need your friends to drink : you learn to drink alone. I got a friend like that. He is also an alcohol addict. He has been off the bottle for years now, but it never let’s you go I understand. He has been off the bottle several times.  I asked him why he drank and he said that he gets lonely and then drinking makes you forget that. At least for a short while. Then you drink some more and eventually you try to be continuously intoxicated: just to forget your misery. It mirrors his inability to properly connect to people. That is because people suck. Most people have such high demands of others or better: the perceived demands of others, that you can never live up to.

My father was also an alcoholicus. Even more than I thought he was. He would start drinking in the afternoon and by seven in the evening he was so drunk he fell asleep on the couch. I think he would have had something like two or three liters beer. Perhaps even more.Years later I heard from my mother that he would rise late in the evening and then go to the local dinner and buy himself some more beer. This whole procedure would then be repeated the next day. And the next. And the next. On and on.

My mother drank wine. She didn’t drink like my father did and certainly not every day. She somehow never got into the habit or if she did I didn’t notice it. My brother never drank.

A few years ago I started to become annoyed with drinking. It is fun to drink at times, but I was starting to make a habit of it. I would drink a set amount at a set day. Mostly to keep it in check, but even then I noticed I needed more to get the sense of ‘happiness’.  So overtime I started to drink more and more.  I started to busy myself with combinations of beer. Like drinking beer in order of alcohol percentage. I also started to experiment with more stronger beverages, like vodka. Vodka can be mixed with something else to make it more interesting. Coca-cola for instance.

A year ago I decided to stop drinking unless there was something special like a party or a dinner. The reason was that it got in the way of my art and writing aspirations. I would drink and feel drowsy unable to do much more than play games.  The next day I would feel groggy. It prevented me from doing what I wanted to do.

So I stopped basically because I wanted to write about it. Seems this is good from something. At least for me.

I still do not like the way people consistently downplay the use of alcohol. Especially their own. I have worked for companies that arranged parties near highways because that made it easier for the employees to come. Many would drink one beer or one glass of wine, because they knew what they were doing, according to themselves. Over time one becomes two or three.

“But I know when to stop.” they will say, “I am in control.”

Thing is.. if you are really in control you would not need to stop: you would not have started at all.

And stating that you are in control when drinking while you know you are going to drive home later in the evening is an statement of the reverse. You are not in control: the alcohol is.

As I said before: it is an insidious habit helped along by people telling you it is cool, while they are making excuses and glossing over that they are consistently and persistently drinking, even at times that they don’t need to.

What is more is that alcohol is also almost unique as an addiction as  it can kill other people. It probably causes more deaths than any other addiction. Deaths of others I mean.

You might wonder yourself how addicted you actually are. Try and stop for a while or try and refuse a drink offered by another or try and have a dinner with someone else and not drink(or smoke). You might be surprised how often you drink and how it is slowly taking over your life.

Bottoms up!

Signs of life: legacy

When my father died from a sudden brain bleeding I had my brother sign a paper together with me that rejected his inheritance.My brother was already diagnosed as a schizoid, so I had to tell him what to do. Not that he didn’t understand, but I had to tell him these things regardless for whether  he knew what was going on: he didn’t understand the consequences. .

Rejecting my fathers inheritance was no surprise to me, for I had already seen this one coming. The real surprise would be next year, when the tax office send me a letter telling me that I owed them taxes over sixty thousand. The reason for us to reject my father’s legacy was tied in with taxes however. Let me tell the tale.

“My father told me to get five thousand dollars as he was promised. ”

The young man behind the counter, I think he must be in his thirties, looked down on me. His face was set in a disapproving look. He was sitting next to two other people who sat behind the same grey counter handing out money the same way they were doing to me. The office was a shed that looked like a large sea container that was painted white overall on the inside and the outside, but was accentuated with grey at various points to break the monotony of white. Most of the paint had worn through.

I could have sworn he was about to spit, but he did not do so. Instead his hands disappeared under the counter and when they returned they placed an envelope on the counter. He took out a stack of bills and started to count them slowly. “One, two, three, four, five…”

All the while he did not look at the bills but at me. He ended at twenty-five.

“Twenty-five times hundred. That makes twenty-five hundred dollars. Twenty-five hundred, son. That is what is in this envelope.”

“My father said it was going to be five thousand. He said we need it for the holidays. They said they would pay that, because they owed him much more.”

He looked down on me for a long time. Then started to recount the stack ending at twenty five again. “Twenty-five hundred. That is what is in the envelope. That is all you get for now. He gets more in a few weeks.”

He handed the envelope to me, but just before I could take it, he snatched it away, “Count the amount and then sign here.” He pushed a paper forward. I had to count the money and then sign a paper.

A boy of fourteen.

I walked away, feeling his disdainful eyes following me.

My father was outside in the car. I told him the news. He did not say anything, instead stepped out of the car and walked into th eoffice. There was a lot of shouting as my father yelled at the guy behind the counter.. Eventually he left the office again. They had given him an additional five hundred dollars.

Without much words the incident was pushed aside into oblivion and we went on holiday, with two thousand less than was promised, but somehow it was enough.

“They never paid the full amount.” My mother told me later on.,

“It was all ‘black’ money. Unlisted money. To evade taxes. It was never in the books so there was never any proof what  they owed to anyone. It was how they conduct business. You can’t get any work, unless you do accept to work like that. Then they don’t pay you what they owe you. So they eventually owed my father tens of thousands of dollars, but then never paid the full amount.”  I got it. Like a drug. They gave you just enough to keep going, but never the full amount, because they knew you had no proof whatsoever. Eventually they owed you tens of thousands of money, perhaps hundred thousands as they never paid you the full amount. Always with the promise you get it next time, so you keep on going and the more they owe you the least likely you are going to stop.

“And then the taxmen came. They said: based on what you made previously or on you profile you ought to pay us this kind of money, but you never paid the taxes you owe us. And that times so many years.. It was a considerable amount. A huge amount.”

“Which you didn’t have as you never got it in full in the first place and what was spent was gone.”

“Then they declared you father bankrupt and there was this taxes due punishment for years hanging over his head..”

“Once you start to make money again, you have to pay taxes. And that is why we reject his legacy,” I said, “because any taxes my father has to pay has to be paid by his children after his death. That is how the taxes work. The sins of our fathers…”

And I signed the papers and had my brother sign them too. We both rejected his legacy, because there was nothing he had left us but a huge debt after his sudden death at fifty-three.

Signs of life 4: Fuzz

“No!”  Meena, the eldest of the two daughters said with an indignant expression on her face  when her parents proposed to go to the market fair.

Eve, the youngest, fell into an uncomfortable silence squeezing a plushie against her chest. She did not dare to go against her older sisters opinion, yet she feared her mother’s displeasure equally. She withdrew into the only direction she could: into herself.

“We never go to anything that we like. We always have to go to these boring things you like.” Meena continued waving her frail hand about,  ”I am not going and that is final!”

Harry, the father, tried to reason with her, but she was not going to listen: hormones and peer pressure were much more important for the budding teen than whatever considered arguments parents brought to bear.

Jane, the mother, then played the power card. “We all go and that is final!”

Meena grabbed her hand-held, stomped upstairs and closed the door of her room with such an audible bang that even the neighbors heard it. Everyone got that message. Then she started to whatsap all her friends that parents were the worst creatures in the universe by far and her parents were the vilest of the bunch.

Jane then shouted up the stairs that Meena should come down this instance or she would be facing a week of extra chores. Eve started to pout her lips and Harry began to tell Jane that maybe they should reconsider this fair business.

“See, even father doesn’t want to go!” Meena shouted, she triumphantly rubbed the words into her mothers face.

“I didn’t mean that!” Harry said, hearing how his words were being twisted into arguments for the defence.

“What then do you mean?”  Jane said. She felt slightly backstabbed by her husband but also knew that her eldest was twisting the knife on purpose. At the same time she saw her youngest discomfort and she grabbed Eve’s hand.
Harry smiled disarmingly at his wife. Meena had walked halfway down the stairs not wanting to give in to her mother, but also not wanting to face a week of extra chores. She looked down on the scene with her arms folded in front of her chest.

Purr the cat sat in front of the door that led to the garden. She mewed at it and glanced at them to see if they would notice. Purr was certain that door would open sooner or later, and if it didn’t  she would lie down on her cushion on the couch. From that vantage point  she would then stare at them with an expression that seemed to say: what on earth are you all doing?