I walked out on our porch this morning and was greeted by the sound of a steady downpour as rain beat relentlessly upon the hard, dry ground. As I sat there listening to this heavenly music I realized that my body felt better than it had in a long time. What is happening? Well, for one thing, I gave up drinking awhile ago after realizing that I was a problem drinker. In the past year or so drinking vodka and grapefruit juice had become a daily ritual. Although I was drinking less than a pint per day it was playing mischievous tricks on me. I thought I could manage it but, alas, it was managing me.
There is a difference between problem drinking and alcoholism. I worked for many years with alcoholics and am familiar with the terrible toll it takes on people’s lives. Blackouts are a signature issue and the problems I can describe escalate into life threatening dilemmas once we have gone down that road. Problem drinking is different. It’s very simple actually. If your drinking is causing you problems it may be a problem and you “may” be a problem drinker.
I’m writing about it because it may help someone else. It’s like the retired carpenter who cannot resist building things for his friends, neighbors and kids. But, let’s face it, it’s also a cathartic experience . Blogging can be a healthy exercise for those of us who strive for better living in an often unhealthy world.
A problem drinker may find himself cringing when he sees a comment he made on FB last night. Or he may tell his wife that he is more entertaining after he has had a few drinks. Or he could trip and land on his computer putting the hard drive out of commission.
So it is raining cats and dogs this morning as I sit here feeling very much a part of all of it. Memories of childhood rush in and I am in seventh shop class gazing out the window at a cemetery that solemnly separates our school from the daily rush of downtown traffic. The rain pours down and I wonder why building things matters since we all will end up next door eventually. It’s all so much like the sand castles we construct on the beach while the waves pound out their warnings and the surf prepares to swallow us whole with our dreams and expectations besides.
In spite of all these ruminations I finish my shop project, a small shelf with several coats of lacquer neatly layered between sessions of sanding with paper and steel wool. And I complete high school and college. Then I go to work and somehow complete a career working with other stragglers in the race to find the American Dream. I raise a gaggle of kids. And finally I find true love and a wonderful home where I can think, write and listen to the rain on a day that revives the red earth and keeps the carpenters who are adding an addition on to the house next door away from their project. Hopefully they will stay out of mischief today.
The home next door will be an architectural dream when it is completed. It has a huge outdoor fireplace in the backyard that is being framed to provide shelter for an amazing patio. Brick columns at least three feet square are spaced around the area and I can’t wait to see how they are connected finally with the fireplace.
Can’t wait? When it will all come down in time and eventually be doomed by the slow motion, creeping effect of urban blight? Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii in a day but the problems of the city drive builders further out into the woods in a slow motion flight from destruction. Places I lived in Richmond as a young man are almost unrecognizable as I drive through them now.
Richmond may become Rome some day but I still enjoy making sand castles, taking photos of beautiful things and watching someone add a lovely patio to their home. Watching children build their dreams in the sand conjures a delight that defeats the pain of knowing they will grow up and experience so many things I would rather they did not.
Drinking was a way of not dealing with these conflicting thoughts and emotions I suppose but I have no desire to wake up in the morning and cringe when I turn on the computer and wonder how those comments look in the light of day. My wife tells me I am “not myself” when I drink and my daughter probably doesn’t even know who I am at this point. So there was a moment not long ago when I realized I cannot drink.
Problem drinker or alcoholic…….either way drinking is not an option if one wishes to live a productive life.
I do not want to be the one who destroys any part of someone’s hopeful day. And I feel so very well on this solid, rain embraced morning. Yesterday I went with Zachary and Janet to see the addition to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. They have made it one of the most impressive art museums in the country. And last night Zachary told me it was his last day smoking cigarettes. He says I inspired him to quit smoking.
Such a sweet kid. That’s his way of saying he REALLY HOPES Dad will put the Salty Dogs away for good! You have to love the way they tell you things.
They make you want to build things too. I’m pretty bad with a hammer and a nail but I try every once in awhile to put something together. Mostly I try to construct things out of words and ideas. My hope is that a good idea has a life of its own and will last forever. It will not rust, mold or decay.
I hope to reach out and touch it in a moment of quiet certainty.