It’s good to remind myself that bourbon is tough on me. There are days when, no matter what the question is, bourbon is the answer. I like the burn, the smell, the complexity of tastes, strong & sweet, harsh & smooth, the way it burns out all other tastes in my mouth. A good, stiff drink. That’s what bourbon is.
It’s also pretty: amber, viscous, light-filled. Seductive. One large, melt-less ice cube, crystal glass, solid to the touch and taste.
When my job is crazy stressful, when my life is chaotic and wild, when the grief rolls over my stinking, naked body, when I am un-centered and ungrounded, bourbon is bad. That’s also when I crave it most. A quick (almost instant) way to erase the first layer of shit from my mind. A mind erasing elixir that takes the edge off my fear, my grief, my boredom, my self-loathing. The trouble is that after that first layer is mined away, it’s very quickly down the bourbon hole. (Happy birthday to Lewis Carroll, btw.)
Some nights the bourbon hole is safe and warm, a lovely place to hide. A few hours there, wake up groggy but blank—the mind erasing worked! I’m more clear. But in the other nights, the darkest parts of myself lie in that amber, awaiting: that drunken, lazy, mean, sad, lonely, pathetic, ugly, old, horrible troll living under the bourbon bridge. I’m so serious, so sad, so alone, and just barely alive.
Taking this to the shrink is always interesting. I’ve heard that all people have an inner critic (their own version of my bourbon troll) that lives inside. People have their foils, their nemeses, and their own access points to those inner critics. Mine is brown liquor, what’s yours? Dealing with all the hurt and rejection in a lifetime is a lifetime’s amount of work—an ongoing puzzle with missing and lost pieces that surface in the strangest places.
I know I’m scaring you. I promise that it’s okay. I’m becoming more and more aware of my bourbon troll and I’m avoiding bourbon as much as possible these days. My days are tough right now: work is crazy, grief is circling, chaos is swirling. I’m raw. It’s not time for a drink.
This is written and sounds as close to a full-blown alcoholic as I’ve ever sounded, but this is me getting really honest about my main addiction: death. I’m a super-processor, a super-feeler, a super-taster. There is nothing casual about me. I’m just not a casual girl (sorry brothers.) I’ve always flirted with, and at times craved, death. You are not surprised. I’ve said it before.
Because I feel it all, I’m so connected to my humanity; I need a break from all that "super" from time to time. I’ve found that break in thrilling myself scared with sex, love, drugs, bourbon, rock-n-roll, illegal cheeses, car crashes, railroad tracks, etc. All of these behaviors were thrilling as a young person. I was daring, and often, dared---sexy, brilliant, bold, magnanimous, mysterious, ALIVE, young. In middle age, these behaviors are disgusting and frowned upon. (Oh, how I hate to be frowned upon. Please don’t frown at me.)
I’m learning new behaviors—ways of coping. The shrink helps with that too. It’s about measure and pacing for me. Taking my time to consider why I’m drinking, why I’m driving so fast, why I want someone’s hands on me.
It’s painful. I slip back into the old habits of a young woman, a young woman who had space for all sorts of ridiculousness. Now it just seems sorry. Pathetic. Irredeemable.
Stick with me. I will drink bourbon again. There will be love and sex and music and dancing in due time. For now, I’m pacing myself. I’m avoiding bourbon. I’m avoiding love and entanglements of the heart. I’m staying strong and clear. I will slip up.
I will get back here and keep trying to stay in this space—holding space here for myself as I grow (again) into this strong, soft, sweet, beautiful adult woman that I’ve always meant to be.