Crazy I’m Not
I read a short piece by Aaron Sorkin this morning about he and Philip Seymour Hoffman discussing life as recovering addicts. Apparently PSH said that at least if one of them dies of their addiction to heroin other lives will be saved when addicts give it up.
I’m in AA myself, as I’ve blogged before, something my Conservative friend found initially very alarming, that I would be so public about being an alcoholic. He worried that employers would toss my resume in the garbage if they knew that I was in AA, a view I think is wildly out-of-date, although I could be wrong.
I really don’t care, I guess. I’d hardly be a blogger if I did, now would I.
Also, I don’t have AA on my resume.
I do notice, though, that the subject often makes people squeamish, which is the why of AA for me and a lot of other members.
Heh – I just thought of that Groucho Marx line about not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member.
It’s mostly just a huge relief to me that I don’t drink anymore (or smoke pot) and my nearest and dearest gets it because I don’t have the panic/anxiety attacks that polluting my body (because that’s what it felt like to me) would bring on, usually in the wee hours of the morning.
But a lot of my friends and family are uncomfortable with the word alcoholic. And even more uncomfortable with the idea of AA (it’s the higher power thing, isn’t it).
It could just be that I’m often with them in the same context I was when I was drinking and alcohol is still very much a part of the social gathering except that I don’t drink anymore.
Can’t. Shouldn’t. Won’t.
It’s awkward. But you’d be amazed at how alcohol is a part of most any social gathering these days. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Certainly everyone in AA will admit to a social attendance record that reflects whether or not alcohol was on the menu.
Last fall, when I got together with my Wild Women friends for a reunion in Toronto, I arrived late to the restaurant (conflicting directions from the incredible liars who inhabit Queen St W). They immediately ordered another bottle of wine so I blurted out before I’d even said hello, “No! I’m in AA!”
Much to my shock, because this is how seldom it happens, the most hilarious of my Wild Women friends, the one who nicknamed me “Ralph” (because of the elegant Ralph Lauren pajamas that I wore at a weekend camp-out when everyone else wore… whatever) exclaimed, “Good for you! That’s great! Glad to hear it! Kudos to Ralph!”
I know it sounds crazy in this day and age that she’s the only one of my friends and family who literally cheered at the news that I’d finally gone to AA but she is. I had to fight back tears I was so gratified by it.
Also, they didn’t order another bottle.
We talk a good game about mental illness, and getting rid of the stigma, but alcohol and drugs are so often both cause and effect that to isolate mental illness from addiction strikes me as, well, kind of telling in terms of where the real stigmas lies.
I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t get drunk every time I drank. I didn’t have to drink in the sense that I was physically addicted. It was always a choice to have another drink. The thing is, too often I erred on the side of crazy, crazy being having another drink when I’d had more than enough a few drinks ago.
And I made that same mistake over and over and over, the very definition of crazy, a word I’m reclaiming as politically correct, by the way, in spite of knowing what the result would be.
Because of knowing what the result would be? I mean, it has to be asked – just how crazy are addicts?
I didn’t actually quit because of hangovers, as some people do. I quit because I didn’t want to drink anymore, because I didn’t want to get drunk ever again, because I’m not, as it turns out, crazy.
Aaron Sorkin also says in the article that PSH wasn’t depressed, as is being alleged, he was addicted to heroin. Heroin, he says, killed PSH.
Except that normal people (I’m bringing back normal, too) in middle-age don’t overdose on heroin and normal people in middle-age don’t pass out drunk on someone’s back lawn. A using addict is crazy just like a drinking alcoholic is crazy. I know that because when I stopped, enough of the crazy stopped, too, that I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy – alcohol made me crazy.
Anyway, it’s awkward, I know, and maybe that’s all it is when it comes to alcoholism, but I just thought I’d put it out there since I’m not shy about it, that it feels really good to be cheered on for going to AA.
Because for me, not drinking and not being crazy definitely go hand in hand.