My Last Drinks
I was born early in the morning after Christmas in 1952. From about 1968 to 1985, or ages 16 to 33, I often drank alcohol more than I should have, and occasionally took drugs that altered the way I felt in ways I regretted. My daughter, Carrick, was born at a time when I was using mind-altering substances more freely than ever. The night she was conceived in December 1983, I believe I was high on cocaine, which was a rare indulgence, and alcohol, which was not. I had probably smoked some pot, too. My wife, Deirdre, had no doubt taken what I had, though she would make the case that she was more out of control when she dropped acid for thirty straight days during college.
One evening when Carrick was fourteen months old, I made my usual stop in The Bailey, a bar on East 45th in Manhattan, for a few quick Jack Daniel's on the rocks, then drank a couple of sixteen-ounce cans of beer during the half-hour ride home on the commuter train. I'd probably had a few whiskeys at lunch, too. I was an editor at Adweek, a trade magazine, and drinking was very much a part of the cultures of both journalism and advertising. By the time I walked up the steep hill from the rail station and opened my door, I was looking forward to another night of low-key boozing. Deirdre was in the kitchen making dinner. Carrick was crying, as she so often seemed to be. I went to the kitchen to pour a glass of Popov vodka. I wasn't too fond of vodka, which didn't radiate inside me like a good sour mash. Deirdre felt the same way. That's precisely why we had been buying it. If we didn't like it, we figured we wouldn't drink so much of it. To my dismay, Deirdre had polished off the half-gallon bottle.
“How could you let the liquor run out?” I seethed.
“You were supposed to bring some home,” Deirdre fired back.
Carrick, tugging at my leg and hearing the anger in our voices, cried harder. She wanted to be held, played with. I picked her up and kissed her and told her to calm down.
“I have to go somewhere,” I said.
As I waited for the elevator on my way to the liquor store, I could hear Carrick wailing. I realized that I had inextricably crossed a line. Drinking had long been getting in the way of who I was and what I wanted to become. But how pathetic was it that I had to go buy a bottle of booze before I could properly comfort my daughter? It took a week to wean myself; I've not had a drink of alcohol since October 30, 1986. But substance abuse, as it always has and perhaps always will, still gets in the way of who I am and what I want to become.