Questions Only I Could Answer
Photo by Peter Flint
When I was hitting bottom as an alcoholic, one of the people I turned to was an old roommate. We’ll call him Nate.
He and I had shared an apartment for close to 2 years.
We often had a ¼ keg sitting on our back porch, and we’d get through it before it went flat.
We frequently drank Old Milwaukee beer, which we referred to as “Old Disgusting Waukee.” We found it to be disgusting, but it was cheap. So we drank 16 oz. cans after 16 oz. cans of it.
Cocaine, marijuana, and cigarettes were always on tap as well.
We lived in a low-end and rundown area in 3-story building that was a tinderbox. We’d heard that a previous tenant had been murdered in this apartment, so there was a weird and dark cloud that we lived with. And our behaviors and addictions darkened that cloud.
Nate started to have a lot of pains in his liver, and he switched to drinking “near beer.”
That didn’t last. He split and went back to his hometown in a different state.
Not long after that, I moved to New York City.
One early evening, I walked into my apartment in NYC with bags full of liquor and mixers, in preparation for a party that would begin shortly.
Just as I set the bags down, the phone rang. I answered, and it was my old roommate.
“What’s up, Nate?”
Well, it turned out that he was calling to tell me that he’d gotten clean and sober, and he wanted to share the news.
“That’s great,” says I. “Gotta run, now. Thanks for calling.”
It was like a fly buzzing in the room. Give it a little swipe in the air, and when it flies off, forget about it.
However, I filed that information away in one of the many filing cabinets in my mind. The one marked “Use in Case of Emergency.”
A few years later, I was suffering.
I called Nate. I wanted to know, “Am I an alcoholic?”
Although he knew the answer, he didn’t give it to me. Instead, he did an amazing thing.
He helped me to answer the question for myself.
Nate knew much of my history, including before we became friends and roommates.
He asked me to think back over the years of my life and to picture where I was and what I was doing. He walked me through it - high school, working in a steel mill, college years, working in a theatre, living out west, moving to New York. He asked me to consider all the people I knew through those years.
Then he asked me to think about what I would consider to be “good times.” Parties, concerts, vacations, weekend trips, time with friends, and more.
This was followed by the question - “How many of those good times had alcohol involved in them?”
This question landed because it immediately struck me that almost all of the times I’d thought about did have alcohol involved.
And then came the question that really nailed it down: “Of those times that involved alcohol, how many of them were you involved in the planning to include alcohol?”
Ohhh, brother. 100%.
This helped me to see how alcohol-focused I’d been in my life, and what a priority it was.
I got a view of it, and I saw it as over-the-top crazy.
I believe that when one asks the question “Am I an alcoholic?”, as honest an answer that can be found should be sought.
It’s not a question to brush aside.
I’d had a sincere conversation with a girlfriend a couple of years prior, and we came to the conclusion that I was most definitely not an alcoholic. We were wrong, but I was happy with the external validation. It didn’t do me any good in the long run. I wasn’t ready to accept it yet.
But when Nate walked me through my past as he did, and then he posed the questions that made me see the priority that drinking was in my life, it helped to crack the denial.
I still had more work to do, but this helped to open the door.
If you’re wondering about your drinking, give these questions a thorough appraisal.