It was infuriating waking up to someone else’s mistakes. The constant blame. The questions. Why? Why? Why. Eventually, everyone already knew the answer. It wasn’t him.
The text messages were sent to him. The anger was directed at him. But the actions, the bar fight started or the tab skimped out on paying, that wasn’t him.
For as long as he could remember there were two of him, like an evil twin. They looked identical but were fraternal in behavior, though this other person wasn’t necessarily a villain. His intentions were neither bad nor good. Like the couple times he smoked meth, shit just happened.
It was a personality he didn’t identify with and actions he couldn’t take ownership of, yet everyone seemed fixated in associating them as one. He never actually met this other person, but he often heard of him. Strangers found amusement in this character. He was lively, spontaneous, uninhibited and reckless. Some nights he behaved better than others. The charm lessened the longer you knew him, which explained why new friends never became old friends.
Everyone agreed he lacked consistency, but wasn’t there consistency in his inconsistency?
Their lack of acquaintance with one another wasn’t from avoidance, but it was impossible for them to share the same room. They didn’t dislike each other, but it could be said they feared one another. Similar to how most fear what they don’t understand or, even worse, what they can’t control. And, control was certainly a problem.
One of them couldn’t handle control and the other was incapable of it. One existed as a prisoner to boredom and depression and anxiety and loneliness. The other just existed. He didn’t act according to logic or emotions or environment or responsibilities. His actions depended on whatever was drank that particular night or afternoon – sometimes even morning, because mornings could be stressful, too.
Drunk. That was his name. It wasn’t what he particularly preferred to call this other person, but everyone else did and so it stuck. Though outsiders identified him and Drunk as one and the same, that wasn’t the case. He considered himself to be so many things. He was boring. He was depressed. He was anxious. And, more often than not, he was lonely. But never Drunk. That wasn’t him. That was this fucking other guy, so why were people holding him accountable?
Everyone’s responsible for their own actions, so why should he be held liable for Drunk? Who’s girlfriend Drunk slept with or whatever expensive thing he broke shouldn’t be blamed on him, especially not billed for. Because how could he be Drunk when he was Sober? Though, it wasn’t how he stayed. Sooner or later, Drunk needed to come out, and he would be gone, but never for long. Neither of them ever occupied this body for a long period of time. In that they were both consistent.
Control – that’s what friends and acquaintances and strangers at the bar kept repeating. They insisted that’s what he needed. But weren’t they listening? There was no room for control with boredom, depression, anxiety and loneliness taking up so much space. Control would have to find another place to live, and it couldn’t be with Drunk, either. Drunk only had room for another drink.
It wasn’t always a total disaster. For quite a while they made it work. It’s out of our control, they agreed but it extended beyond that.
They encouraged one another. Everyone needs a support system, so they became each others. Drunk numbed those unbearable feelings, and Sober paid the bills and cleaned up the messes. There were so many messes. The puke, the spills and the broken glasses were easy. What Drunk couldn’t repair? The relationship and friendship messes. The employment messes. The financial messes.That one legal mess when Drunk was arrested for public urination at a playground on a Tuesday morning.
“I swear, I like pussy! Older pussy!” He screamed while being handcuffed.
So, the solution seemed simple. Total unattachment. When a mess became too big to clean up, Sober would move on to another girlfriend, friend, job, and, sometimes, even another neighborhood. Sober was fortunate enough not to have to worry about family. They wanted nothing to do with him. Not even his own kids knew him, and, for that, he felt thankful.
Once bouncers and bartenders tired of Drunk, what was Sober to do but help him find new ones? But it was worth it. Without him, Sober often thought of reckless behavior, like suicide. A dead body would surely be a much larger mess. These other messes were manageable. That’s what both did for a long time – manage, barely.
Then it all went to shit.
Sober could only start over some many times. Jobs became harder to find, especially on days when getting out of bed was already a challenge. Credit cards started being declined. He stopped receiving birthday and wedding invitations, but the bills and eviction notices were piling up. There were no more friends and girlfriends, not even acquaintances. The glass was no longer half full as he always tried to see it. It was dwindling each day. Sober didn’t want to admit it, but he was no longer managing. He was drowning in a glass almost empty.
“You need to have faith,” his mother used to say, always assuring him it was never too late to stop. He wouldn’t need Drunk if he had faith. She was convinced. The problem was that faith wasn’t something he could see or feel. It wasn’t tangible the same way a bottle of vodka was.
He needed help. So, he sought out a therapist, a second-rate one paid for by the state, but a therapist, nonetheless.
Surely, mediocre help is better than no help, he thought.
“You’re a drunk,” the therapist confidently said.
Sober sighed. Another idiot who doesn’t understand.
“No, he is Drunk. I am Sober.”
“Yes, you are sober now,” the therapist said. “But you will most likely be drunk later. You are an alcoholic, wouldn’t you agree?”
Sober swore he wouldn’t return, until Drunk came back the next day. Shouting angrily, he pissed on the therapist’s office front door.
“WHO’S DRUNK NOW, MOTHER FUCKER?!” He yelled.
The police came and arrested him.
Not again, Sober uncomfortably woke up thinking the next morning with a migraine. He craved some scotch, maybe a very dry vodka martini. That always did the trick. He was only served the disappointing news that he wouldn’t be released until Monday. There was no court on the weekends.
I should start peeing before leaving the house, he joked to himself.
Two days without Drunk intervening. That wasn’t something he was used to, but, maybe, it was for the best. Sober needed time to think.
The situation was getting out of control, a realization Sober finally came to terms with as he stared at the space between the cell bars. Though he never had control of himself, Sober always thought he had control over the situation. Things were going to shit. And he didn’t mean it in the same way he did when he normally said it. Of course, things were always going to shit, and he especially thought that the two times he woke up having defecated himself. But this time, things weren’t just going to shit – things were slam dunking into full blown diarrhea.
He always wondered what was heavier, the weight of sobriety or the burden of so much regret. Now he knew the answer was neither – it was the weight of all the shit he always had to deal with.
Come Monday, Sober knew what he would do immediately following his court hearing and after his younger sister bails him out. It would be the second time he sees her in 3 years. A phone call where the receiver has to dial 5 if they want to accept was the only reminder of Sober’s inconvenient existence.
“It’s not that I don’t love him,” she assured their childhood friends, the only ones who knew she had a brother.
It was a sentiment Sober agreed with. He knew, of course, that she loved him.
She just didn’t like Drunk. Not since her parents missed her high school graduation speech after news of his first overdose.
He would apologize, pretend to be interested in how his kids are doing and promise to pay her back.
“I am working on it,” he might say, maybe mention that he started seeing a therapist.
She’d probably call it bullshit, say some hurtful words and make her own promise to stop bailing him out of trouble. Neither of them ever kept their promises.
In the end, the joke would be on her. This time, Sober had, at last, committed to something.
Once freed, he would go to a nice public rooftop somewhere, perhaps, that fancy one he went to once for a, now, ex-girlfriend-with-a-restraining-order’s birthday party. He remembered the luxurious bathroom. It looked expensive even covered in all his vomit. Sober also remembered how to sneak into the personnel roof access side. It wouldn’t be his first attempt, but he wouldn’t be crying wolf this time.
First would come the apologies, starting with his parents. The mother who passed away with a mountain of disappointment, without any hope for Sober’s redemption. The father who never forgave him for it. His sister who carried the financial cross of Drunk’s recklessness and the resentment that came from the attention always being placed on his mischief and not her achievements. Then he might say a few words to the friends who tried hard to stick by him, to support and love him unconditionally. He thought them way too ambitious for having tried.
He wasn’t oblivious to the fact nothing would change. His mother would still have died disappointed. His father would still try to hate him, if only he knew how to stop loving a son. His kids would never know him, not honestly. His cunt of an ex-girlfriend killed both Sober and Drunk in the army.
“It’s actually more honorable this way,” his sister said. It was the noblest quality about him.
His friends would continue to send their best wishes to his family while ignoring all of Sober’s texts and phone calls.
None of these sorry excuses for apologies would impact anyone, well, except Sober. It would exorcise the ghosts that haunted him. Even though all the pain he caused couldn’t possibly be taken back, he could acknowledge it. And wasn’t that the way to release a ghost, by acknowledging its presence?
If only the ghosts weren’t so metaphorical, and they were all really dead. Apologizing would be so much easier that way. He might have even done it in person.
Close your eyes, jump.
Close your eyes. Jump.
Close. Your. Eyes. JUMP.
Easier to think, harder to do. Just like sobriety.
No, that was significantly harder, and the thought pushed him.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough for the both of us.”
The last apology before he released himself.
A leap of faith.