TERRANCE GAVAN – EDITOR
I can’t do the math anymore. I popped my last Vodka and Tonic (No Tonic) back on March 20, 1998.
And I got a nice letter (two letters actually) from someone who cares a great deal about me, apparently.
Let’s call her, The Conscience. After a curt introduction the Conscience went about methodically explaining why she hated me, my writing, my views and my life.
She mentioned how many people despised me. And she said that I was an asshole.
All of this goes with the territory. I would never write such inflammatory stuff publicly if I gave a good FORDFRICK about what people thought about me. It is after all what I think that’s important… isn’t it? Please take that ironically… y’kow, cos’ I am getting better.
Anyway, as I said, I appreciate when anyone takes time and effort to lambaste me in a hate-filled diatribe. If it were written by a more elegant writer, and not just a mediocre scribbler, I would have enjoyed it even more.
But that’s not the point.
What the Big Conscience also mentioned was that I am as big an asshole now as I was when I was a rather crude and unmitigated blackout drunk.
And that’s when it hit me.
No one really knew me as a blackout drunk. I have been sober so long that the deeds are retracting. Those things I used to do. Are fading.
I have some names if you’d really like to know. What I was like back then. But I’ve made some amends and most of them are cool with me and they refrain from misanthropic rambles on my life before.
So most people I know today really can’t imagine how much I have improved.
I mean… really… Big Conscience? And all consciences out there, malingering on the periphery of the nudge and flurry. The gossips. You know who you are. You are there to destroy reputations with the inflection that robs your targets of defense.
You all know people like this. My big conscience was not there at the end. So really has no idea just how new and improved I am. I am a butterfly. Compared to those days.
For one thing. I am not chasing down people in cars because they splashed me at a bus stop.
I am no longer standing in front of a moving city bus, to address the driver and force him out into the street to begin a lecture about his driving habits. To be fair, it was a Winnipeg rush hour, so fairly mild compared to York Street at 5 pm. And the driver had cut off a cyclist who had to be stitched at the Grace Hospital.
Thankfully the biker was possessed of a clear mind and subdued the situation before it escalated.
“Look man, it ain’t worth it,” said the biker. “He’s an asshole, but he outweighs you by about 200 pounds and you’re not lookin’ healthy at all. Walk me to the ER and we’ll talk.” Yeah, yeah, so he was in AA. The AA police. They are all over man!
So like… I’m not perfect now? I don’t have to be perfect. I have to be better than that guy who used to stand in front of a Winnipeg Transit bus at rush hour.
And I am. I am also off the liver transplant list! So I got that goin’ for me too.
If you never knew me when? You don’t really know me now. I grew up with an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother. I am not looking for sympathy. I am not in the minority here. Alcoholism directly or indirectly affects over half of the North American population.
My point is. I’m an intelligent guy. I’m not averse to showing it off. I do not suffer fools gladly. And I wish I could say I’m working on that?
But I’m not.
Here’s what I’m working on.
Speaking my mind. Speaking truth to power. I am devoted to self-improvement. Education. Reading. Watching television (not ironically) and seeking zen.
I have a marriage which I work on daily. I still have a big, big step nine to complete. I have a dog who I have to walk… right now.
I’m back. Thing is.
I come from a big family of drunken Irish Catholic Dr Strangeloves. I mean seriously.
My dad was a lifetime alcoholic who died on Christmas Day of liver disease back in 72 or 73. So I’m not a big fan of Christmas. Try explaining that to a family who absolutely adores that holiday. I have an uncle who died of liver disease or cancer. No one’s too sure what got him first. He was a lifetime smoker and drinker. But he was bleeding out from cirrhosis when the cancer struck. So? Does it matter how he went?
I have another uncle who quit drinking cold turkey. He had an Irish temper but was… in the end and after all… one of the nicest men I have ever known. Understanding that both my dad and Uncle Reverend Donnie Gavan were both outstanding guys.
My Big conscience thinks my dad was an asshole. The Big C doesn’t know about alcoholism and more to the point, doesn’t care. It’s pretty important to care.
I fucking care. About the families whose lives are driven to the dumpster co-dependently, by drunks who acted an awful lot like me. Alcoholics take hostages. They do not fucking mess around.
I come from a family of drunks. Our parties were driven by booze.
And I loved every fucking minute of my childhood. My father only hit me once. That was near the end of his battle. Things get fuzzy for paranoid drunks near the end. I forgive him that one time. It was an open hand… and I was big enough to take him down. But I cried instead. I was embarrassed. For him. Because I saw his face. And the shock. When he realized that he had done it. He was crying. And sorry.
But? Those parties and those drunks? I loved them. Still do.
Sure, the family was fucked up. We were, to coin a too-often used phrase, dysfunctional.
Dysfunctional is not boring. If you are like me and easily bored? And have a special love of the absurd?
Irish Catholic dysfunction is a treasure trove of wonder. It’s beautiful baby.
Where functional kids have stories?
We have goddam’ stories? Know what I mean? I mean good goddam’ stories.
I have a Grey Cup story from an Ottawa Roughrider CFL Final.
In my Aunt’s living room. Filled with two televisions and a cacophony of drunks and kids.
Vic Washington fumbled the ball on a sweep. The ball hit the grass and popped right back into his arms.
And Vic Washington, Ottawa’s speedy halfback, continues on down the field to pay-dirt. Snatching stunning victory from the open maw of disaster.
And we had a football. And we had some room on the carpet and a fairly large living room. And Rev Donald Francis Gavan grabs the football and announces that we are going to reenact that play. Right there on my aunt’s carpet. My aunt’s face goes ashen. She knows… at that moment that nothing she says will forestall the Rev from being Vic Washington. And I have stood up. To be a linebacker.
Slow motion, regular motion, over the table, over the kids, over a linebacker, me, and into the endzone… aka the kitchen where the quieter aunts are watching another television. Tut-tutting the Reverend Donald Francis who is dragging me and three of my cousins into the tile of the endzone.
Now that’s a story.
And, am I better? Today?
I know me in 1985 to 1998.
I am better. I am so much better… that I cannot even tell you how much better I am.
And to all of our consciences, who inhabit our life today?
Here’s what we say. I’m here. I’m sober.
And I’m not… as my sponsor tells me.
“Here to please the peanut gallery and the pipsqueaks.”
I’m here. To try. To have fun. To enjoy what little we have left.
For some of our consciences… that’s a little too much information. It interrupts their narrative. Consciences possess narratives. Could be your mom, your dad, your siblings and your friends.
Here’s what we all have to say… at some point in our recovery.
Go away. Step off! Cos’ your shit is no longer my shit. Capiche?
Am I doing a lot better now than 1998? I got the tee shirt and the pics to prove it…
As we drunks like to say on our AA birthday.
“Say goodbye to black eyes and yellow skin!”
Terrance Gavan is a friend of Bill W and can be reached at… firstname.lastname@example.org.