June 21, 2021
“Active, deep stage alcoholics don’t have friends. They have hostages.”
Fifty years I’ve been here in this life. 35 of which I spent pursuing the joys of alcohol. In most parts of the world it is the social drug that binds us together, helps us loosen up, lower inhibitions.
My crutch of choice was beer, then additional whiskey. I would like to say I hit rock bottom and crawled out with the help of some life changing event that made me a better person but it wasn’t like that at all.
I just got tired.
Tired of hangovers. Tired of waking up somewhere I didn’t want to be with people I didn’t want to be with. Tired of making excuses of job performance or having to call in sick because I’m so hungover. Tired of missing powder days or enjoying camping trips to climbing destinations and mountain bike destinations.
Alcohol is the glue that bound together campfire nights, social events, gigs with my band, apres ski, travel. Everything I did was rewarded with a beer or five. I did not see a good night out without alcohol. I could not see a show, or go out to dinner, or a first date, or play music without it.
The thing is I cannot just drink “a beer”. You see, I come from a long line of alcoholics. And by long line i mean my biological father and his father: a jewish Russian immigrant who died of liver failure whom I never met.
My father is and was the tough blue collar Boston bus driver for the MBTA who worshipped at the Harley Davidson alter. He wanted that lifestyle: the hard riding, hard partying, wife swapping beer drinking cliche you see of every Hells Angels member and the like. He was tough and never backed down from a fight despite being 5’8 and slight of build. He was a “hot head” and would fly off the handle with any slight.
I inherited his anger. I inherited his addiction for booze and his rumored cocaine addiction and cigarettes. Luckily I dropped the latter habit when I was 21 and it was one of the hardest addictions to lose (In fact thirty years later I still smell cigarette smoke on a spring day and it makes me want one).
Booze was a different story. It has been pounded into my head through media and advertising, peer pressure and stories. Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts this is what you did every weekend: you drank. You drove around looking for a buyer to get you beers and you got fucked up. In college I played drums in a band and one of the perks of playing music in bars underage is that they didn’t card you. I would get so fucked up on the drum riser I actually fell off my throne a few times.
Sloppy, loud, obnoxious, abrasive, uncaring of what you thought of me. I wore these attributes like a badge of honor. I was proud to be told the next day over a greasy breakfast of what I did. Whom I offended. What poor woman had to listen to my diatribes.
Did I cringe? Was I ashamed? Sometimes. But then I would laugh it off and my friends pushed me to entertain them more. One of them gave me the nickname “Gas Can” because I would light up. And this wasn’t until I was 40 years old. Still going strong. Still living the same drunk life. Still being an idiot. Weekend nights revolving around trying to get a designated driver so i could get wrecked.
Playing gigs in a band till 1 am meant I had to drive home late and deal with the gauntlet of cops in Utah. I didn’t care. I figured I just sweat my ass off on stage and what’s a few beers and a few shots of whiskey right? I must have sweat it out so I’m good.
Fast forward to now. We are coming out of this pandemic isolation. I just played my first few gigs with my band in public again. No drinks. No weed. It was scary going back on stage but I did and everything was wonderful.
Not forgetting words or parts of songs and not screaming obscenities into a microphone to a bar load of people is a good thing but I did notice I have no tolerance for drunks anymore. Was I like this? Falling over and starting fights.
We finished the gig and the inevitable bro handshake/high five stuff that happens at the end of a successful night by young tourists in a ski town is just not appealing at all.
I want to run off stage, get my shit and go home and shower and go to bed. I want to get up early and ride my bike, or ski powder, or go to the gym. My body and brain has been wracked long enough by substances.
I’m just so tired of that life. It is hopefully behind me now but the specter of alcohol haunts me daily. I still have a glass of wine at dinner sometimes but that’s it. Here’s a soda water toast to not going back and moving forward with purpose in this lifetime.
My sincere apologies to everyone i have ever offended in my drunken haze. That’s not me anymore and I am sorry. Truly sorry.
Written by Corey Smaller Follow me on Instagram