I’ve bedded down on the couch to read. My sister-in-law, my sister, my parents have all gone to bed. But my brother stayed at Tim’s house. Said he’d walk home. I wanted to get the last 60 pages out of the way so I could begin the book by one of my favorite authors. But Merle’s Door is from the library and I’m almost done. Seamus isn’t even around. He probably couldn’t stand the stink.
“You should really try this eggnog,” He said and held His glass out in front of His face. He smacked His lips and let out a hearty, “Ahhhh. Eggnog spiked with whiskey. You don’t know what you’re missing with this one.” He guzzled down another big swig. Eggnog dripped from the sides of His mouth and His milky eggnog-mustache over his thin upper lip. I stared intently at the book in front of me, but I couldn’t focus on the words.
“You know the only reason your sister-in-law asked you to drive her home is because your brother wanted to get nice and toasted with Tim, right?” He asked.
I continued to stare at the page. “That’s not true,” only half-believing myself. “She has my niece and nephew who are going to be up early and-
“And one of ‘em has to get up with the kids and ain’t gonna be your bro. At least not tomorrow,” He said and drank. “You brought this on yourself. You’ve been saying all this time that this is your cross to bear and it doesn’t bother you,” He said and walked from the chair where He’d been sitting in the dining room and plopped down in the overstuffed one right next to my couch. “But it does. And Tim’s sister said it too, didn’t she? That one thing that drives you round the corner.”
He was right about that. The one thing I have come to hate in polite society is when somebody tells me they’re proud of me. When one AA’er says that to another, it really means something. Nobody knows a drunk like another drunk and when we say it to each other, it just means something. And when a normy says it to a drunk, they are being supportive.
“But you don’t see it that way, do you Ahab?” he said. “Because they’re not being supportive, you fuckin’ nimrod. They’re being condescending and patronizing. And you’re beloved brother stuck around Tim’s place so he could get a little sideways before he comes home, not so you could be the designated driver,” He chuckled again and drank. “Designated Driver to drive 6 blocks, gimme a break. You’re driving them home so he can get drunk without having to worry about your lame ass. Can you blame him? I mean, cooking dinner for everybody on top of being a good dad all day. Shit, I’d want some special eggnog too!
“And that little “it doesn’t bother me” when Tim’s sister or your sister-in-law or whoever the hell else jokes about needing a drink? Well, that does bother you, don’t it? In fact, it just burns you up. It’s like Bernie says. If they could just come up with a way so you could drink like a gentleman, you would. Every goddamn day. And watching other people be able do it with impunity and then have the stones to tell you they are proud of you,” He said and chuckled. “Well, that just beats all don’t it?”
I was tired. I had been drinking coffee all day (Alcoholic’s best friend, right?), but it had little effect. And I wasn’t expecting to see Him this weekend. This was supposed to be a great weekend when I got to see my brother and the kids and He wouldn’t be anywhere in sight. That’s the plague of recovery, the part they don’t tell you about at a meeting or in the Big Book. That’s the part about this disease that has nothing to do with actually taking a drink of special eggnog and getting sideways. It’s the part where people say they are proud of you, but you feel like a leper disguised as the Designated Driver. It’s the part that took me home last night to unpack and read rather than hang out with my brother and Tim. No, I wouldn’t be tempted to take a drink. But He would be sitting on a stool at the end of the bar grinning that shit-eating grin at me while I drank my coffee and everybody tried to pretend there wasn’t a 600 gorilla in the middle of the room. It’s the part that would take very kind words from a friend who I know loves me and filter them through His venom-tinged mouth. It’s me being my own worst enemy in sobriety.
“Dave stayed behind because he wanted to talk to Tim awhile longer. Maureen came back home because she was worried my sister would get bored. I heard her say that. And Tim’s got his own kids, a pregnant wife, and tomorrow is Saturday, so it’s a good chance he’ll be busy tomorrow, that is if he doesn’t have to go to work early. And everybody is meeting for bowling tomorrow anyway, so it’s not like they are going to pull an all-night kegger anyway, okay?” I put my book down and closed my eyes. “And when Tim’s sister or anybody else says they are proud of me, they mean they are proud of what I am doing. They are proud that I can listen to conversations about booze, see booze in every other commercial, walk by it in every single store, see people drinking it, joking about it and having a gay old time and having the strength and presence of mind and the balls to admit that I can’t have it and they can and that’s just the way it is. That’s what they mean when they say they are proud of me. Okay? That’s all they mean.”
I turned to where he had been sitting in the chair next to me. He was gone, but I could hear a faint giggling coming from somewhere. Anywhere. Nowhere. On the ottoman next to my couch there was a glass with one big swallow of eggnog left. I took it to the kitchen, poured it out, then went back to the couch where I would sleep. Just a few dozen more pages, then on to Second-Chance Dog.