No drink taken by an alcoholic is straight up. And no drink is taken alone. Because the lies told to smooth it going down leave an aftertaste for everyone that lingers long after help is refused and apologies accepted.
But the reasoning for the drink is even harder to take. A year without vodka straight from the bottle has left Swenny believing that he is winning against alcoholism. He can, after all, drink beer and stay standing. He can drink beer and feel good about how far he has come. He can drink beer and refuse the breathalyzer I ask him to take when he comes home smelling like a bar. He can drink beer and blame me for the meetings he doesn’t attend and refuse the help I think he needs. He can drink beer and lie to me that he’s had anything at all.
While Swenny manages his drinking with a buzz fed by malted barley and hops, I anticipate the point in time when he’ll no longer be able to correct his sways left or right without vodka to center him. I note the precariousness of the position he is balancing with a request that he hear me. But he won’t. Or can’t.
So I turn my talk inward, and nod in recognition to the familiar pattern of ifs and thens that I use to balance against the fulcrum of alcoholism. Still in anticipation, but of the moment when I will allow things to tip in my favor.