The Random Griffith

Full circle, maybe?

Posted in drugs and ackohol in 5/4 time, embarrassing confessionals by Jackson Griffith on 18/09/2010

This coming Tuesday, providing that I don’t go out and get all liquored up and stupid this weekend, I’ll celebrate 18 years of continuous clean and sober time. I guess that means that my sobriety will be old enough to vote, or get drafted to go and fight a war somewhere. Maybe it just means that I’ve spent a long time living without a cocktail. Hell, I don’t know. Sometimes we complicate things too much, when they should remain simple.

What I do know is that I just moved into the Midtown Sacramento neighborhood where I was living when I got sober 18 years ago. In fact, I’m living directly behind the haunted Victorian where I woke up on a busted futon in my third-floor eyrie one Sunday afternoon in September 1992 cradling an empty quart bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, to the tune of an Ornette Coleman album on the stereo (Free Jazz, the one with the Jackson Pollock cover that looked like my brain felt at that moment), with the late Bobby Burns keeping time between drum rolls and cymbal crashes on a set of drums we’d apparently loaded into my beater car and shlepped up the stairs earlier that day, before we got all drunk and demolished my apartment and I passed out.

Walking to the Weatherstone, where I spent a lot of time when I was living in the Victorian that summer while trying to get sober, takes me down the same stretch of H Street that I used to walk when I made my late-night treks to the corner bodega at 20th and H, which I used to call the Loser Magnet Market, for smokes, a fresh bottle and maybe a microwave burrito for some marginal nutrition. I got to where I was making the trip in my bathrobe, and old white terrycloth thing with an Aerosmith logo embroidered in purple on the breast, which I’d gotten as one of the many pieces of record-company swag that flowed my way when I worked as an editor and writer at this music magazine that the late, great Tower Records published, Pulse. I think I was trying to make some kind of Brian Wilson reference by wearing the bathrobe, but can’t remember really. Not sure.

Toward the end of my drinking, I remember one weekend afternoon, stumbling up H after finishing off a bottle of Jägermeister. Something was deeply wrong, and I realized that I was blind above my eyebrows, that is, from that point of vision congruent with my eyebrows and above, it was black. I had a lot of those kinds of days toward the end, and that summer, what had been a long career of just getting fucked up, passing out and then waking up turned into a terrifying ride downhill where I no longer could control my drinking, and I had to put alcohol in me just to settle my nerves, but when I did that, I was off to the races and couldn’t stop.

In my general dishevelment and disarray, I would have to stumble past a fourplex on my next block, unless I wanted to walk a block out of my way and I didn’t have the stamina or sustained focus for that task, so invariably I would run into this pregnant woman, who would go out of her way to accost me on the sidewalk. “You need to stop drinking, Jackson,” she would tell me. “I’m worried about you. You’re turning into a complete wreck.” Other people would later volunteer that they had visions of me pushing a shopping cart around the neighborhood.

That woman gave birth two weeks before I put the bottle down. I still see her around, and her husband, and the baby, who’s grown up to be a fine, strapping lad named Eli Perry. So Linda, and Jerry, thanks for being there on H Street when I’d stumble by so long ago.

Y’lnow, I’ve got a lot to be grateful for these days. Cool September mornings remind me of that. —Jackson Griffith


8 Responses

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  1. Amy Yannello said, on 18/09/2010 at 02:23

    Hooray for steadfastness! I know, just from talking w/ you throughout the years, and from your writings, that it took a lot to get where you are today — and I’m damn proud of you. God’s graces & your tenacity. Best to you, my friend — Keep it coming.

  2. Lisa said, on 18/09/2010 at 02:27

    Congratulations, Jackson! Quite an accomplishment. I’m so happy that your life seems to be turning in a really good direction. You deserve it! I always look forward to your posts showing up in my mailbox (yes, I subscribed). I love your writing – especially ones like this when you are not ranting about celeb gossip (which i don’t get because i have no frame of reference for ;-). Hope to see you again one of these days soon.

  3. lunagardener said, on 18/09/2010 at 08:12

    Big Day, life spirals on…..I feel like you have just completed a spiral….enjoy!

  4. marie meade said, on 19/09/2010 at 12:07

    Congratulations on 18 years…I am on Day 57. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs; I feel like I’ve known you for years.

    Marie from Triangle

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 20/09/2010 at 03:50

      Thanks. But like Robert said, 57, or 58, days is a pretty big accomplishment. A huge number of alcoholics can’t put together a week of continuous sobriety, much less the nearly two months that you have. So kudos, Marie. One day at a time. That’s how I got almost 18 years (which I’ll reach the day after tomorrow), as far as I can tell.

  5. Robert S said, on 19/09/2010 at 14:50

    Congratulations. That’s an accomplishment . So is 57 days. I’m coming up on 13 years this october. We’ve all gained – something? I hope I’m not done learning. I’m learning to leave the sick-hatefull side of politics alone. No more for me the screed and woof of the verbal shit vent. All I want is to see is sick and wounded angels; lost souls – the people and the pain and the misery. All my politics shall be local – each person helped with a loaf of bread, a watch cap and woolen gloves. Congratulations Jackson, Marie, and me.

  6. donmcleese said, on 10/10/2010 at 22:05

    belated congrats, jackson. until the day of the meltdown that was my last drink(s), i had just assumed that i would continue to consume alcohol–steadily, often heavily–through the rest of my life. because i thought i had been functioning pretty well. after a year of sobriety, i have some perspective on just how dysfunctional my routine had been and so much gratitude for how my life has been transformed and enriched in ways i had never anticipated. don’t know that i’ll live long enough to reach 18 yrs, but i’m thankful for every day.


    • Jackson Griffith said, on 11/10/2010 at 05:01

      Thanks, Don. And congrats to you too. Being sober makes events like SXSW considerably less freewheeling, but hanging out with our sober pals is a lot more satisfying. Getting sober was the most difficult but ultimately the best thing I ever did. Well, aside from fathering an beautiful now-22-year-old daughter.

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