Another weird little dream
Used to be I’d have drunk dreams, or dreams where I was in some kind of situation where I was presented with a choice to drink, or not to drink. And, given the book I was reading before bedtime last night, Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari With a Cast of Trillions by Mark W. Moffett, you might think I’d be having some kind of hallucinatory epiphany involving our earthbound hymenopteran sisters. I can’t say I’ve ever had a dream where I’ve 12-stepped someone. As of early this morning, I no longer can say that.
I was in a large company restroom — not the place where I work now, which has more deluxe lavatories, but a generic corporate loo — and as I was washing my hands, I noticed this kid, or young adult, with glasses, long and stringy hair and a tie that was slightly askew. He was standing next to me, and he pulled out a flask that smelled like scotch. “Uh, don’t mind me,” he said, tipping the contents of the flask into his mouth, which he then wiped with the outside of his lower left forearm. He had that sheepish look that we get when we’ve lost control of our drinking, and we’re doing what we usually do, which is bring our blood alcohol level back to normal, and we realize somebody is on to us.
What happened next was that I started talking to the guy. He knew that I was observing his behavior surrounding his alcohol intake rather intently, and when he apologized for polishing off the flask before he could offer me some, I shrugged off his mumbled “sorry” by saying, “You don’t need to apologize, pal. I used to drink in bathrooms, too.” He looked at me with vague surprise, and I continued: “Yeah. I quit drinking 18 years ago, because I completely lost control of my drinking, or my ability to stop. I got really scared, and I kept trying to quit, but then I’d keep starting back up. So I started going to meetings. …”
I could sense that I was losing him, and he looked at me with that kind of “ah, shit” look that people get, and then he went into a stall and sat down. Not wanting to belabor my point, I just said, “Hey, man. Take it easy. If you ever want to talk to somebody who understands how you feel, my name’s Jackson, I’m in the company directory, and I’m not too hard to find around here.” Then I pushed through the door into the hallway and the dream ended.
I’ve always been kind of uncomfortable 12-stepping people. I watched my dad, who was in the program, and his buddies go 12-step drunks in coffee shops back in the 1960s, and they’d just walk up to some random drunk and bellow, “Hey, you: You wanna get sober?” My dad used to go out on 12-step calls where he’d spend all night helping some guy sweat through a bad case of delirium tremens, and I don’t think my mom suspected him of hanky panky, because he weighed well over 300 pounds and most likely wasn’t out chasing tail. He did spend a lot of time helping my cousin Judy, who got sober, then died in a house fire years later in Virginia.
Anyway, my attitude about other people’s drinking has been pretty laissez faire. Many of my still-cocktailing friends know I’ve been sober for a while now, and some of them were unlucky to have known me when I was a slobbering drunk. I figure if they hit a point where they want to talk about losing control of their ability to drink like so-called normal people, they know I’m available to talk without passing judgment. But maybe this dream is telling me to be more pro-active? Or, maybe, a dream is just a dream.
Speaking of dreams, lots of sober alkies have what are called drunk dreams. Perhaps the dreams provide a route for the brain to work out this whole not drinking one day at a time thing. I had one drunk dream, early on, that still sticks with me: I was in Greenwich Village in New York City, but it was like a ghost town at high noon in a old Gary Cooper Western: no one was around but me. I was standing in an intersection, and there was a bar at one corner, and it was really hot and somewhat humid, with the sun bearing down overhead. There were two open doorways, one on each intersecting street, on either side of the corner, beckoning.
I walked to the doorway on the right and in. The L-shaped bar was empty, not even with a bartender on duty. At the elbow, there was a shotglass filled with something. I hoped it was whiskey. I thought, hey, who’s gonna know? I walked directly over to the shotglass, and in one motion grabbed it, swept it up in a curl with my arm to my mouth as I kept walking, felt the whiskey burn down my esophagus, slammed the empty shotglass on the bar counter and walked toward the other door.
Who’s gonna know, I thought? Well, I know. I felt horrible, having just blown my continuous sobriety for the momentary satisfaction of a furtive shot of whiskey. And then I woke up, shaking, scared, wondering if the dream meant I was in some kind of jeopardy. I think I called my AA sponsor, who assured me that lots of people have drunk dreams, and as long as you don’t wake up and make a beeline for the liquor store, it’s probably not to worry.
So what does it all mean? Jeez, I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine. —Jackson Griffith