It has taken me some time to acknowledge and even longer to confess, that I am a drunk. Not a grocery-cart pushing or a bar-habituating, chronic alcoholic, but a functioning, seemingly normal old-retired-guy kind of drunk.
I don’t know where the boundary is between social drinking and out-and-out alcoholism, but I’m sure I’ve crossed it. Webster says that “one who is habitually drunk” is a drunkard. And, I meet that criterion.
How did this happen? I rose through the ranks of big business, starting out in an entry level job and making it all of the way to a senior executive with stock options, bonuses and a fat six digit salary. It took twenty years or so to make the so-called big time and the big money, but I did it. And I did it with a cocktail glass grasped firmly in my hand. We all understood that our two martini lunches and our after work drunken wind-downs were part of the routine and drama of big business.
The thinking in the late seventies and early eighties was that the Japanese with all of their gung ho work ethics and their impassioned dedication to long, long hours were the major reasons they were killing the U.S. automobile and electronics industries. We had to knock off our two martini lunches and five o’clock watering-hole patronization and get back to work.
Getting rid of booze at lunch just meant that you looked forward, even more, to that first cocktail as soon as your shift whistle blew. I remember the many evenings when my wife handed me a scotch-on-the-rocks the minute I walked in the door after a long, hard day of fighting the Asian invasion from my office. This first cocktail came before loosening my tie, taking off my jacket, saying hello to my kids, or kissing my wife hello. In my case booze came first; before physical comfort, family obligations, or my romance.
I’m trying to make the case that the accepted and normal behavior of a business executive in the 70’s and 80’s was that of a functioning alcoholic.
I’m a fan of old movies, especially the early stuff done in the thirties and early forties. I recently purchased The Thin Man collection of old films. In these movies William Powell was either drunk or on his way to becoming drunk, while he poured drinks for the other cast members. These movies served as an example of what you’d do if you didn’t have to work for a living, you’d be drunk all day every day. Was this something that we working stiffs should aspire to?
OK, antiquated business practices and stereotypical old movie roles are not excuses for over imbibing in today’s world. We have to stand up and call a drunk a drunk when we see one. I’m one and I don’t know how not to be one. How do I fix this? Do I join AA, go off booze cold turkey, start smoking dope, or what?
I don’t know the answer. In the mean-time I think I’ll mix another batch of martinis and think about all of this.
© 2008 by Bob Rockwell