In the beginning

Actual journal entry – 1989

During this process I’ve rediscovered some journals that I’ve kept over the years. It’s been cringe-inducing to read the rants and musings of my 20-something self, but also insightful and at times, hysterical. I hope to use some of these ancient missives in this blog and this was one of the first entries I stumbled upon. It stuns and saddens me that I knew 28 years ago that my drinking wasn’t normal.

I’ve left the spelling and syntax untouched as I feel transparency is tantamount to honesty. 

04/10/89

Days as cold, grey and cloudy as my mind. The cool morning air and stacks of smoke billowing from the dirty inner city, as I find my way home. The cafeteria is a blurred, scattered conversation that I’m not part of. These people have had showers, and more than likely, sleep.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to keep fucking up your life than to deal with the hassle of keeping it straight. Sometimes in the afternoons you find it’s difficult to remember who you saw or spoke to that morning, or in fact, exactly what you did. After all, you know better than to attempt to remember last night. You always feel more alive at nite, anyway. It’s dark and smoky and there’s something cold and alcoholic in your hand and you know that you can pretend all that you want tonite, and then pretend you didn’t tomorrow.

The nites in between are the best. The slow nights with the regulars are cool, but almost everyone feels they should be somewhere else. It’s a shared feeling, and we drink to it. There are nites when you can’t breathe and everyone is there, and you couldn’t care less. The nites in between are the unexpected ones, the ones that keep you going back. All the “right” people show up, the nite is young and the drinks flow almost freely. You feel that life is fair and good and lucky to be a part of it – and you feel like you fit, if only for a little while.

Then there are the days sometimes you find you can’t stand, and it’s 6:30pm. You laugh, and order another round. You toast to irresponsibility, watch the sun set through dirty windows, feel the lights as they flicker on, and wonder where tonite is headed, and you.

Every now and then you’re alone. Not often, but sometimes 15 minutes to 3 hours can catch you and you look around and inside. You see bills unpaid, and no $ to pay them with, if you’d even thought about it. Six classes missed and it’s only Wednesday. Unreturned phone calls, and a stack of laundry piled up the the closet shelf. So what do you do? It’s Wednesday $ night, and you grab something off of the top of the laundry heap, hope it doesn’t smell too bad, and run to Gus’s* to bounce a check and start the ball rolling.

Again.

 

* Gus’s was a joint on the strip in my college town that would cash checks for students. You know, back in the day when there weren’t atm cards and the like OMG I SURVIVED THE DARK AGES YOU GUYS.

My Dead Friend Ben

Ben died this morning.

Ben was a fabulously hilarious person.  You’d have liked him.  Well, then again, maybe not.  Truth is, he was wildly opinionated and stubborn.  He could have me gnashing my teeth in frustration one minute and laughing until I shit peed my pants the next.  He was also my best friend, confidante and partner-in-crime for the better part of thirty years.

We would finish each others sentences, read each other’s minds and at times we’d joke about the eventuality of our fusing together as one gigantic bitch.   Ben and Jen,  Jen and Ben.  The original “Bennifer” we called ourselves.  We were inseparable.  Even as I moved from state to state, Ben was just a marathon phone call away.  He would come see me every Christmas, no matter where I landed.  We took countless trips together – Las Vegas, Chicago, Key West, New York City and many many more.

We would pick apart our boyfriends.  We would bitch about work.  We would comment on pop culture.  “Richie Sambora?  Girl, he’s like a Chanel suit, he NEVER goes out of style”.   We both fell in love simultaneously with Nate Berkus.

Often, extremely late at night when it was just the two of us we’d settle onto a sofa or a beach or roof somewhere with a bottle of SKYY Vodka and have a summit in which we would actually get serious and share our dreams, secrets and aspirations.   We’d talk about anything and everything.  Our accomplishments and failures.  Our embarrassments.  Whatever true story our heart was holding, we’d share it with each other and over the years, it was like we knew each other from the inside out.

Except that we didn’t.

Ben drank himself to death and I couldn’t stop him.

It took a long time, but I know there was never another outcome to our story.  I watched and listened over the years when quiet concern gave way to paralyzing paranoia.  I heard lie after lie come out of his mouth.   I never understood what demons he was fighting, as he increasingly became more withdrawn.  It was like his skull was full of razor blades and I hardly recognized this person he had become.

I tried to help but then became more and more frustrated when he’d dismiss my suggestions.  He’d laugh and tease me with his caustic opinions on recovery or any other organized addiction groups.   It was too late in the game when he finally came around. I think over the years there was depression, mental illness and what they refer to as alcoholic dementia.  My best friend was gone, but he wasn’t, and that’s a difficult mourning process.

In the days ahead I’ll have plenty of grieving to do myself.   Right now I’m still in disbelief, as insane as that sounds.

He was family.  He was my best friend.  He was the olive to my martini.  And now I’m sober and he’s gone.   I’m angry that instead of joyful memories of the past I’m left with rueful snapshots of frivolity and recklessness instead of just good times.

It wasn’t supposed to go this way.