“For me, to ‘drink responsibly’ means don’t spill it.” – – unknown
There is an active drunk in my apartment building. And he seems to be living by the old Stephen King credo, “I work until beer o’clock.” I don’t know of anything else that he does when he’s here. He’s loud and obnoxious even when not drinking, and thus these traits are magnified when he’s inebriated. I have complained about him multiple times to apartment management, and have called the cops several times. So have other tenants. “He’s such a nice guy when he’s not drinking” and “I know he doesn’t mean to harm anyone.” are statements I hear about him. My favorite direct from the apartment manager was “He promised me he would stop.” Does any of this have a familiar ring?
I have at least loosely tried to live by the “projection makes perception” mode from A Course In Miracles so at it’s absolute best, I’m being given a history lesson by my neighbor on behavior I’ve not forgiven myself for. And fortunately at this state of sobriety it can be pretty comical. When I told a friend yesterday about the “he promised” line that was given to my landlord, he burst into a belly laugh. What person who has ever been associated with an alcoholic hasn’t heard a promise or two before? As I heard that my neighbor promised to stop his loud partying via a voice mail that was left for me, I was unable to advise that he probably forgot about what he said in less than five minutes.
I sat next to a group rep at an Al-Anon meeting a few weeks ago as she was sifting through some papers, stopping at a flyer with a heading of “Are You Affected By Someone Else’s Drinking?” When I saw the flyer I shouted out “Yes!” I was supposed to have been at an Al-Anon event the previous Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. Thanks to falling asleep at about, oh, five a.m. courtesy of my neighbor’s bender into the wee hours, I didn’t make it, thinking better of driving and then showing up at the assembly feeling like I’d been through a meat grinder. I had explained my dilemma to the group rep next to me, the same person who had actually recruited me for service at the Saturday Al-Anon gig. So as soon as I shouted yes, she also burst out laughing.
The shoe is on the other foot right now, and for whatever reason I’m being treated to a refresher course on how I impacted other peoples lives while I was drunk. It’s not pretty. And while I had empathy abounding a couple of months ago when this all started, I have graduated to the aforementioned complaining to management and calling the cops. Enough is enough.
My neighbor has been asked to leave, and to avert eviction he is being worked with so as to allow him to find a new home voluntarily. One of the conditions is that he behave quietly while he’s still here. Since I heard him loudly proclaiming as he walked through the hallway yesterday “I’m going out with a bang!” I think something may have been lost in the translating of his conditions. The bottom line is that all of this has provided me with an epiphany for the taking.
Everything I’m hearing about how nice this guy is, how he promised to stop, how he’s harmless, also sounds familiar. I don’t recall offhand how many millions of members AA claims in the forward to the fourth edition of the Big Book, but I would venture to guess that those characteristics were attributed to most if not all. A line I hear frequently in the rooms of AA is “we don’t shoot our wounded.” I agree. I also think a person can be given only so much rope. The previous quote has been replaced for me by the philosophy of an old supervisor of mine, who used to have a sign outside her door that read “Have a nice day somewhere else.”
A drunk is a drunk. Nobody is responsible for me, but in the larger scheme of things, it behooves everyone to have a certain degree of self-care. To me, that would include telling me that my drunken behavior is not welcome. We alcoholics are all alike on so many counts its downright eerie. In the fourteen years I’ve lived in this building this is the first person I’ve been impacted by due to alcohol directly. Another one was an active drug addict who was evicted (imagine blood-curdling withdrawal screams at 4 or 5 in the morning), and a third a person who was five years sober, but who was still prone to vacuuming his unit at 11:30p.m. and was apparently incapable of closing a door without slamming it as hard as he could. Management caught on to him when they were notified that he would often start parties at midnight. Okay, so it takes a few years for behavior to be changed too. I think this reiterates my point. We’re all pretty alike.
There is a strange release in writing about all of this, in acknowledging being a member of the club, in the grounding of my ego that so frequently invites flying toward the sun. We’re all in the same boat, and while every now and then I hear statistics like “only one in ten of us makes it,” I don’t agree: I think most of us don’t make it. So what my sponsor told me when I spoke of my dilemma yesterday, “It could be you.” is sobering, no pun intended. So, My Neighbor, I guess ultimately I’ll say thank you for the reflection. I’m not just like you. I AM you. On some level(s) we are figuring this out all together. A few lost nights of sleep are not the end of the world. But in the mean time, dammit, have a nice day somewhere else.