Vertical Drowning

She walked in with her long, skinny, slightly bowed legs, covered in hose which resembled a spider’s web, her dress playing peek-a-boo with her crotch.  This was not the first time this 51 year old leggy blonde had caused me to do a double take but it would be the last.

We sat in a booth at a high end Mexican restaurant scouring the menu for what tasty morsels we should eat for lunch. She opened the conversation giggling, “I am in therapy now but wanted to impress my therapist so I am lying to her.”

The conversation went from bad to worse as she told me of her sexual trysts and her newest pursuer, who had taken her to meet his family in another state, over the past weekend.  Announcing that he was in love with her and she could not understand why, she went on to order her second Margarita while letting me know that she was still sleeping with her, “friend with benefits.”

How did I get here? Why do I always give people the benefit of the doubt? I was taught not to judge people, to love them despite themselves, yet found myself remembering the one other time I had previously gone out with this woman.

There was a summer garden party at a posh home in the downtown area last year. She showed up in a skirt up to her ying yang, dressing more like a teenaged street-walker than a self-respecting banker and in 5 inch heels no less, making the lawn look more like a badly beaten polo field. It was a GARDEN PARTY on GRASS! As she strutted across the lawn, picking her heels out of the turf as she walked, I could not help but see a very insecure women who clearly was fighting the aging process.

Once again, she had too many glasses of wine and proceeded to confront an elderly couple who had mistakenly sat at her table. Instead of gently making them aware that it was the table she was occupying, she got in their faces and verbally assaulted them! I was mortified and embarrassed by her behavior and left promptly vowing that I would never go out with this woman again. Ironically, this is the very kind of person I have had so much success working with in my 20 year career.

It had been almost six months since I last saw her, so booking a lunch date with her seemed harmless. Now on her third margarita, I was beginning to squirm in my chair. While I have counseled hundreds of alcoholics and social drinkers over the years, and while I know it is a legitimate disease, it is hard for me to relate to this sort of addiction to any real degree. I have never like alcohol or the way it makes people act not to mention how hard it is on the physical body and organs. Smoking a thousand joints of pot will not damage the liver the way a year of nonstop drinking will.

My daughter’s father was a full-fledged alcoholic by the age of 17, when his wealthy parents left him alone in a fancy house with an open bar, to entertain his friends. Sadly he was drunk on the night I conceived and in the 1970’s as a society, we knew very little about fetal alcohol syndrome or bi-polar disease or the long term effects of alcohol on the developing fetus. I am now an expert on the subject after giving birth to a child who has spent the better part of 40 years battling the mental and emotional demons alcohol produces.

As I sat watching this bank associate become drunker by the minute, I felt helpless and lost as to what to do. I teach and counsel people every day yet on this hot, summer day, I was rendered useless. It is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness when you encounter someone you cannot help. That applies to many areas including trying to convince someone who has just had a heart attack, not to eat the fast food which clogged their heart to begin with. You cannot help anyone who refuses to listen if they don’t wish to help themselves.

She wanted to drive just across the parking lot to a department store and though she was handling those 3 large margaritas well, I was concerned. She phoned the friend with benefits and asked him to meet us in the parking lot as she peeled out and burned rubber in her $80,000 Audi sports car. My heart raced but I could not think of how to get away. I hurriedly walked through the store with her hoping the alcohol would wear off fast, repeatedly telling her that I needed to get back home and back to work. We left the store but only after she had flirted shamelessly with the teenage boy behind the counter! HOW DID I GET HERE?

She insisted on going back into the restaurant and was determined to have me meet this man who she had a relationship with. Little did I know she was trying to set me up with him!

As she stumbled to the bathroom, I informed the bartender not to serve her and to bring some coffee fast. I sat there so childlike, searching my soul for what to do and how to handle this. Shortly thereafter her friend arrived and I found my out. Staying less than ten minutes I left and drove home like Cinderella at midnight!

My question is “why?” Not why there is alcoholism, not why befriend someone like that, not even why I went in the first place. My question is, “Why do people drink?” She will tell you she is not an alcoholic like many who are in denial but I am referring to the tens of thousands who are not alcoholics yet who choose to drink.

Alcohol is stupid and it makes people stupid, they act stupid, they look like crap after a few drinks and by morning they look like a piece of yellow-green leather. What compels anyone to put something in their body that they cannot get out except if they vomit? What compels an intelligent human being to wallow in behaviors which resemble monkeys tripping on acid? What would cause a non-addict to want to be out of control of his bodily functions?  Is there something wonderful about slobbering, peeing yourself or hanging your head in a commode which no one ever explained to me? Are those who enjoy this, some sort of a sub-species that science has yet to discover?

And what about the morning after? How many of these people have awaken to see a total stranger lying in bed next to them? How many have died senselessly behind the wheel or have committed vehicular homicide after a night of getting s**t-faced? How many have lost their jobs because they got drunk and behaved like a fools at a Christmas or office party? How many have found themselves laying in their own vomit or excrement because they literally lost their mind and their common sense?

I cannot for the life of me wrap my brain around those who enjoy drinking at all much less those who do it in excess. After my death experience 20 years ago in the Austrian Alps, I saw life as so much more fleeting, precious and incredibly valuable. I can’t understand those who would squander it or want to forget that important tidbit for even one night. Those who are non-alcoholics yet drink in excess  and simply drink for the buzz, to forget, to relax or to just get stupid for a while, are a mystery to me and I pray to never be able to personally relate to them. I am thankful for common sense, balance, an inbred awareness of moderation and above all things, I am grateful for the self-respect and self-preservation instincts I have which would never find me drinking myself into a lesser gene pool.