Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

Dear Dad,

August 8, 2011

 I got drunk last night.

Not blind drunk. I’m no longer capable of that condition. For many years, lets say the majority of the first four after you passed, it was my go to salve. A very poor decision considering it was the poison that ended your illustrious life. Yet, it was the socially accepted hobby of people in my age bracket and field. The desperation went unnoted by all the drunks who were coping in a similar fashion.

Alcohol is such a tricky drug, isn’t it. The use of it to “unwind” and “let loose” goes back so many generations in so many cultures that it is almost impossible to find a single person who hasn’t been touched by the ugly side of this innocent spirit. The US banned it for a time and people still found a way to imbibe.

“You can’t tell us not to drink. Its one of our unalienable rights, no? Well, it should be! It should say it the constitution. We americans deserve to get drunk and carry guns, God Damn it! I dare you to do somethin about it.”

We also see it as our right of passage into adulthood. We are welcomed to our 21st year with a shot or 6 and very adult hangover. Ceremoniously invited into the grown up way of dealing with problems. Given permission to put our sorrows aside or wash them away with a cheap whisky shot and a Natty Light chaser. We all embrace it. At last, something that makes the demons silent for a night. A magic potion that makes me cool and accepted. Witty and charming. Attractive to the opposite sex. It makes my life infinitely better on all levels. Being a drunk grown-up is awesome!

I jumped on the welcome wagon. I had found a state where I could tell my secrets to strangers who understood me.  People who were too fucked up to remember I divulged anything the next day. It was a perfect solution to life. It’s fun and accepted. I might have had no friends in my work a day life, but at the bar I fit right in with a crowd who knew what went perfectly with sadness, Jameson neat in one quick burning shot.

Learning to walk away from this myself allows me to see why you couldn’t. I don’t blame you, dad. I understand perfectly why you chose this pass time. Why you found it so impossible to put down. Why the lure of real life and its imperfect balance could never compete with beautiful oblivion.

I myself feel like a real looser these days because I can’t just enjoy one drink. I want to feel that buzz. Chase after it. Catch the fuzziness that makes reality fade. I want to welcome the bad decision making that can be explained away in the morning with the phrase “Sorry, I was really fucked up.” My carelessness blamed solely on the contents of the empty bottle. Alcohol, the perfect scape goat for the pain in my life.

I put it down completely last summer. I didn’t have a single drink from June until October. Four whole months passed quite easily.

Okay, that’s a lie. There was nothing easy about that choice. I was ready to stop, but not prepared for what would come up. I will say the cravings that I experienced where not physical, which was a good sign. They were emotional, which were just as hard to wrestle with. I managed to talk myself through most of them that summer. Don’t ask me how. I think God had a hand in it.

I was finally facing all the realities that bitter liquid had painted a blurry line around for years. The cold sharp edge of clarity made me want to pick up the soothing tonic. But I didn’t. Instead, I somehow sought out other things that might make me feel better. Writing, for instance. A very long walk. A mid day movie. So it was a different kind of better. A better that was still not good. But moving towards good.

My inner child kept screaming from the back seat “Are we there yet?” I knew we were no where close. But refused to sooth my anxiety of never arriving  with a drink. I knew it would derail the whole expedition, it had in the past, so I didn’t.

I’m ridiculous Dad, I don’t know why I tried to tell you it was easy. There was nothing easy about that process. I had convinced myself that because I could “not” drink for “so long” I must “not have a problem” with alcohol.

I’m still struggling with letting in the reality that this is a false belief. And its weird, struggling with these truths somehow makes me feel stronger than you. You, Flynt, this 6’5 hulk of a man, never comfortable with your size and power. Probably always afraid that you were not strong enough to beat the booze.

I believe I am. I believe you were too.

I haven’t fully accepted that I can never drink ever again. Nope. I don’t even consider myself an alcoholic. Much like you. I refuse to go to an AA meeting and sit in a room full of middle aged men telling stories that smack of you. I would end up drinking myself silly for sure, to help me forget how much I miss your intoxicated ass.

It just occurred to me that same reason is what might have kept you away as well. Your parents drinking no doubt had a hand in why you stayed cloudy for so long. Most adult children wind up recreating the same chaos in their lives that they hated growing up. I read that in a book. Very few have the opportunity to pause, and ask themselves if they want to continue that cycle.

Your death gave me a chance to pause.

So, I try to go to parties and attempt to drink “socially.” Politely sip a single drink and lie about why I don’t want another.

Truth is I can’t afford to have the next one that I want so badly. I can see the progress I’ve made and don’t want to ruin it with the beginning of some crazy bender. I must admit I am terrified that people will start whispering the dreaded sentence “alcoholic” as I wander out of the room. The shame of that legacy still reins.

I don’t blame you for any of this. I don’t blame Maydelle and Grandpa Bob. I can’t accuse Mom’s family either. It’s hard to charge our Scots/Irish blood. I won’t implicate the German genes either. Nor will I shake my fist at our outlaw past. I’m thankful that I come from a long line of pioneers. Fighters to the end. Braced for the unknown with spirits and blind determination. I have nothing but gratitude and compassion for them. And for you.

The world is a hard place to navigate, and many families, not just ours, choose to do it inebriated. And sometimes extremely inebriated. Many didn’t know better.

But now I do.

My life makes more sense sober. It’s not any easier. It’s often much duller. The lure of immediate escape is ever present. Bars close at four am in New York, Dad. Four AM. I choose ever day wether or not I want to answer their call. Most days I choose camomile tea and a memoir about a drunk instead.

Problems still present themselves. But I can be there for them, fully conscious of my actions to combat them. Often, they resolve themselves with my clear headed help so I am capable to address the next inevitable complication. This is very odd behavior that I have no model for, so I fear I’m getting it terribly wrong.

I’m growing weary of how life might look once I get good at this new way of handling issues. Peaceful and drama free? Riddled with success and happiness? Longing for the disfunction that keeps you cemented in my life despite your six year absence? But, maybe I can become as good at sobriety as I was at being a drunk? Maybe? A girl can dream.

I’ll conclude by saying I know life is never going to be easy. I want to thank you for teaching me by example of what can happen if I choose not face it. You were never one to make your lessons painless. This has been the most painful by far. Thus, the one I am growing to be most thankful for.

Thank you. I love you so.


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Categories: Letters I Will Never Send

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