Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rage against the drunk

I have a bit of a rage problem. It's one of the things that made me realize I had to quit drinking, and quit for real.  I am not an angry drunk. No, I am a happy, kissy, "I  love you all and life is beautiful" kind of drunk. It's the next day, when my head hurts and my blood sugar has crashed and every sound is magnified and every material object in the world conspires against my sorry attempt to get through until the evening when wine will calm me once again, that's when I have to watch out for the rage. I didn't usually lose it, except at inanimate objects when no one else was around. But I felt it more and more frequently, and it was getting worse. Now that I'm not drinking, I'm not angry. For 23 days, it's been as simple as that. Oh, the relief!

So I was surprised when last night, on my bike ride home from work, I completely lost it at some guy. It was a busy Saturday night: plenty of drunk people tottering on the sidewalk, hailing cabs (at least they weren't driving), singing off-key, yelling at each other, doing the culturally accepted weekend rituals that count as fun. I'm especially watchful biking on those nights, since cabs can be erratic, and there are always some drivers or passers-by who get their kicks yelling at cyclists. Still, cycling keeps me fit and sane, and I ride carefully. Halfway home, I had just zipped through a green light when a man stepped onto the street in front of me. I braked quickly, and called out, "Hey buddy, watch out." Then I saw that he was massively drunk. Plastered. Incoherent. He looked at me blankly, and when I asked him to get out of the road--he was now standing in my way, and I was stopped--he said "You almost hit me." I repeated myself. He asked where he should go. I pointed to the sidewalk. Then he went all moony-eyed and propositioned me. I asked him again to get out of the way, and he said he was coming with me wherever I was going. By then I was getting pretty pissed off, and probably I was more than a little unsettled. I am fit but small, and suddenly there seemed to be no one else taking this in, and he was a big man, drunk enough to be unpredictable. Suddenly, all the rage I haven't felt in the 23 days since I quit drinking all reared up. I yelled at him to get out of my way. He got angry and started yelling back, "What's wrong with you, crazy lady?" We stood facing each other, shouting, until I got off my bike, walked around him as quickly as I could (hoping he would just let me pass), and got back on my bike to continue home. As I was cycling away, (and here I see my immature rage-monster still has legs, and is no more articulate than ever) I yelled back, "Go fuck yourself!" The last I heard was him slurring back at me, "I don't do that kind of thing." Which made me laugh, but only after I got home safe and sound and calmed myself down. 

It was an ugly scene, but it reminded me of a dream I had a few weeks before I quit drinking, when I kind of knew I had to quit but was still trying (with almost zero success) to keep myself to one or two a day. One night I dreamed I was at a huge party in some kind of auditorium, and I wasn't drinking. (This is a dream, remember. In real life, I would have been drinking.) The lights were coming up, and I was making for the door, when a large man with the brick-red complexion and nasty demeanour of a scary drunk came up to me and said, "You're coming with me." I said I wasn't, and he grabbed my arm and said, "Come on. Everyone else is going home. They're boring. We're going drinking. You know you want to." I argued, but he held tighter. I called for help, but no one was really paying attention, and the room was emptying out. I started shouting, "Somebody help me! Call 911. This man wants me to go drinking!" Finally someone came and pried the man away and he slunk off, and I was able to leave. When I woke up I was kind of amazed. I thought, holy shit, is that what it's come to? Am I as afraid of the drink as that? 

I'd kind of forgotten about the dream, but the drunk man in the road reminded me. (I know it's not safe to yell at oversized drunk strangers, OK, so please don't worry that I have a new bad habit!) Still, I guess it's good to personify what you're fighting against. And it's good for me to remember that rage can be a strength as well as a liability. I haven't been much tempted to drink these past weeks, but I'm not deluded. I know I will be tempted again. And when that comes, I'll picture the drunk man in the road, or the red-faced dream-monster man, and I will summon all the rage I have and call for help, and I will yell at what is really only an apparition, "Go fuck yourself!" And he will slink away, hurt and offended and less of a threat for the time being.

That's the plan. And other than that, when it's no use to me, I'll let the rage sleep in peace.

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