I’d been dating Charlie who was an alcoholic for a few months. I loved him. We had spent many weekends together at my summer home so I had the chance to see how dependent he was on alcohol.
He would always bring a small “keg” of beer in addition to a bottle of vodka and several bottles of tonic. He generally started drinking the beer by 10:00 A.M. to ward off the “shakes” he would get from starting to go through withdrawal. It was clear he wasn’t “partying”, but rather trying to stay functional. He continued to drink all day because he needed to maintain a certain level of alcohol in his system to avoid super unpleasant withdrawal symptoms from setting in. It seemed as if he didn’t actually get drunk. It was like he was keeping himself properly “medicated”.
After spending the days consuming enormous quantities of beer, he would switch to “hard liquor” in the evenings. His favorite cocktail before and during dinner was “Manhattan, Jack Daniels, straight up.” On the few occasions I tasted this, I was dumbstruck at how awful it was. When he switched from beer to the hard stuff, it appeared he was getting drunk. It was nothing for him to drink 3 or 4 of these cocktails during the course of a dinner when we went out. We would also have wine with our dinner. Naturally, I was always the designated driver because I was able to drink in moderation. I had never seen anything like this.
Often, we stopped on our way to and from my summer place at a Mexican restaurant. They made great Margaritas. Charlie generally pushed hard for me to make this stop on our way. I enjoyed the place, too, as they served great food, and I could enjoy ONE Margarita and still be capable of being a safe and sober driver.
One Sunday as we prepared to leave the cabin to head home, we talked about stopping at Riviera Maya. It took about half an hour to get there. I agreed with Charlie that this would be a great place to stop for a meal. I was aware that he would “need” a drink as well.
It was approximately 5 miles before reaching Riviera Maya when I needed to stop to buy gas. While my tank was being filled, Charlie bolted from the car and ran to the Tavern next to the gas station. I was mystified. I paid for the gas and texted Charlie to let him know it was time to go. He replied that he was in trouble.
After a few minutes of internal debate about what to do, I drove over to the Tavern and let him know I was waiting for him outside. He said he needed my help. I was getting angry because I wanted to get to the restaurant. My choices were to leave him there or go see what the fuck kind of trouble he had gotten himself into in just a few minutes of being in this bar. It was both curiosity and compassion that drove me to get out of the car and hobble into the Tavern.
Charlie was at the far corner of the bar standing in front of an ATM looking confused and stressed. I mustered up as much kindness and patience as I could to deal with this.
He told me that the bar didn’t accept credit cards as payment and when he ordered a drink they told him to get cash from the ATM. I helped him figure out how to get cash from the machine and pay up so we could go.
When we got back in the car together, I blew my top. Could he really not wait another 15 minutes to get to Riviera Maya for that drink? Apparently not.
He mixed up the conversation we had earlier about stopping for a meal. He was under the impression that I didn’t plan to stop. It was scary to see such extreme dependency on a substance.
Alcohol addiction killed Charlie 3 months after his 55th birthday leaving 2 sons. Fortunately for me, I had broken up with him a year before. He ultimately died from liver failure.