Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's nobody's business but my own

This is a picture taken of Billie Holiday during her last recording session. She died within the year. I hate this picture. It should not have been taken. This photo has a rubber-necking, intrusiveness quality of a horrible event at which we shouldn't be gawking. I would much rather remember her singing and strong and whole. In this picture she seems broken. There is another reason I hate this picture. In her hand she is holding a glass. In the glass is vodka and lime. Anyone who knows me knows what I drink: vodka and lime on the rocks. Billie and I had similar tastes in alcohol. And even though I know that Billie Holiday was a long time heroin user, this picture still scares me to death.
My grandmother was a long time heroin user. With the exception of my mother, all of her children are or have been addicted to cocaine or alcohol or prescription pills. Food and shopping are my mother's drugs of choice. On my father's side of the family, he has nieces who have been addicted to alcohol.
I drink alot. If you were to ask my friends to describe me, they would probably mention how much I drink. But when folks talk about how much I drink, it is never in a pitiful, sad, "oh she has a problem" sense. It is always in awe. Like drinking is one of the qualities that they would aspire to have. I too am proud of my drinking capabilities. I can drink alot, no throwing up. Only my best friend and maybe my brother can tell when I'm drunk. I hold it together amazingly well. I have a very high tolerance. I am never drunk in public. The only way I can tell when I've drank too much is the next day if I wake up with a hangover. I never drink while my children are awake. Part of this control that I have over drinking is what scares me. The question becomes, How or when does a person know when they have a problem with alcohol?" Billie Holiday was a heroin addict. She drank on the day that photo was taken because she said it would help her voice. It didn't. Some say asking the question lets you know that you may have a problem. I'm not so sure. I know at one point I was drinking daily. I no longer do that. I do not drink when I'm sad. I just don't feel like it. I attribute drinking with partying and happiness.
I did until a few nights ago when I was lonely and depressed and no one was around. I really had the urge to drink. In my mind, just to have something to do. When I saw there was nothing in the freezer, it made me even sadder. When I felt the sadness wave over me about the lack of vodka, the fear crept it. I couldn't believe I was almost in tears because there was no alcohol in the house. That scares me to death. I am very grateful in hindsight there was no alcohol in that freezer. So even though I feel I have control over my drinking, there is a quality to it that is obsessive. One of the reasons I have never tried any other drug is because of that obsessive part of my personality. I don't think I could stop. I wonder if Billie Holiday thought she had control?
I have these arbitrary rules that I have about drinking alcohol. Not when children are awake, not when pregnant, not after 10 when I have to go to work the next day (unless I am out dancing, then all bets are off). The most important rule, not if it hurts someone else. Billie Holiday said, "I don't hurt nobody but myself, and that's nobody's business but my own." Well said. Self destruction can make a philosopher out of anyone.

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