Confessions of an Alcoholic Part 2: Battle-Axes and the Fairer Sex

“Men are nicotine soaked, beer besmirched, whiskey greased, red-eyed devils.” — Carrie “Hatchet Nanny” Nation

My sister reminded me that there’s no such thing as a “former” alcoholic. That’s why “(former)” is no longer present in the title.

My name is Dylan and I’m an alcoholic. (And I always will be.)

5 weeks.

I’m in a crowded apartment near Union Square. I’m surrounded by friends of my sister, it’s her birthday party. They are loud. I shushed them, “I have to assume there’s a neighbor?”

I’m an old man, there’s no use hiding it anymore.

I took inventory of the booze sitting atop the counter-bar in front of me.

Smirnoff — stings the tongue, I hate vodka.

Bacardi — I love it, don’t give a damn what anyone says. Viva Cuba, Viva Puerto Rico.

Tito’s — Vodka, from Texas?

The Soviets ran out of vodka in Moscow at the end of the war, can you believe that?

Imagine: A recovering alcoholic, a Soviet citizen, succumbs to his withdrawals. He is desperate for a drink, searching all over the city of Moscow for even a solitary drop of hooch. What day does it happen to be? May 9th, Germany has surrendered. There isn’t a single ounce of vodka to be found, the withdrawals pass.

Almost 27,000,000 Soviets died during the war.

Around 3,000,000 people die annually from drinking.

They’re saying drinking may also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

That might be my biggest fear — losing my memories. Or, in my case, whatever’s left of them at this point.

“Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed,

‘Cuz I had a little drink about an hour ago,

And it’s gone right to my head,

No matter where I roam,

On land or sea or foam,

You will always hear me singing this song,

Show me the way to go home.”

Alcohol was once banned in this country, just as chattel slavery was once legal in this country. Slavery is still legal, per the 13th Amendment, it’s just much more palatable to Americans now. Slaves are now called prisoners.

Prohibition did not come about on a whim — people knew long before 1920 that boozing wasn’t exactly a healthy habit.

The Babylonians consumed beer more often than water because it was a safer bet that beer wouldn’t be contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens.

The Temperance Movement was spearheaded by groups like the Washingtonians and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, as well as by the efforts of women like Carrie Nation.

Yes, her last name was actually Nation.

She famously tore up bars and saloons with a hatchet, a weapon suggested by her husband at the time. Previously, she had used rocks. She was a true Christian.

Upon the suggestion by her husband of utilizing the weapon most associated with the natives of this nation, Carrie said this to him: “That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you.”

Prohibition came into effect in 1920. Crime skyrocketed, speakeasies sprung up across the country, and thugs like Al Capone used the wealth gained from “bootlegging” to take over America’s largest metropolises. The cops helped the thugs on occasion, everyone wanted a piece of the action.

It was the Wild West.

Al Capone had 7 men murdered on Valentines Day in 1929. He was arrested for tax evasion.

Carrie Nation was arrested for smashing bottles of hooch with a hatchet.

Lesson to be learned? Don’t mess with men’s booze or the government’s money.

I specify “men” because the government at the time of Carrie Nation’s righteous crusade was controlled solely by men.

It still is unfortunately, for the most part at least.

They began to play drinking games: beer pong, flip cup, et cetera.

I was in high school again. I was also high.

Hey — everybody needs at least one vice, right?

My sister kept asking me if I wanted to head out, she noticed that I was minding myself at that counter-bar. I was still taking inventory.

Jungle Juice — a concoction from hell, the culprit that broke my streak of never once getting sick from drinking. I went 8 uninterrupted years of boozing without limit until that night.

Lemon Drops — I think that’s also the name of a candy I liked as a kid. Lemon Heads maybe?

I told her I was going to head out relatively early, at 11 or so. I had work early the next morning; the lack of hangovers has probably been the best part about sobriety. One night, two months back or so, I was stumbling down the hallway of my apartment in search of my room. It took me about 5 minutes to first find, then get a grip of the knob.

“Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed…”

I had smoked an entire bowl, I wasn’t feeling particularly high. I was admittedly exhausted, work had kicked my ass. I asked them to play “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon, this request was never honored.

Bastards.

My sister was sharing a birthday with a friend she made in the city. The friend was celebrating her 23rd birthday, my sister her 21st. The “last happy birthday” according to her. She said that when we grabbed dinner before the party. I argued, but in truth I agreed.

What is there to look forward to after turning 21? 35 I suppose, assuming someone is crazy enough to want to be the President of this collective insanity.

The transition of power between the Presidents, especially when they are of differing parties, is no different than taking the keys from someone too intoxicated to drive and handing it to a friend who is manageably sober. Power is intoxicating, so goes the saying at least.

“Hey, can you drive him home? He started talking about nuking Iran and some weird shit about China.”

I dreamt of smashing barrels of booze with a hatchet one night. I also dreamt that my friend handed me a drink with alcohol by mistake. I woke up happy, an involuntary response. A natural response really — Pavlov’s dog.

My name is Dylan and I’m an alcoholic.

At least I don’t salivate at the sound of a bell, I just daydream about mojitos.

“Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed…”

The cartoon at the top of the article is titled “The Drunkard’s Progress.” The bottom of the drawing showcases a woman with child in tow, we can assume they are the spouse and child of the titular “drunkard” respectively. The Temperance Movement, specifically from the women participant’s perspectives, was also a crusade against domestic abuse.

The derogatory term “battle-ax” was inspired by Carrie Nation’s choice of weapon for the destruction of booze. A “battle-ax” is a temperamental, aggressive woman. A male contemporary of Carrie Nation might have said something like this to another male colleague at this time in history:

“That woman is a battle-ax, she wants to vote!”

Carrie Nation, on top of massacring bottles of hooch, established houses of refuge for victims of spousal abuse that resulted from their husband’s consumption of alcohol.

They served as a model for what we today would call a “battered women’s shelter.”

Doesn’t that make you sick to your stomach? We need shelters dedicated to the sole purpose of keeping women safe from abusive spouses. I can’t dispute Nation’s quote that begins this piece, I find myself agreeing with the sentiment that women are the “fairer sex” more and more each day.

Not to say there aren’t terrible, awful, abusive women as well. Human beings as a whole differentiate themselves from other animals by one quality, and one quality alone — their astonishing cruelty.

“Life is no way to treat an animal.” — Kilgore Trout.

It was 11:30, my self imposed curfew. I was in the middle of a game of “King’s Cup,” I figured I should at least participate in one game before leaving. I drank Coca-Cola, at one point I lost track of my cup. I cautiously took a sip from what I hoped was my cup, waiting to taste the inevitable sting of cheap vodka. No such taste arrived thankfully. Truthfully, I was disappointed in that moment. I thanked the group for their hospitality and made my way to the door. My sister gave me a hug and told me to text her when I got back home.

Once I was out of the apartment, on the gold-paved streets of 14th Street, I took a deep breathe. I had stayed longer than I intended. Why? The smell of liquor permeated the air in the apartment, I could almost taste it on my tongue.

Ever put your hand over a fire, trying to see how close you could get until you got burned?

“Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed…”

I made my way back to my apartment — the door knob was right where I left it.

My sister texted me about 15 minutes after I got in, I forgot to text her when I arrived as I had promised. I always forgot to text people when they were worried about me getting home. In the past, they were worried about me getting home because I was drunk as a skunk. My sister still worried even though I was sober — the “fairer sex.”

“You would love where we are now, the Beauty Bar.”

It’s a spot I had heard of. I have a massive list of bars, saloons, speakeasies, watering holes, pubs, dives, et cetera, saved on my phone. I started curating the list when I was 16 or 17. I don’t think I’ve been to half of them at this point.

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that place plenty.”

I started to doze off.

“Just got back,” a lie.

There I was, seated at a bar with my face buried in foam. “Step 6” or so of “The Drunkard’s Progress.” I was light on cash — all my dough now belonged to the bar. Just as I was about to take another sip, crash!

Carrie Nation, wielding a hatchet, towered over me.

I was frozen, could barely muster the courage to speak. I eventually got a hold of myself, staggered up from the barstool, and asked a simple request of the crusader:

“Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed…”

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store