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June 01, 2008

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A most interesting discussion. Do we all have hidden faces that we do not see? Do we sometimes see them without recognition? Do others see what we ourselves can not see? Thoughts to digest.

In my family of Irish ancestry, there is the expression that someone was a "mean drunk." Bring drunk was OK, but being a mean drunk wasn't good.

It was understood that people would often say things that they didn't really mean when they were drunk. Therefore, these things were forgiven. As an adult, I went out with a man who was shocked at this. And he was NOT willing to overlook my losing it if I had too much to drink. Eye-opening, that was.

We all have our dark side. God speed in your dealings with "Her" and what brings "Her" out. The talking cure is pretty cool! xoxox

Both my parents had problems with alcohol - my father became a somewhat maudlin drunk and he was actually a full blown alcoholic. My mother, on the other hand, when "in her cups" would become just plain mean. Interestingly, both of them used me as a target when in that mode! My parents divorced after 25 years of marriage, my mother developed diabetes and quit drinking altogether, which led to us having a number of enjoyable years prior to her death. My dad apparently quit drinking about a year before my mother's death and remained sober until about 6 months prior to his own death. But in the interval, we had a great relationship.

I was lucky - my mother insisted that I become a member of Al-Anon and that helped me to understand and deal with all the turmoil and pain somewhat. It also prevented me from hating my parents, a great gift in itself.

I have always been VERY cautious about my own alcohol intake - to a point my sister considers downright silly. I pretty much limit myself to a glass of wine after work or one cocktail - and that's the extent of it. No point in tempting fate, although I suspect that being 65, my chances of emulating either parent are pretty slim.

Alcohol, the great - um - uninhibitor.

I have always considered that people (as a whole) have tons of flotsam and jetsam in their heads. The sober mind generally keeps a tight lid on these things as a matter of self preservation.

Any sort of drug in excess (or even brain injury!) can and does open the lid of Pandora's box letting out all these thoughts without regard for surroundings or feelings of others.

The question is... is it really that person? Or is it neurons firing without control spitting out various thoughts that otherwise would be squashed by the rational mind simply because the rational mind knows these are silly or paranoid or offensive.

I've seen this happen with a person recovering from a skull fracture - and it seems to be a frequent occurrence - they go through a period of incessant talking, spouting all sorts of things from funny to obscene. This phase generally passes quickly but like a person who is drunk for an evening - is this "them"? Yes and no. Yes in that this comes out of their brain. No in that the rational bits are suffocated and not able to stem the flow.

I'm glad you're able to talk "HER" into submission. Never having been a drinker (don't like the taste of most alcohol - only some wines) I've never dealt with that. OTOH - I do deal with my own "HER" that periodically needs to be sat upon and firmly denied the light of day - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. :-)

And there ARE after all times when there is someone who just needs their butts kicked and you've got your work boots on . . .!

An enigmatic and thought provoking article.
A while back when I was young and single, I took acting classes and was in an improv group. Part of the improv routines involved development of characters – in my case, the avant guard poet Autumn Fallingleaves nee Jennifer Lowell. Autumn used to fling herself about the stage with great abandon, doing performance art poetry, including the (in)famous line shouted out spontaneously through a crowded, drunken nightclub, “What’s all the fuss about an orgasm, it is nothing but a silly little spasm.” It was a real conversation stopper.

The acting class had a Come as a Character party every six weeks, in which the entire class showed up as a (made-up) character for two hours and interacted with thirty five other made up characters. I was Susie, the homebody cocktail waitress from High Point, NC, who took in strays – stray dogs, stray cats, stray men. Emily Higginbotham, who lived alone (after her husband had left her for his more exciting secretary) in the country in Wiltshire, England in a small house, drank tea and wrote mystery novels. And unlike Susie, dressed in drab cardigans, long skirts and sensible shoes and was painfully shy. Then there was Ariel, who was lighter than air, as substantial as cotton candy, and was a girl who only wanted to have fun. If there was a party, she was there.

It took awhile for me to admit the obvious - that as unlike each other as they were, they were all me, or at least parts of me. I don’t think of them as split personalities, but rather that I highlighted those parts, and thus learned a lot about myself, by holding up my all too human prism to different angles of light. I used the prism analogy intentionally, for I believe that most humans do have a number of dimensions. The more someone understands those multiple dimensions, the more integrated he/ she can become.

Since none of us are as good as we think we are or hope to be, there is also my evil twin sister Edna. Whenever the dark side comes out, and I truly, wish someone ill-will, I blame it on Edna. In the acknowledgement that I do have an “Edna,” I also have to acknowledge that there is a really pissy part of me that sometimes is selfish and isn’t at all nice. What is great is that by giving that part a name, I can sometimes laugh at it / her, and by doing so, reduce the influence that those mean, selfish parts have. In fact, once I decided to let Edna have free rein and be a total bitch. I told those around me that was what I was doing, and it lasted all of five minutes before all of us dissolved into laughter and the dark mood went away. As it turned out, “Edna” was powerless once exposed. But she doesn’t ever go away completely, and totally suppressing her existence (e.g. the pissy side of me) makes her all the more anxious to escape inappropriately.

It sounds like you may have your own Edna.

As I write this, I think back to an earlier article you wrote on spirituality and religion. Edna may be my specific name for the inner sinner recognized at least in Judeo Christian traditions. Acknowledgement of the inner sinner leads to humility, something I think there is not enough of in the world today.

The alcohol angle is a different thing. I enjoy my glass of wine, and don’t feel the day is complete without it. But I also generally (98%) stop at two glasses. Alcoholic? I don’t think I am because I control when I stop drinking. But I have been around others who, once they start drinking, cannot stop – the famous line, “one more bottle for the road”. Those people, including one of my closest relatives, shouldn’t drink at all. Some of them, including one of my closest relatives, figure that out.

A favorite, if earthy, African proverb I picked up during my years in Namibia goes; "You can't smell yourself; let another one smell you."

Have you considered the possibility that your thirst for "spirits" is a spiritual thirst for a communion that transcends yourself?

I've had my heart broken by a couple of alcoholics (dear friends, not lovers) and I am convinced that the "other personality" that comes out after a certain point of intoxication is NOT something that's hidden inside the person that is released by alcohol. It is a monster, a malignant compound of what's in the person and what's in the bottle, each of them innocuous enough on its own.

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