When I stopped drinking, I was fortunate to have supportive friends. Not one tried to tempt me or got upset because I was no longer fun when we got together. Among them was Phil. Phil had worked through addictive issues much more profound than mine. He became a lunchtime rooting section for sobriety during my initial alcohol-free months. He understood that there was nothing trivial or ersatz about the process I was going through. At lunches, we would talk widely. Everything was game, from the salacious details of workplace romances, our mutual histories growing up in New York City, and our addictive behaviors.
Phil had cut his dependencies an entire decade earlier and had theories he’d share on why we had addictive behaviors.
But mostly, Phil supported me and gave me a place to talk about my drinking. By this point in my life, my earlier times on the road, playing in coffeehouses, and generally living on the wild side were so far behind me that most of my social circle just thought that I was exaggerating or telling tales. As a result, I was most likely not to express myself with them. So while Phil was a whole decade younger than I was, there was a unique overlay of experience. We both knew our home city’s geography and social climes. We had a shared musical past, and we’d snorted, whiffed, inhaled, and eaten amazing things. But like many of our peers, the cheapest, most commonly available, and legal drug of choice was alcohol.
Phil and I also shared another commonality; we had seen the ranks of our friends, enemies, and colleagues thin year by year due to alcohol abuse.
Phil departed to return to New York City, where I understand he’s now in the broadcast industry. At one of our last meetings, he said he was finally ready to interpret his past creatively. He’d create something from it rather than just let the past sit like a lump on his chest. He told me,” Lou, lots think the past is just a residue; you sweep it up and hide it, especially when it’s toxic. Don’t be tempted to do that. What’s waste to some is a source to others. Use it.”