Have you ever touched upon a memory but no longer felt the same way you did when you first created it? It’s like walking into an ambush of previously conceived thoughts as they erode above the mind and pour over into the summits of your heart; sort of how Mount Vesuvius's wrath wiped out the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
After you shake hands with your memory and begin to embrace the familiarity of the notions which beam off of it, you are more disposed to get to know it all over again. Only this time, things are much different because either you have changed, the memory has faded away a bit, or the memory itself has changed. At least, this is what happened to me on a recent trip I took which left me bumping into some friends from my past.It had been a couple years since we all last collided but at one time in our lives, my mother and I were very close to these people. I mean, as close as you can possibly get with waitresses, chefs, hosts, hostesses, etc. who have grown to appreciate and look forward to your company. For most people, they don’t really strike up the desire or need to befriend those who are providing them with services. However, my mother and I are far from being like most people. We enjoy conversations and reaching out toward others. Lately, it’s been a lot of reaching out.
But there used to be circumstances where we depended on the livelihood and vitality we surrendered to when it came to talking to people and drinking those all too familiar alcoholic beverages. Gina; meet Dirty martini. Dirty martini; meet Gina. The two infuse to produce… BANG! Illicit conversations, ego-boosting attempts at being the life of the party and a generosity which would only leave both my wallet and dignity empty by the end of the night.
This place we found our souls getting lost in as well our self-respect becoming buried knee deep in drunken stupors and going as far as those wooden paddle balls is known as Atlantic City. It was our second home for over a decade; a free abode by the sea if you will. This home was free in the sense that we threw thousands of dollars away each year in slot machines and roulette tables to keep our beach house afloat.
However, now that my mother and I have been sober for two years, visiting Atlantic City was a whole different ball game. One of the main reasons is... ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! You nailed it! We no longer drink. And when you don’t drink, there is hardly anything else to do unless you venture down toward the beach. Obviously, this gal isn’t ready for beach combing season just yet since we are only smack dab in the middle of old man Winter.
My mother and I wanted to see some of the old “crew” we used to sit and waste away countless hours of mindless talks with. Don't get me wrong; at the time, we probably thought we were embarking on some legit ideas... like hover ground sneakers or opening up a half Columbian and half Chinese restaurant; no joke. As we walked through the golden gates... I mean doors, to the good old diamond club (this is an elite membership which entitles you to eat and drink as much as you want for free as long as you spend at least 12Gs a year) my memories felt so familiar and yet, completely strange; all at the same time.
One of our favorite waitresses who I will refer to as Blondie walked past my mother and me twice without even recognizing us. Now, we haven’t visited the club in over two years, but her not being able to tell who we were at first sent chills up and down my spine. Were my mother and I really this unrecognizable now? Had our image changed that much since Blondie last saw us?
I couldn’t believe it either.
After we had explained everything my mother had been through before and after her liver transplant, Blondie confided in us how her daughter, who is only 21 years old, is currently suffering from liver damage due to alcohol and drug abuse. She said her daughter is so far gone that she now has custody of her daughter’s four year old son. Blondie further went on to tell us how she lost her ex-husband from alcoholic cirrhosis eight years ago. My mother and I couldn’t believe the news she had unfolded for us that day. The thing which blew me away the most was that after all this time, almost a decade to be exact, of knowing Blondie, not once did we ever hear about how sick her husband or daughter had been. We also didn’t know that Blondie was a struggling alcoholic herself who has been sober for 10 years.
Were we really this loud before? Had alcohol numbed our ability to cope and understand what was going on in the real world? You bet your ass it did. That is the thing about alcohol. It looks all fancy when it’s dressed up in sparkly round wine glasses and most thirst quenching in those tall and frosted pints and beer mugs. But they don’t advertise the adverse effects of alcohol; now do they? Nope. And even worse, we have people like Hoda and Kathie Lee glorifying it every single morning as we tune into their 10am talk show.
After rekindling the lost memories and making some new sober ones with our old friends, I decided to go for a run overlooking the bay of the casino. I had a beautiful view and even though it looked the same, it couldn’t have been more different than anything I had seen or experienced before. There was no drunken sweat running down from my forehead and seeping toward my drenched, wet and rancid chest. There was no feeling of numbing thoughts bouncing from the waves of my stride only to go as far as the statute of limitations alcohol once limited everything to. It was different in a way which left me completely and utterly wide awake. The alertness scared me because I was ashamed of all of the wasted time I had once spent thinking I knew everything when clearly, I didn’t have a clue.I’m sure by now, you have all heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away this past Saturday from a drug overdose. He was only 46 years old and sadly, another human being whose imprint on this world was stolen away by the effects of addiction. I’m not here to preach; however, if I can teach someone something by showing from example, the battle is half won. I might not be able to change the world but if one person gets it, then my musings are never wasted. And I can thank my own current state of being for all of the writing I have returned to which I left shortly after I graduated college.
I currently rely on my memories to keep me straight and aloft as I continue to grow not only as a writer, but as a human being. I’m concentrating on my children’s work, a novel, and most importantly, trying to remind those who are struggling we don’t have to let our past define us by allowing our memories to become permanent handicaps. When we are awake, everything is anew. The world is filled with endless opportunities so make this day and every day yours. Own it like you do all of those memories; the good and the bad. Bad memories can often turn into something good because they become the soul-purpose for us to want to be better people; not just for ourselves but for others to watch, observe, and strive to be like.And remember; just because something is advertised doesn’t make it right. So less drinking wine with Kathie Lee and Hoda while ironing and more focusing on why you are here and how you can contribute to becoming a part of this once in a lifetime chance to actually be ALIVE.