A Sweaty Guy Reaches New Lows

“The macro view of the top of open and empty beer bottles” by Thomas Picauly on Unsplash

This is the third part of the eighth chapter of A Sweaty Guy.

I’m posting here just as it was in the original, with the exception of blatant typos and some formatting changes.

To start from the beginning just click here.

It wasn’t long before Shea made it clear to me that she knew I’d been drinking and wanted desperately for me to stop. I came home one day to find that she had located a couple of bottles in my closet and poured them out. I was wounded, exposed. I couldn’t deny my drinking, but I choose to scold her for invading my privacy.

The final straw came on an afternoon when I was supposedly at work. I had told Shea that I would be home early and we could go to the beach together. Somehow my good intentions meant nothing.

Though I no longer had a job, and the money Mark had paid me was really needed for food, rent, and other necessities, I decided to go to a strip club. I got to the club shortly after it opened at two. I’d already gotten rid of my morning hangover with the help of some cheap vodka. I figured I’d just pass an hour or so looking at titties and having a couple of beers.

A couple of beers turned into a couple of more, plus a couple of shots and a twenty dollar drink for one of the girls. My phone rang. It was Shea calling; I realized that it was after four. I couldn’t answer it in the club with the music pounding. So I stepped outside and called her back. I told her that I was sorry; I got held up. But I was on my way home now. I stepped back into the bar to have one more drink and ask the stripper for her phone number.

I called Shea back when I left the bar shortly after five and told her that I got held up again, but was really on my way home now and would be there in a half an hour. Shea was clearly upset. I told her it was too late to go to the beach, but we could rent a couple of movies instead. This is pretty much the only thing we’d done together for the past few weeks. Shea said okay but, even through the haze, I could tell that she was worried. She was afraid for me and for herself. She was thousands of miles away from her mother or any responsible adult she could trust and her father was falling apart. She had seen me drunk before, but not like this, drinking all of the time.

It was after six when I finally drove into Maunawili. As I drove up to the house I realized that I didn’t have enough alcohol to make it through the night. I decided run down to the liquor store before I went home for the night. But Shea was outside the house waiting for me as I began to drive past. She was in tears and ran towards the car. I yelled through the passenger window that I would be right back; I was just going to pick up a movie at Blockbuster. I could see her protest but I drove away anyway.

Almost an hour later I came back with a movie and popcorn. I fortified myself with a swig of Smirnoff, which I left in the car for the time being and went into the house. Shea was on the phone in tears. I didn’t know who she was talking to, but she was clearly talking to someone about me and my condition. I began to yell at her. Who was she talking to? It was her mom. How could she do this to me? I was more than embarrassed; my profound guilt and shame was expressed with anger at an innocent soul who was only worried about me and her own safety.

Isolated from any responsible adults she did what she needed to do to protect herself in a disturbing and unsafe situation. She was in tears and conflicted because she couldn’t trust me, but didn’t want to betray me. And I felt betrayed. I told her so; I told her that she was ruining my life; by exposing me I wouldn’t get to see her again; her mother would make sure of that. I was going to kill myself. Me, me, me, me, me.

Shea’s mom got her a flight back a couple days later. With her gone and no job, there was nothing to keep me from drinking all day, every day, except that I was running out of money. I had no plan. I sat at home drunk each day, feeling sorry for myself, watching TV. Everything made me cry even reruns of MacGyver and Bonanza.

I watched the coverage of the Democratic National Convention on July 27, and I bawled like a drunken baby as a young state senator from Illinois gave the keynote address. In my stupor I cried for our country, I cried for the hope that Barrack Obama inspired by the speech that made him famous. Mostly though, I cried for myself, at the state of my life, my own selfishness, the fucked up way I’d acted with my daughter.

I was out of options. I talked for hours on the phone with friends and family members who wanted me to get help. There was no way I could even begin to look for a job unless I was sober, and I couldn’t stop drinking by myself. I’d been to a couple of out patient treatment programs in the last few years, but I hadn’t finished them and I always found a reason to drink. Now treatment didn’t seem like an option. I figured that without medical coverage that comes with having a job, I wouldn’t be able to get into a rehab program.

My father and other family members were urging me to come back “home” to Minnesota. I hadn’t lived in there in years and when I’d visit, it hardly felt like home, but I didn’t know what else to do. My sister in law, DK, offered to have me come and stay with her and Matt. She had enough frequent flier miles for the ticket and there was room at their house. I made it clear to everyone that this was not a permanent move; I would stay long enough to get my act together, then I would return to Hawaii.

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I’ve been a soldier, a teacher, an advocate for people with disabilities, an attorney and a ne’er-do-well. I’ve struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.

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Joe Kernan

I’ve been a soldier, a teacher, an advocate for people with disabilities, an attorney and a ne’er-do-well. I’ve struggled with substance abuse and homelessness.