What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

I sometimes run across drunk cyclists. Some of them are sober for life, some are in between drunks, and some of them are going to die drunk.

The sober drunks I don’t have much to say to. They have found their way and it was usually by wandering through a lonely forest along an unmarked, overgrown path where each blade of grass was a razor in camouflage. They don’t need any advice or support or companionship from me.

The drunk drunks I have even less to say to. They have also found their way and they don’t want to hear any atheist psalms. Plus, I’m a lousy preacher because I cuss too much and say reassuring things like, “We’re both going to be dead for a zillion billion years no matter how much we do or don’t imbibe.”

And extra plus, the most useless piece of advice is the one no one asked for.

A few days ago, though, I butted my head into someone else’s problems, unwanted and unasked for. This Terrible Drunk didn’t care what I thought but listened politely, the way words flow around a person’s outer being and elicit only a kind, understanding look, with the corners of the mouth slightly upturned, the eyes saying “Don’t try to intrude on my hell.”

I spoke a river for half an hour and never said a single dog-damned thing.

My words must have been powerful, though, because no sooner had I finished delivering my fancy soliloquized philosophized rationalized Theory of Sobriety™, than Terrible Drunk went home and got terribly drunk. I thought about that and wondered if maybe I shouldn’t go to New York, invest my entire $500 savings, and tell the stock market to go down really, really low.

It was a good lesson for me. I may be sober, but you can’t teach sober. Some people are flat fucking out to find the bottom and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Maybe the bottom is lying face-first in a pile of someone else’s puke on skid row in DTLA, or maybe the bottom is being dead, but the elevator’s going down lickety-split and it’s not stopping on my floor.

I suppose I should be happy that I was able to get off where I did, and I suppose I should accept the fact that everyone chooses, but it’s still sad to see, looking over my shoulder, walking quickly away, afraid of what I’ve seen.


23 thoughts on “What shall we do with a drunken sailor?”

  1. I know. I still think it’s important to make one’s statement of commitment no matter how deaf the ears upon which it’s falling. Who knows? Maybe, someday, they hear what you said and do something differently.

  2. You don’t know it didn’t work. Sometimes it takes longer than others. It’s rarely overnight. But you were there, you cared, you reached out. Kudos, my friend. And there but for the grace of dog go we…..

    1. That’s true. I hate seeing things go to waste, especially when there are people inside.

  3. I’m pretty sure you did what you did because even though you knew that it was going to have zero effect you needed to do something, and that uneasy feeling in your stomach is still there after a couple of days. I think you did the right thing if it counts for anything. Hopefully the person will literally wake up, with the decision made to work on the problem in the not to distant future.

      1. Does this work, or should we follow this tactic, for suicidal people, or heroin addicts, etc? I don’t know. If I’m getting involved when they aren’t willing, is the inevitable just being prolonged?

        1. I don’t think anyone knows what works, at least not one-size-fits-all. It’s more like most-sizes-fit-none.

  4. One of my recent companions on my bring-my-dentist-home ride quietly disappeared whenever we met after the days ride for our rounds of delicious IPAs. On our third day when we got the Dentist home safely and had a party at the local Tiki bar, he bought me a beer, but I had to go see to my wife and when I returned he was gone. Later i wrote him that he must certainly have recognized us as not reaching a point that he himself has reached, and made a decision that has worked out better for him. He thanked me for my understanding and acknowledged that he has been in a much place since he quit drinking, and it is still hard to be around people who are drinking.

  5. Thanks for still trying Seth. The bottle is a problem for a lot of us, some don’t have to hit rock bottom to wake up. Knowing people want better for you can trigger a change.

  6. Jus let the air gotta the tires. By the time they get it al pumped up they’ll be sobered up.

    Way easier den takin the damn car key. Bike drunks much easier to handle than driving drunks.

    Don’t take it so serious – everything will find it’s way.

  7. I don’t know what else to say except, “Thanks for Sharing”
    (with absolutely no wise-assery intended)

  8. There is a way to help. Most every day I share with fellow addicts what has worked for me to stay clean. And I listen to what has worked for them. Most of us don’t go home and get loaded. NA: gratitude.

      1. You are more effective than you realize, at times you do not think you are making a difference. Words, actions, even silence all make a difference if done with good intentions. Be patient and continue to be an example of a good sober guy. Being happy is a hell of a lot more attractive than a miserable drunk.

  9. Scary stuff. My grandpa was an alcoholic, I always wonder if I didn’t have my job and the bikes what addiction would I fall prey to next. I’ve never had a taste for ‘alcohol’ (which of course is different from beer because beer is good) but always wonder if it’s back there just waiting to pounce. I think I’d prefer getting KIA’ed on the bike over slow alcohol death. Depressing to contemplate… glad you overcame and won the fight, that had to be horribly difficult

    1. Thanks. I still enjoy walking down the beer aisle, gazing wistfully at all my canned friends.

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