Perceptions of the Past


In 1973-74 I lived in New Orleans during some of my worst blackout and binge drinking periods.  I had a job as a mechanic in a garment factory.  I lasted about one year.  These days I am down that way a good bit and ride my bike around the streets where I used to drink and hang.  I have tried to find that garment factory where I worked.  I Googled the name of the place without luck.  Then I Googled the name of the supervisor, got a possible match and made contact.

To make a long story short, I had the right person – this was the fellow who was my boss some 40 years before.  I wrote back in part:

Although you probably do not remember me, I was the rather ill-fated mechanic you hired in 1973-1974.  I think I worked . . .  for about one year, perhaps less.  However, if you do remember me, you will not be surprised to hear me say that I was very much a practicing alcoholic during that time.  I don’t recollect ever doing anything illegal like theft, but I certainly was not a productive employee.  For that I apologize.  I recollect that you were always overly fair with me but that I certainly took advantage of the situation.  I trust you are well today. . . I have been sober coming up on 29 years . . .  Although I have made my “amends” over the years, this job came up recently as I ride my bike in the neighborhood and try to reconstruct the distant past . . .   

The former employer responded in part:

I do remember you . . . however, I remember you as a good mechanic and an asset to the company . . . I did have suspicions regarding the substance abuse issue, but we actually thought it was in a different substance. . .

Here is what jumps out at me about this exchange that recounts events some 10 years before I was to get sober – yes, I suppose I was a good mechanic.  I have always been “good with my hands” as the saying goes.  But I also know that I went to incredible lengths to protect my drinking.  Being the sole maintenance person in a small factory, I always had an excuse to run an errand during the day to pick up a part or whatever.  I would always end up swinging by my apartment to have a few drinks before going back to the factory.  During that time, I intentionally went to different liquor and grocery stores to buy bottles of wine because I was so embarrassed by the amount I was drinking.  I was careful to carry my trash out only at night because of the jangling sound of a bag of wine bottles.  I did not want anyone to know my secret.  In the same way, when I was in my early 20s, I still had the ability to do the right things on the job to protect my income stream so that I could continue to drink.

Today, I am amazed at the amount of energy I spent in those convoluted arrangements of my reality just so that I could drink and completely escape the reality I created!

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