I know too well the damages that drugs and alcohol can cause. I've been lucky in that the most cruel consequence of such abuse, death, whether through use or an accident has never visited itself upon my immediate family. As a journalist, I've seen the damage it can do to others in the stories I've covered.
Which brings us to the New Year. I don't drink anymore. I've had some particularly disastrous New Years in my past, one which resulted in a stint in rehab. So it's probably not one of my favorite holidays, in fact the holiday season as a whole used to be pretty chaotic because of my personal failings.
Fortunately, it's not that way anymore. My wife and stepson put a special joy in the holiday season. It hurts me when Andrei seems disappointed in not getting the right gift because I remember how I used to feel in the let down. This was a tough Christmas because he was recently laid off. But to his credit he was in a great mood and as I have found these past five years or so he's grown into a wonderful man.
But then there's my wife, who last night taught me the lesson as to why I don't miss alcohol. We made a New Year's Eve pilgrimmage to the local casino. It's run by the Seminoles and it's located in a hell hole of a town called Immokalee. When we first started going there the building was nothing more than a Butler building on steroids. They're finally expanding it and remodeling the facility but it still stinks of cigarettes and is rather dingy.
The free champagne started flowing at about 9 pm. By the time I tracked down my wife, after enjoying a successful stint at the poker table, it was just a touch after midnight. She was in a joyous mood dancing up a storm to a God awful karoke singer the casino had hired with a Mexican about a half foot shorter than her. My wife's not tall to begin with so it was quite a sight. She had stopped drinking by then but she wasn't ready to stop dancing, eventually dragging my neighbor's wife out onto the dance floor. It was something to behold, these two tipsy women dancing with this little Mexican.
Shortly before 1 am the consequences of the night began to catch up with the wife. We barely made it out to the car when she decided it was time to purge herself of the misery that was descending upon her. After about 20 minutes of an horrific effort she got into the car. It would take four more stops over the course of the 40 mile drive home to expunge the demons that were haunting her. She was miserable for about another hour, praying for God's help (I said a few prayers too) before she could finally crawl into bed exhausted.
I remember the way she felt all too well. I remember driving home feeling the way she felt. Thank God I don't have to revisit that chapter in my life.