August 7, 2006

Self-Portrait in an Enclosed Space- (The Bottle)

I started drinking as a junior in High School. A group of us found the social lubricating effects of alcohol conducive to establishing our sense of camaraderie. We didn’t really fit into any of the groups at school, so we got drunk and hung out together. It all sounded so much more romantic as a teenager. We drank before school, during school, and after school, discussing our dreams, fears, and hopes for the future. Despite this clearly unhealthy addiction at such a young age, we all somehow managed to get into the colleges of our choice and continued the practice of binge drinking confessionals there.

Throughout college and well into my late twenties I drank a lot, and I drank often. One could view my drinking as healthy twenty-something binge drinking at parties, bars, or clubs, but it could also be viewed as an abusive addiction. I guess I see it as both. I have no regrets for the time I spent with the bottle. I had identified my heroes: Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Kerouac, the list is endless, and I lived by the saying, “Wisdom through excess.”

Sure I spent some nights in jail, or vomited more often than most people do in a lifetime, but I was finding myself. I was trying to carve out some kind of identity using liquor as my crude knife. In this decade of bleary eyed debauchery, I some how managed to get a BA in Creative Writing, put myself through school, often working 40 hour weeks and taking 22 credits. I applied as was accepted to Peace Corps, I found a wife, got a masters in Education from Columbia, and landed a pretty good job teaching overseas at a private international school, so as you can see the booze didn’t land me in the gutter.

But last year as my wife and I started to try and get pregnant we made a deal that I would quit drinking for at least one year. At first I was terrified. What would I do? I was the guy who would drink a bottle of wine at a party, or suck down seven scotches while talking with friends at a bar. After a ruinous trip with some friends to Vietnam, I knew it was time to re-evaluate my relationship to alcohol. It had served its purpose and it was time to stop. I needed clarity.

So I did. I haven’t had a drink since July of last year. And I don’t ever think about having one. I think this may be a permanent thing for me. I didn’t need twelve steps, or god, or anyone really. I simply knew it was time to stop. And now with my daughter, I can’t even imagine being drunk around here. The idea of being drunk and cuddling her seem diametrically opposed.

While many see the bottle as a way to be free or an easy way to lose their inhibitions, I found the bottle a very enclosed space. Now that I am free, I can’t imagine crawling back into it. It feels great to be out here. So for this week’s Self-Portrait Challenge of an enclosed space, I have chosen the bottle:





The hardest part for me during this process is narrowing my choices down to one shot. I am left with two that I really liked this week. You tell me which one is more powerful.

30 comments:

  1. I think the first is more powerful. It makes you seem confined to the space, maybe trying to escape, but unable to do so. The second you've sort of succumbed--there is less conflict there for me. Interesting post. I'm glad that it is working out for you. I've been drinking less myself and I think it's good.

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  2. i don't know what to say. this is such a powerful piece all the way around. the first pic shows you clearly confined and enveloped by the bottle. the second shows you also confined but there is the illusion that you are submerged in the alcohol and in the bottle. i don't know bz- two similar pics but two different messages. depends on which you are saying at the moment. based on your post- i'd say the first one.

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  3. Wow. Incredible story and photos. Great job!

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  4. it's a powerful post with the photos to present it. drinking can be a scary thing, even when its just "social"... and what better motivation to go clean than a new life.

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  5. I also think the first image is more powerful. Fabulous concept and execution. And escape.

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  6. They are both great shots but I think the top one is more powerful. Your story also resonated, I too had to leave my wild days behind to have our daughter. At first, it was a bit tricky but my new life is full of riches and pleasures I could never have imagined in the old.

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  7. Awesome post and wonderful picture. As always. You do the best SPC pics.

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  8. I agree that the first is more powerful.

    As a recovering alcoholic, I am aware of people who are heavy drinkers who, for some reason that I find inexplicable, are simply able to stop drinking. Not alcoholic, but really heavy drinkers who don't have the mental obsession that really marks the alcoholic. You described it well, for me - good one.

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  9. Where did you get a bottle of booze that big? And is there any of it left?

    Assuming you didn't pee in it of course.....

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  10. I like the scale of the second one. It shows how overwhelming alcohol addiction can be for some.

    It does look a little more hopeless vs. the hopeful we read in your message, but for impact? The second one works for me.

    Congratulations on being able to have given it up so easily. You had a much easier road than most in a similar situation.

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  11. I like both shots. The first shows someone trapped within a life of excess and the second shows someone lost within it. They are both powerful but in different ways.

    I am still drinking socially but your post made me think about that. I definitely don't feel trapped but sometimes feel lost in it all. Could I live a life without any alcohol at all? I'm not sure. You're a hell of a lot stronger than I am.

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  12. That was maybe the best post ever on this blog. Powerful writing.

    Bottle #2, is more powerful, the person is almost totally lost.

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  13. WOW! Both pictures are amazing, but I think I really like the second one best. The story that goes along with it is very powerful as well. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. First, I think the second one conveys a sense of defeat were you ever to climb back into the bottle. It expresses the many losses you would feel if you go back into it. Since you have no wish to return there, I think it is the most powerful.

    Second, kudos to you for recognizing that you did not need alcohol anymore. And after finding the clarity you were seeking, I would imagine you will never feel the need to have another drink.

    Excellent self-portrait and essay.

    Nikki

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  15. Excellent post and photos! For me the second is more powerful, for exactly the reasons Nikki already stated.

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  16. Great job on 'enclosed spaces.' I really like the second one best. In it, you seem almost resigned to your fate - which, I suppose isn't a good thing, but the emotion there is powerful.

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  17. I love the second one as well...
    because you look submerged in the alcohol and the stark white background... There's no rose coloring your decision. The bottle is almost beautiful, but you can see where the temptation leads... and of course the big question, is the bottle half empty or half full?

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  18. I just think this is clever, thoughtful and true. The best, really, really well done, in your SPC image and your personal success!

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  19. My favorite so far...LOVEDIT! The second one was a perfect pose :)

    Warriorwife

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  20. Beautiful and powerful. I vote for the second given the words to go with it.

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  21. Hello via the Self Portrait site. I really loved reading your story and both pictures are truly and amazingly beautiful. The second is my favorite.
    This was such an honest story, thank you so much for sharing it.

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  22. Well I'd have to say that while I agree with many about the second one showing despair and fatigue....I prefer the first one. There is something very primal about holding on to oneself in the fetal pose. To me it conveys the self soothing the bottle is intended for. That it actually does this cuz there is nothing soothing about the day after. Cool post.

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  23. the first one is most powerful but they are both quite shocking and moving for me.

    i am so impressed with your photoshop abilities!

    about the mp3 file. my husband did that one for me. if you send me your email, then i can ask him to write you instructions!!

    take good care,
    boho

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  24. hey you...i just noticed you put "political" next to my name on your sidebar.

    are you serious? *grin*

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  25. great photos. You are a healthy person to know what makes you strong and to go for the lifestyle that strengthens your family as well..Your new child will watch and learn from you.

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  26. Wow. First thank you for sharing your story, i know some people who followed your path but never knew enough to push themselves past the bottle...they never made a life for themselves as you have. I think the first piece is more powerful and best relates to your story, though I am mosre drawn to the second pic. I am amazed at how you seamlessly integrated the two images, and the color tones are gorgeous. I am definately a fan of your photos, I love your vision and look forward to what you post each week. Sorry for not commenting sooner :) There is not enough time in the day to get done everything I want and need to do. Hope you and your family are well!

    Cheers!

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  27. The first photo works best for me. I sense there is a struggle happening. A choice being made. I don't think you could crawl out of the second bottle. I know a thing or two about people with alcohol problems. My mother chose it before her kids and its really screwed me up to be honest. My father was killed in a car accident. His blood alcohol level was 3x the legal limit. I was almost 30 before I even began to drink and I do so cautiously.
    As a person who grew up inside a bottle of my parents' choice, I commend you for the choice you've made. I can't tell you how many times I wish they were able to stop, too.

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  28. Thank you all for your comments and words of encouragement. This post felt great!

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  29. The first one is more powerful I think because you are naked and vulnerable and looks like you are trying to figure out whether or not YOU can make it without drinking or not and the second one is good too, it looks like helplessness and despair, that YOU have given in to the bottle and it is the winner over you! Very good SPs!!!

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  30. Hey BZ, I find the second one more powerful because of the perspective and the expression.

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