“He did not heed this as a cautionary tale.
He used it as a reason to get drunk.”
Thadra Sheridan’s “Drunk” is a great piece for discussing drugs and alcohol without going into social-psychology. Certainly the dominant discourse around alcoholism is psychological and focused on the individual abusing the drug. Many poems reflect this discourse. Sheriden however explores the interaction within intimate groups, family and roommates, as she recalls and imagines the actions of the “drunks.” Thadra Sheridan’s unwavering calm delivery as she describes the silly, the uncomfortable, and the morbid really illustrates the socialization – or resocialization – that occurs when family members become addicted to substances. Overall, this poem serves as an amazing narrative for explaining rational choice theory. Throughout this piece, Sheridan explicitly and implicitly weighs the costs and rewards for her roommate, by examining how her parents weighed the costs and rewards of living with a “drunk.”
My roommate doesn’t remember
being found, passed out in a snowbank
in the middle of the night
a block from our house,
or splayed on his back in the dining room
wearing absolutely nothing
but tall red rubber boots.
My roommate has no idea where he left his
last nine bikes.
We used to be the best of friends.
Now he’s a 35-year-old man who is not allowed to use the oven.
And I, an adult,
have duct taped my smoke alarm to the kitchen wall
so he leaves the battery in it
when he cooks drunk.
It has been suggested that I kick him out.
It’s a good idea.
But I’d rather wait.
He’ll probably move out on his own soon, anyway
to somewhere he’s allowed to use the stereo,
or he’ll fall in love,
or he’ll get a job in Spain,
or for chrissakes, he falls down ALOT.
It’s only a matter of time before I find him
at the bottom of the basement stairs.
I realize that sounds harsh.
But it’s not like I’m going to push him.
I’m just going to sell his stuff later
to replace all the things he broke.
This is how it was for my mother
when she finally gave up on my father.
He made her so angry,
I watched her extinguish a cigarette
with the index finger of one hand
into the palm of the other.
But to leave him, she just waited
for him to run off with some floozy
or wrap his car around a tree.
It’s a dark thought.
But it’s not that she wanted him dead.
It’s just that she wanted him gone.
And there are only so many times they can
forge your signature on your own paychecks
before the details of their departure
After he left, my father found somebody worse than him.
He watched her
drink herself to death
on his couch last year;
watched her skin turn yellow,
watched her lose the ability to walk,
watched her shrivel to eighty pounds.
But he kept bringing her scotch
’til he found her body,
He did not heed this as a cautionary tale.
He used it as a reason to get drunk.
You can not stop them.
They will not stop for you.
And when you love them,
you find them in snowbanks.
You watch them rip the screen door off its hinges
because they can’t figure out how it works.
You watch them fall UP the stairs.
As you love them,
they lose control of their bowels.
You scrub their feces from the bathtub
so you can take a shower.
I would love to put an ad on Craigslist:
Must like cats,
Utilities not included,
No poop in the bathtub.
But first I have to give up on someone
I once loved very much.
And my people have a hard time giving up.
So I anticipate the inevitable organ failure
that will teach him a lesson
for doing this to himself.
Do not judge this.
This is not triumphant.
I’m just dreaming up a way
to make it stop.
– – –
Live from the Starry Plough in Berkeley, California
Video process by Wolf and Holmes Studios
Follow-up Sociology questions:
This space is reserved for any comments the author of the piece may have about the points he was trying to get across and the background of why he wrote the poem.