This poem came out of the August 20, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles and rowyn. It also fills the "mistaken identity" square in my second card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis.
Shaeth walked into the room
to find Glenta trying to kill something
with a rolling pin.
Trobby and Eshne were pressed
into opposite corners,
eyeing the scene with dismay.
"What the hell is going on here?"
"Bottle demon," Glenta said shortly.
"Quit gawking and come help me squash it."
"That's not a demon," Shaeth said,
looking at the tiny creature
with its singing crystal wings
and elegant form.
"It came out of a bottle of wine,"
Glenta said. "It is a bottle demon."
She took another swing
and knocked the creature
tumbling across the room,
its wings tinkling like glass.
Trobby scooped it off the floor.
"It wasn't hurting anything," he protested.
"You didn't have to clobber it!"
"I have seen what kind of damage
bottle demons can do," Glenta said.
She hadn't loosened her grip
on the rolling pin despite the fact
that Trobby was now holding
the object of her ire.
Shaeth realized that for some reason
Glenta was not entirely rational on this matter.
He looped a wiry arm
around the old woman's waist,
careful not to crush her,
and pulled her away from Trobby.
"That really, truly is not a demon,"
Shaeth said in a firm tone.
"I know what demons feel like,
and that is not one of them."
"Then what is it?" Trobby asked,
peering down at the glossy thing
cradled in his arms.
"I'm not sure." Shaeth frowned.
"It almost feels like an angel ...
it's some kind of good spirit,
certainly not aligned with evil."
"A bottle angel?" Eshne asked.
"You told me about the demons,
but you didn't mention angels."
"I didn't know," Shaeth said.
"Polarity being what it is,
it makes sense for there to be
both infernal and celestial entities
associated with alcohol."
Glenta elbowed Shaeth in the ribs
and then tried to whack him with the rolling pin.
"Will you quit?" he snapped,
yanking the makeshift weapon out of her hand.
It was beyond undignified for someone
who had once slaughtered entire armies
to be harassed by a harridan with a kitchen utensil.
"Let's go sit down and ... try to find some calm,"
Eshne suggested, coaxing Glenta
to the far side of the room.
"What's a bottle angel for?" Trobby wondered
as he stroked the glimmering wings,
trying to see if Glenta had done any real damage.
"I teach people the good things
about fermented beverages,"
the bottle angel replied in a chiming voice.
"Moonshine can clean wounds.
A little red wine helps the heart stay healthy."
"You're just like the bottle demons,"
Glenta yelled across the room,
"trying to trick people by claiming
an end to all their troubles!"
"Hardly that," said the bottle angel.
"There are some specific uses,
and one must still practice moderation."
"Or abstinence," Eshne said.
"I've heard that once hooked on the bottle,
a person might get free of it, but only
if they never drink again."
"It is better to learn self-control
than to avoid all temptation,"
said the bottle angel.
"I'm not doing so well
with either of those things,"
Trobby said sadly.
"I can help with that too,"
the bottle angel assured him.
"Can we keep him?"
Trobby asked Shaeth.
"That depends on whether Glenta
can keep her temper," Shaeth said,
glaring at the old woman.
"I do not trust that thing,"
"Will you at least give it a chance?"
Shaeth said. "Now that I'm not evil,
I'd like to see if I can work with
angels as well as demons."
Glenta gave a grudging nod.
"So long as it does no harm,
I will let it alone," she said.
"But as soon as it hurts anyone,
I'm smashing the damned thing."
Shaeth refrained from pointing out
that "angel" and "damned"
were mutually contradictory traits.
"Now before you can start
learning about moderation,"
the bottle angel said to Trobby,
"you must first learn about yourself,
and if there are any gaps
in what you need, fill them up
so that bad things don't seep in and
make big cracks like ice breaking pavement."
"That sounds hard,"
"That's one difference
between demons and angels,"
said the chiming voice.
"Demons give you what you think you want,
in a way that winds up hurting you.
Angels make you work for what you want,
so that it actually does some good."
* * *
Alcohol has many uses. Moonshine, one of the strongest drinks, makes an excellent disinfectant. (Technically, moonshine is any illegal distilled liquor, not a specific type; but it tends to have similar characteristics.) Any strong alcohol can serve that purpose. It's just that the purer it is, the less sticky residue there will be from other ingredients. Red wine really does have health benefits in modest quantities.
Moderation vs. abstinence is a huge debate fraught with much tension in the medical and recovery communities. Some believe that alcoholism can be cured, others that it can never be cured but only managed. (Check out the roots of the Alcoholics Anonymous system to see where some of this came from.) As is common in many fields, different things work for different people, and folks can get downright vicious about defending their choice of the One True Way -- even if it hurts someone else. Picking on people never produces positive results, so please don't do that. This program handbook discusses the importance of matching the treatment method to an individual's problem and personality.
First, it helps for a problem drinker to decide whether they want to drink less or stop drinking. Those are two possible ways to curtail the negative effects of alcohol use. It's also prudent to learn coping skills to deal with whatever stress inspired the problem drinking in the first place, a feature of some treatment programs. Moving away from addiction requires creating a new lifestyle. Remember, if you try one method of solving your problem, and it does not work, try another method. Even if you have been told there is only one option or that nothing else works, ignore that, and search for something else effective. There are always alternatives! Sometimes you just have to discover them for yourself.
Alcoholism tends to create dysfunctional family roles.
Glenta is a Hero. Usually she is the most functional member of this found-family. That doesn't mean she's completely okay.
These responsible children try to ensure that the family looks “normal” to the rest of the world. In addition, they often project a personal image of achievement, competence, and responsibility to the outside world. They tend to be academically or professionally very successful. The cost of such success is often denial of their own feelings and a belief that they are “imposters.”
Trobby is a Scapegoat. He's been a failure most of his life, and is just starting to realize that he could be more than that.
These people are identified as the “family problem.” They are likely to get into various kinds of trouble, including drug and alcohol abuse, as a way of expressing their anger at the family. They also function as a sort of pressure valve; when tension builds in the family, the scapegoat will misbehave, allowing the family to avoid dealing with the drinking problem. Scapegoats tend to be unaware of feelings other than anger.
Scapegoats appear in many dysfunctional families, often because they express "forbidden" emotions. Like tricksters, they appear under oppression and deal in taboos (and the breaking thereof). It can be very difficult to escape this role.
There are resources for surviving a dysfunctional family and how to break dysfunctional family patterns. Learn to recognize the features of a dysfunctional family and a healthy family. Notice that despite the craptastic background that most of these folks have, and their very prosaic goals, they're actually doing pretty well at creating a life that sucks less. Go, team!