Clean and Sober

Last weekend the Kellers laid low at home and watched two movies about addicts, Clean and Rachel Getting Married. Generally I’m not a fan of addiction and recovery themes, too much like real life, I guess. But I found these films to be engrossing. Both center on addicted women, played by Maggie Cheung and Anne Hathaway, who are very unsympathetic characters. Alienating all around them with their destructive and self possessed behavior, these human train wrecks seem to be destined to lose everything to their addiction, and not have anyone left to care. In Clean, Cheung’s character, Emily, is cleaning up after a stint in prison and is trying to reunite with her son, who is being cared for by the parents of her overdose victim husband. Hathaway’s Kym, is on a furlough from treatment to attend her sister’s wedding, and soon makes it obvious that she thinks everything is about her and about her problem. She turns her toast at the groom’s dinner into a twelve step amends, going on and on about how sorry she is for everything, without ever mentioning the bride and groom. That wouldn’t qualify as making amends at the meetings I went to.

It was the former behavior that bothered me the most. I’m a recovering alcoholic, or as my father who shared the malady called it, a dehorn. That must have been stockyards lingo. I’ve gone 24  years without a drink, if you don’t count the time this summer when I grabbed the wrong beer bottle off the counter at a family gathering. It wasn’t O’Doul’s. I’m not counting it. I try to stay pretty low key about it, I get uncomfortable when people call attention to it. I’ll cop to it if the situation calls for it, but I always hope the conversation goes elsewhere quickly. One of my pals, who isn’t the most sensitive guy has said to me, “I really feel sorry for you, not being able to enjoy the taste of wine.” I guess I take the whole thing pretty for granted. I haven’t had a craving for a drink in years. On one hand it seems amazing, since I’m not known for my strength of willpower. But it came easy for me, I had a really bad hangover one day, decided I didn’t want to do that anymore and put myself in treatment. It wasn’t quite that sudden, I’d suspected I had a problem for years, and those horrible hangovers were getting way to common. So seeing the way these two lost souls behave made me dislike them for being like me.

The films ended with redemption, and in both cases the source of the redemption was family. The father-in-law (Nick Nolte) in Clean realizes that the he needs to bring Emily and her son together, because he won’t be around to raise him. The dysfunction in Rachel seems to melt away at the wedding ceremony, a reaffirmation that blood is thicker than water. Music is another thing the films had in common, Emily is a aspiring rocker and Kym’s family as well as the groom are involved in the music industry, which seems like a devise to work some very good musical performances into the plot. Are they trying to tell us something. I’m  reminded of the Johnny Carson skit where Doc’s on trial for speeding and Johnny is his lawyer. The judge ask Doc to confirm that his profession is “musician.” Johnny interrupts, “Objection, are  you implying my client has a drug problem?” I’m going to  go play my guitar and think about that.

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