Tapering off, they used to call it. Or the reduction cure. I had a schedule. Night one, a six tall and a half pint of whiskey. Night 2, a six tall, no whiskey. Night 3, a six short. Night 4, a 40oz of malt liquor. Night 5, a quart of beer. And by night 6, nothing. That was if I didn't cheat. If I didn't add a shot to my beer here or there, or sneak down to the lobby bar for a refresher.
Even when the "cure" worked, I'd sometimes have to stay with that 40oz for a week or so before stepping down. I'd put it in the fridge and place a damp mug in the freezer. Then I'd wait for 11pm to roll around. Sleep was only possible with some alcohol in my system. But if I started drinking too early, I wouldn't stop. So, I'd wait until the nightly TV news, then slam the 40 in 15 minutes. Which meant wading thru 3 or 4 hours of inane TV while I squirmed like a catfish on a hook, waiting. Then at 11, I'd leap up, retrieve the now frosty mug from the freezer, grab the 40oz from the fridge, and down a glassful. By the time the weather report came on, I'd take the last gulp, then hurry off to bed, lightly buzzed. If all went well, I'd awake in the morning, refreshed but not hungover. Ready to face the day. That was the plan. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes not.
My longest period of sustained sobriety in 15 years was 49 days. But that didn't count because I had an ulcer and was under doctor's orders not to drink. Also, my doctor (who was a smoker) gave me Librium, a tranquilizer, to take the edge off. At the time I was separated from my first wife and living in a one-room apartment that cost $9 a day. I was working an editorial job t the time, so I'd come home from work, grab some take-out, then start in on the Coors Cutter and Librium. Since there was no alcohol in the beer, I considered myself relatively sober, tho the Librium made me comfortably loopy at times.
At that place, I had no clock and no TV, so I just sat down at my typewriter, switched on the radio, and hammered out poems until I got tired. That was probably my best system, because it allowed me to get lots of writing done. The job, tho only mildly indecent, was hopelessly dull. So I decided to send the poems out to prospective publishers. In a 3-month period, I submitted to dozens of magazines, most small literary mags published on a shoestring budget out of someone's basement. But the work started getting picked up. A poem here, two there. By the end of that fall, I'd garnered 18 acceptance slips--a huge number for me.
Then the doc took another look inside my stomach and gave me a clean bill of health. I remember my first night back at my local stripper bar. I brought a roll of Tums with me and stayed away from the liquor. For every beer, I'd have two Tums. The result was that I burped a lot, but the knifing pain in my stomach did not reappear. I remember the bartender, Sheri, bringing my beer and saying, "Baby, you're back." That, I was.