Burning Down the House


Alcohol is lighter fluid.

It soaks into whatever you pour it on, and then it waits to be lit. You light a match, and it bursts into flame, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.

Lighter fluid is tricky and dangerous, so there are rules around its usage — how much is safe to use, how to keep things you had no intention of burning from catching fire, and how not to burn yourself in the process.

It’s not safe around children.

But it seems to have its uses — it keeps you warm in winter, and the glow of a fireplace with friends around it is like liquid solace. It’s cocooning and comforting, and to want that is to be human.

But alcohol is trickier still, because it knows no boundaries. The flames will escape, and you will only see the flickering trail out of the corner of your eye. But it’s there, and it’s stealthily moving along paths in the brain, burning its way into desire, lapping closer to your body, but you are mesmerized by the flame and that feeling of well-being and comfort, and you can’t see what’s happening.

So your life moves along, and you carry the can of lighter fluid with you, lighting this, lighting that, until soon you begin to see flames in the distance. How did that happen? Now you smell smoke, and it’s acrid and makes your eyes burn. You begin to suspect that the whole house could be burning, and you are powerless to stop it.  And it’s getting hot. Too hot to be comforting.

You want to control the flames but you can’t put down the can because you’re afraid of the cold. Because the fire has told you that you need it to survive, and now, in your mind, you do. A mind soaked in ethanol cannot think clearly, no matter what that mind tells itself.

What happens next is up to you.

Once you see the danger, once you see what’s happening, do you struggle to put out the flames here, but light a little something there, clinging to your can of lighter fluid? Or do you see that it’s better to fight the fire without carrying a combustible can with you, playing the odds that you won’t explode along with it? Your brain is fractured, but if you want to, in a moment of lucidity, your better angels will show you what is happening, and they will show you a way out, and whether you listen or not is up to you.

It’s up to you.

26 thoughts on “Burning Down the House

    1. Thank you, Carrie Ann! Every time I read you name, the song “Hey, Carrie Ann” plays in my head for the rest of the day. They play it in the diner we go to a couple of times a week as well, so needless to say, I am always thinking about you. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is pretty awesome! I was just looking around this morning and not feeling much blog love and was delighted to see my site in your blogroll and then this is your comment, haha! Right on time.

        I was a DJ on an oldies radio station in high school (old soul indeed) and I used to play that Hollies song as my opener each week. “Hey Carrie Anne, what’s your game, now can anybody play?”

        FWIW: My people generally just call me Carrie on the daily; I use Carrie Ann when I’m writing as a connection or welcome to the little girl I have silenced so long. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Brilliant! I love that — a connection to the little girl you have silenced. That has really become my goal, to find out what became of my own lost self. It’s an amazing process, don’t you think? It’s kind of like opening packages all year long. One example is that I stick up for myself more often. Not that I thought I was every a doormat, but I was much more likely to let things go while drinking. I can’t say that everyone loves that about me, but who cares??
        I know what you mean about seeing your name on a blog role. When I first got started, I emailed celeb sober blogger Mrs. D, and was amazed that she wrote me back! After a while, your blog will show up the most amazing places. ; )
        I have a sister named Kerry, so once again, your name is easy to remember. A high school DJ? This shows some major cojones. It makes me think there’s a lot to discover about Carrie Ann.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This song was just served up to me by Apple Music – It’s called Run for Cover by Gabrielle Aplin
    There is a mention of a house on fire. 😉

    And I believe that we hide our treasure, just like pirates.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I am so concerned for these young men and women that go through the courts system and usually spend time in prison for driving while intoxicated. Almost everyone on these blogs has done the same, but the price is unbelievably high sometimes. And you read the story in the paper, and then they just disappear. It’s amazing how common it is and how few people blame the bars that push shots or the industry that makes drinking an indispensable part of youth.

      I could ramble on, but enough for now. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know 2 young people who lost their licences for a year, had to drive with one of those breathalizer things in it for another year and spent THOUSANDS in related costs and fees. And then I have met other people who have driven for 30+ yrs regularly drunk, often blind drunk and never been caught. It is amazingly common and yes there is no blame on the industry and advertising that glorifies drinking or at the very least makes it seem like an everyday part of life.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your so right about the randomness of who gets caught and who doesn’t. I wrote about one woman in a blog (Returning to the Scene of the Crime) https://wordpress.com/post/asobermiracle.wordpress.com/516

        And since then, it has happened again and again in our area. And it could happen to anyone! The accident does not have to be your fault and you do not have to be rip-roaring drunk. If you were drinking, and there is an accident, things get really complicated fast.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I need a reminder of just how bad things could get if drinking ever looks appealing. I am rereading “Blackout: The Things I Drank to Forget,” and the writer points out that even when losing her health, she wasn’t alarmed at the idea of death because she felt like she was already dead. That numbness makes even shocking things seem kind of unreal and inevitable. When sober, things become clearer, but the memory can begin to gloss over the reality of life by drink.

      Liked by 1 person

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