During the Kavanaugh hearings, much was made of his heavy drinking during high school and college. I am a recovering alcoholic who will mark 44 years of sobriety on October 23rd of this year. My antennae are quick to pick up tell-tale signs of other people’s proclivity for alcohol; I am sure that Brett Kavanaugh could tick off lots of the boxes on any diagnostic questionnaire about whether one is alcohol dependent. In fact, he could “ace” that particular test. Many investigators into the language patterns of alcoholics point out that we often volunteer revealing information about our drinking behaviors. During his testimony “under oath,” recall the repeated references about his relationship to beer: “I like beer; I still like beer…1 beer, 3 beers…sometimes I have too many beers.” If you listen to those statements, you’ll detect a certain bravado in his tonality, as if to say “so what, I have no problem, I could stop any time I chose.”
But it was when I watched his rebuttal of Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s humble yet powerful words about the sexual assault she remembers by Kavanaugh that I became convinced of his alcohol dependency. Her words were spoken first, in the morning, while his were reserved for the afternoon. Over lunch, I suspect two things obtained: he was instructed in what words to speak that would endear him to the president’s “base”; he was told not to drink one of his beloved beers because someone in the hearing room might smell alcohol on his breath. During most of my own nineteen years of alcoholic drinking, I never lost a day of work and was a pretty good lecturer about English literature. But I always requested morning classes, since I could perform easily before lunch. But by mid-afternoon, sitting perhaps in one of innumerable boring meetings at my university, I began to fray at the edges. I also had to be sure I had a Kleenex on my person to get rid of the sweat beads that began to form on my forehead and upper lip, no matter what I did to try and remain calm. Finally, if a colleague or intrepid student engaged me in conversation, I could feel my nerves on edge, requiring me to work hard not to fly off the handle about the relative merits of some early modern poet.
As Kavanaugh began his afternoon delivery that swung between outrage and tearful self-pity, I turned off the sound for a while and just watched his facial expressions and hand gestures. Sweat began to form on his forehead and upper lip but he must have felt it would be too revealing to try and wipe them away with a tissue, so they just stayed there. His cheeks grew ever redder, attributed by many perhaps to the force of his denial of Dr. Ford’s accusations, but another sign to me of his body’s simple chemical response to not having a little alcoholic booster with his sandwich. Alerted by these familiar markers, I turned the sound back on and heard the increasing anger and agitation as Kavanaugh came closer and closer to losing control completely of what was coming out of his mouth. And his hand gestures, while again mimicking his commander-in-chief, also reminded me of my own skewed movements as I tried both to accent whatever point I was making at 3 p.m. and to do something with the “fidgets” overtaking me as the shakes came ever closer to the surface.
So I remain certain that the man who has just become the newest member of the highest court in the land was suffering from initial and inevitable early on-set withdrawal because he had not been allowed to feed the monkey on his back with a couple of those liked beers that usually let him maneuver his way to the cocktail hour when work was over. So as I get ready to feel tremendous gratitude for having stopped my own alcoholic drinking so long ago, I shudder to think what may ensue unless Kavanaugh can admit his own dependence and get help.