If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)

Earl Erickson

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A song written by R. Beresford and H. Sanders and sung by country music’s living legend, George Jones , entitled, If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will) , has a much different meaning for me today.

In my case, this song was left wide open to interpret the meaning anyway the listener liked. In George Jones’ case, it was rumored that he lived the song in living color. If his drinking wouldn’t kill him, the memory that would kill him was in reference to his wife, at that time, the late, great First Lady of Country Music, Tammy Wynette. The song, was most likely, intended to depict the hurt and self-destructive ways, that a broken-up relationship or divorce, can have on a person unable to handle the disappointment of a failed relationship.

On a more serious note, my interpretation of this song carries a punch more deadlier than divorce. It means everlasting pain from the permanent loss of my soul mate, my spouse, my wife, and my life, what was once a very, happy one.

Let me share with you the lyrics of this song, to better understand my story:

If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)

The bars are all closed
It’s four in the morning
Must have shut ‘em all down
By the shape that I’m in
I lay my head on the wheel
And the horn begins honking
The whole neighborhood knows
That I’m home drunk again

And if drinking don’t kill me
Her memory will
I can’t hold out much longer
The way that I feel
With the blood from my body
I could start my own still
And if drinking don’t kill me
Her memory will

These old bones they move slow
But so sure of their footsteps
As I trip on the floor
And lightly touch down
Lord it’s been ten bottles
Since I tried to forget her
But the memory still lingers
Lying here on the ground

And if drinking don’t kill me
Her memory will
I can’t hold out much longer
The way that I feel
With the blood from my body
I could start my own still
But if drinking don’t kill me
Her memory will…


It’s been almost six years now—-since the horrible disease of cancer, claimed the life of my dear wife, Bobbie. It beat her up so badly, that she couldn’t think straight anymore and she had no control of some of her bodily functions. She battled the relentless demon to the end. But like some evil crusades, they sometimes win.

I had always been a beer drinker. I’m not in denial of that. I am an alcoholic. However, my disease was pretty much in remission—-thanks to my wife, Bobbie. She detested people who drank irresponsibly. And with her attitude and beliefs, I tried not to disappoint her. Throughout our marriage, I failed many times, but for the most part-my drinking was in-check.

I didn’t enjoy drinking at home, so I drank in bars and lounges. That meant I would have to drive or have some convenient designated driver be with me at all times. This wasn't practicle thinking. By being an alcoholic, who thinks practicle? I wasn’t really a regular patron anywhere. I was an irregular patron needing to hop from one establishment to the other. I would get bored with drinking at one place. This is what would get me in trouble with the law-drinking and driving.

After Bobbie passed away in 2001, I was a lost soul. I was hurting and I didn’t want to feel this kind of grieving pain. I was all alone now, and I hated it. Without Bobbie, I wanted to die. My drinking came out in full force again. This ground hog saw its shadow. And it meant more than six weeks of winter. It meant two-and-a-half years of pure hell-drinking. I was able to hold on to my job by some wayward miracle, or maybe Bobbie was my guiding angel. I do believe in angels. I was a mess. My self-worth didn’t really matter anymore. I would drink one day and be very ill for four. This is where my progression from alcoholism took me. I would be gravely sick in bed every weekend after a binder. I wouldn’t answer the phone or the doorbell, if it rang.

I fell off the deep end. I hit rock bottom. I was cited for a D. U. I. Then I drank more. I didn’t stop drinking until two-and-a-half months later. By believing in God , my higher power, I surrendered my weakness. I sobered up. I fulfilled the penalties and obligations the law imposed on me and carried out my lifelong plan of sobriety. For once in my life, I got the gorilla off my back. And what a weight it had carried on me. I have been sober since.

Like George Jones, I quit drinking before it quit me. But Bobbie’s memory lives on. Like the song, it may be her memory that will kill me. I pray to God it won’t be drinking that will kill me. If my life ends while being sober, I would rather die sober and have Bobbie’s memory do me in.

I want Bobbie’s memory to live on, but not necessarily kill me. If it means living in pain, so be it. Lord knows- I miss her terribly. I have wonderful, happy memories. Memories really can’t kill you if you live your life in sobriety. Sobriety is a safe harbor. Memories can somehow stop you from living if you don’t move on in your life.

If anybody says life gets easier in time, after a loved one has died, it really hasn’t happened to them. I mean it’s not necessarily true. Everybody grieves differently. Human nature tells us to comfort the bereaved. So what else is there to say other than, “give it time, time will heal your pain. ”

I suppose it’s true that I feed my pain. Bobbie is a constant presence in my life. I hear another cliché often used, “you need to move on in your life. ” What if I don’t want to move on? My front yard has a memorial garden in loving memory of my wife. My computer screen has Bobbie’s picture there. I created a website in honor of Bobbie and for the benefit of cancer research. I play music that Bobbie liked. I look at pictures and read the cards and letters we have given to each other. I surround myself with Bobbie’s memories. Will I ever stop revisiting her memory? Probably never. Will I ever move on? Now that, I don’t know. I tried being in a relationship with a girlfriend who moved in with me two years after Bobbie passed on. It didn’t work out. There were many reasons why it wasn’t a successful courtship. I would rather not go there.

I know in my heart, that Bobbie would not like to see me this way. She would like to see me happy and move on. I remember she told me many times after my mom and my aunt passed away, that I shouldn't make a shrine out of their memories. At the time, I thought she was being cold-hearted when she said that. But, she was right, I probably was building a shrine to preserve memories. I didn't see anything wrong with that.

The pain of memories subside with time, if you want them to. The only time the pain eases up, is when I write my feelings into a story. It’s the best therapy for me that I have discovered. I guess that means that if I keep writing stories about my memories and feelings I have for Bobbie-I’ll be okay. Then I guess if drinking don’t kill me, her memory will. And I’m saying this in a positive kind of way. Thanks, George, for singing that song.

Earl D. Erickson, is a grateful, recovering alcoholic. He has achieved sobriety since July 4, 2003 (Independence Day), his independence from alcohol. He finds peace and tranquility by writing his feelings into stories. He hopes his stories will benefit his readers. His other stories can be read by going to his websites, or by logging onto Ezine Articles on the internet. Also, his articles can be read by simply logging onto his name, Earl D. Erickson, on the internet. He welcomes his readers to e-mail him your stories to share with him. He, also, is writing a book about his struggles in life. It is entitled, Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder.

Mr. Erickson, owns and manages five different websites. Two of them are: http://BobbiesMountain.com , dedicated to his wife and cancer research. The other one is: http://ComfortandLoss.com , dedicated to bereavement and grief. Mr. Erickson, is a native and lifelong resident of Tacoma, Washington.


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