Why Rudy Giuliani's Drinking Problem Isn't Really So Funny
In much the same way I know a lot about the Army from a not terribly distinguished career, I know a lot about drinking from the same grievous perspective. Let me assure you that when your drinking earns you an above-the-fold front page story in the New York Times that jumps to a full page inside the paper, as Rudy Giuliani’s drinking did on Thursday, it’s not funny.
Sure, there is a temptation to point fingers and snicker at the photos of Giuliani from 2020 with hair dye cascading in sweaty rivulets down his cheeks as he was attempting to captain the listing ship of Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign. After all, Giuliani was failing spectacularly at the time, losing 60 court challenges to election results and holding a press conference in the parking lot of a firm in Philadelphia known as Four Seasons Total Landscaping – get it: same name as the luxury hotel? – seemingly oblivious to how ridiculous he looked.
See, that’s one of the signature effects of, well, let’s call it what it is – alcoholism. You’re so deep within the warm embrace of whatever alcohol you’re consuming, Scotch in Giuliani’s case, that you can’t see yourself as the pathetically loud, grandiose, grandstanding drunk that you are. Think of it from within the alcoholic fog: You don’t sound loud to yourself; you’re not grandstanding, you’re standing up for a principle or a principal, either one will work when you’re so used to being governed by your addiction to alcohol that it’s impossible for you to see yourself as you appear to others.
There are a couple of what you might call alcoholic set-pieces in the Times story about Giuliani’s drinking. In one, he is wandering through the main dining room in a restaurant in East Hampton, probably the clubbish Nick and Toni’s, “as if waiting to be stopped by anyone, while the rest of his party dined in a back room,” according to a witness who described the scene for the Times. “He would walk back and forth like he wanted everyone to see him, more than once. He just wanted to be recognized.” In the other, the Times notes that Giuliani was such a regular drinker at the Trump International Hotel in Washington while his mentor/friend was president that “a custom plaque was placed at his table: ‘Rudolph W. Giuliani Private Office.’” I’ve known a few people who had their names on plaques in Village bars or on the backs of barstools. They’re all dead.
One of the worst things about an addiction to alcohol is that you don’t know you’re addicted. Why, all you have to do is sit down in a restaurant or hail a bartender, and you’re brought the exact thing you want. It’s called, “ordering,” the behavior that is so commonplace it’s able to conceal from the alcoholic what it really is: the satisfaction of a craving, the maintenance of an alcohol blood content which has risen to the level of a need. But you aren’t aware of that. In the case of Giuliani, his honorary plaque tells him otherwise, as does the back-slapping and approbation of those around him.
They are also the ones who can see the pathos that alcohol massages away. That you are as blinded as you are cushioned by the effects of alcohol tells you all you need to know about the sadness and loneliness of what medical science calls an “active alcoholic.”
People around Giuliani willing to speak with the Times did so in a manner that was “careful…and with considerable nuance,” the paper reported. This is commonly known in circles knowledgeable about alcoholism as tip-toeing around the elephant in the room, Giuliani’s huge consumption of alcohol being the elephant, and the rest of them being enablers.
That’s another problem faced by alcoholics – everyone is willing to help when all help costs is the price of single malt scotch or a cigar that Giuliani frequently “enjoyed” before his appearances on Fox News at the Grand Havana Room, described by the Times as “a Midtown cigar club that still treated him like the King of New York.” The Times described a patron “out of the former mayor’s line of sight…as he signaled the rest of the club, tipping back his empty hand in a drinking motion.” Patrons of the club were described as “slipping away to find a television, clenching through his [Giuliani’s] rickety defenses of Trump.”
There is the life of an alcoholic neatly described in a single scene: Gloriously celebrating in the throes of your friend, the glass you just picked up, while behind you, everyone else sees your bloodshot eyes or your running hair dye or hears your slurred words and says nothing, unwilling to interrupt your drinking for fear they’ll be seen as breaking the spell of your “fun.”
The Times couched much of its lengthy story about Giuliani’s drinking in terms of what he did for and with Donald Trump, pointing out that the special counsel has become interested in the levels of his “inebriation” at key moments like election eve, or during meetings he attended in the Oval Office. But excessive, habitual drinking doesn’t need to be seen in conjunction with anything or anyone except the person who has lost control over themselves to their addiction to alcohol. It’s not fun, and it’s not funny, for Rudy Giuliani or any other alcoholic living in the loneliness of addiction. It’s hell inside that bottle and crawling out of it is the hardest thing in the world.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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