The waitress approached me and said, “sir- everyone is staring at you.” She had a look of concern on her face and for a few seconds I had no idea what she was talking about. She then looked down at my chin and it was at that moment that I realized I was sucking on a bottle. I took the bottle out from my mouth, thanked the waitress for her concern and then looked around the restaurant at all the eyes that were focused directly on me. The eyes were of all different sizes, some round others more triangular. They all seemed to be saying “how could a grown man suck on a bottle like that in a public place? You should be ashamed.” I understood their condemnation. It must of been unnerving for their eyes to see me, a grown man, sucking on a bottle. I nodded my head in acknowledgment of their contempt and then I stared at the empty beer bottle sitting on my table.
Sucking on bottles has become a real problem in my life. Last week I was almost fired from my job as a bartender because I was sucking on a wine bottle while working behind a busy bar. I suck on bottles unconciously and I am usually the last person to find out tha there is a bottle in my mouth. Until the waitress pointed out to me that I was sucking on an empty beer bottle I was in a no man’s land of empty, spaced out thought. I was like an infant suckling on his mother’s nipple- blissed out, content and without a worry in the world.
When I was a year old I refused to give up my bottle. At an age where most of my peers were moving on from the bottle I still wanted to keep mine in my mouth. Whenever it was not there, I would let out a rattling cry disturbing enough to worry the neighbors. My parents kept the bottle in my mouth well beyond my sixth birthday simply because they could not find a better solution for my developmental flaw. They assumed incorrectly that eventually I would outgrow my bottle fixation in the same way that outgrew my obsession with pulling my pants down in public.
I have seen various specialists and therapists for what came to be called my “regressive suckling attachment fixation.” In seventh grade I worked with a particular specialist who had my parents tape my mouth shut for three hours after dinner- every night for one month. If I took the tape off more than three times in one month I would not be given the reward that I was promised- a puppy. For three hours a night I would watch television or read with my mouth taped shut because my parents deeply believed that the specialist’s theory could solve my bottle fixation. His theory was that by spending three hours every night without a bottle in my mouth the attachment fixation would be broken. The bottle and I would get bored of each other and grow apart. The first few days after the end of the month the specialist’s theory worked. I was no longer interested in keeping a bottle in my mouth all the time. I remember one night watching television with my parents without the bottle in my mouth and my father said “thank goodness that shrink was right- my son is not going to be a cock sucker.” I believe it was the next day at lunch that I found an empty coke bottle and began sucking on it.
I am now almost forty years of age and I still have a bottle in my mouth most of the time. When I read, nap, go for a walk, watch television and meditate I enjoy a bottle in my mouth. My wife, who is agitated by my fixation, has tried to diffuse what she calls “my self-demeaning-negative-obsession” by forbidding me to suck on a bottle when I am in her presence. I try and respect her wishes but it is not easy. Often times when we are watching a movie or out to dinner my anxiety will act up and I will need to excuse myself and go into the bathroom and suck on a bottle for a few awhile.
The waitress brought me my check and I paid with cash. She gave me a sympathetic smile that seemed to be reserved for those whom she pitied. I put on my jacket and looked once more around the restaurant. A few eyes still suspiciously fixated upon me. One older lady seemed to be deeply offended by what I had done and was indignantly shaking her head in disapproval of me. I felt the sting of paranoia as I wondered if it was safe for me to leave the restaurant alone. I stood up, took a deep breath and without caring if anyone saw what I was doing- I took the empty beer bottle off the table and stuck it under my coat. As I cautiously walked out the front door of the restaurant I could swear that I heard an older, raspy voice yell, “ain’t it time that your mama showed you how to get off the bottle!”