Days of Wine and Roses

Days of Wine and Roses

Public relations man Joe Clay meets and falls in love with Kirsten Arnesen, a secretary.  Kirsten is a teetotaler until Joe introduces her to social drinking. Reluctant at first, after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink "made me feel good."  Despite the misgivings of her father , who runs a San Mateo landscaping business, they get married and have a daughter named Debbie.

Joe slowly goes from the "two-martini lunch" to full-blown alcoholism. It affects his work and, in due time, he and Kirsten both succumb to the pleasures and pain of addiction.  Joe is demoted due to poor performance brought on by too much booze.  He is sent out of town on business.  Kirsten finds the best way to pass the time is to drink, and drinks a lot.  While drunk one afternoon, she causes a fire in their apartment and almost kills herself and their child.  Joe eventually gets fired from the PR firm and goes from job to job over the next several years.

One day, Joe walks by a bar and sees his reflection in the window.  He goes home and says to his wife: "I walked by Union Square Bar. I was going to go in. Then I saw myself, my reflection in the window, and I thought, 'I wonder who that bum is.' And then I saw it was me.  Now look at me.  I'm a bum.  Look at me!  Look at you.  You're a bum.  Look at you.  And look at us.  Look at us.  C'mon, look at us! See?  A couple of bums."

Seeking escape from their addiction, Joe and Kirsten work together in Mr. Arnesen's business and succeed in staying sober for a while.  However, the urges are too strong, and after a late-night drinking binge, Joe destroys an entire greenhouse of his father-in-law's plants while looking for a stashed bottle of liquor.

After commitment to a sanitarium, Joe finally gets sober for a while, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, a dedicated sponsor named Jim Hungerford and regular AA meetings. When Joe tries to help Kirsten, he instead ends up drinking again, and goes to a liquor store that closed for the night.  Joe breaks into the store and steals a bottle, resulting in another trip to the sanitarium.

Hungerford warns him that he must keep sober no matter what, even if that means staying away from Kirsten.  He explains to Joe how alcoholics often demonstrate obsessive behavior, pointing out that Kirsten's previous love of chocolate may have been the first sign of an addictive personality, and counsels him that most drinkers hate to drink alone.

Joe eventually becomes sober for good and a responsible father to his child while holding down a steady job.  He tries to make amends with his father-in-law by offering him an envelope full of cash for past debts and wrongs, but Mr. Arnesen lashes out at him for getting Kirsten involved in the alcoholic lifestyle.  After calming down, Arnesen says that Kirsten has been disappearing for long stretches of time and picking up strangers in bars.

One night, after Debbie is asleep, Kirsten comes to their apartment to attempt a reconciliation.  Joe sees that if he were to give in, it could lead to more of his previous self-destructive behavior.

Kirsten longs for going back to "the way it was" but as Joe explains to her, "You remember how it really was?  You and me and booze a threesome.  You and I were a couple of drunks on the sea of booze, and the boat sank.  I got hold of something that kept me from going under, and I'm not going to let go of it.  Not for you.  Not for anyone.  If you want to grab on, grab on.  But there's just room for you and me no threesome."

Kirsten refuses to admit she's an alcoholic, but does acknowledge that without alcohol, she "can't get over how dirty everything looks."  "You better give up on me," she says.  When Debbie asks "Daddy, will Mommy ever get well?" he says "I did, didn't I?" When Kirsten leaves, Joe fights the urge to go after her.  He looks down the street where Kirsten is walking, a "Bar" sign reflecting in the window.

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