By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Something Nancy, before the age of 30, never had to trouble herself with. She married Michael Safonov in 1968, and was supported by him throughout his tenure in the Navy, during which time Nancy, and later their newborn son, traveled with him, until one day in 1975.
“We moved back to Jacksonville, where Mike was stationed, and it’s weird, because that‘s when I started drinking,” says Nancy, picking tobacco off her tongue and, since she has few remaining teeth, giving the lopsided grin of a stroke victim. “We had a garage apartment behind a house that was occupied by four or five different guys, and they were always drinking and partying and stuff, and here I am with a baby, and I said, ’Damn, it looks like they‘re having a lot of fun.’ So I hired a baby sitter one day and bought a six-pack of Budweiser. Took me all day to drink it. And when I woke up the next morning I didn‘t have a hangover or nothing, but I decided beer wasn’t very ladylike, so I bought a bottle of white wine, and drank half of it that night. Still no hangover. By the end of the month I was drinking a lot. Before then, I had drunk nothing to speak of. I was the kind of person who would hold a drink. Mike said, ‘I didn’t know you liked to drink so much.‘ He didn’t say anything more than that. Then I got into hard liquor.”
Mike accepted a teaching post at USC, and the family moved to Los Angeles. “We rented a house in Mar Vista, and then we bought it. We stayed there two or three years. I had gotten alcohol poisoning a couple of times. My husband put me in the hospital twice, and when the second hospitalization didn‘t take, he told me, ’I don‘t feel I have any other choice but to file for formal separation,’ which in California is nine months, ‘and if you haven’t cleaned up your act and stuff, then we‘ll be divorced.’ And that‘s what happened. Did I try to fight the divorce? Sort of, but I never stopped drinking, so it was hopeless. My mom had passed away, so I had enough money and assets and stuff like that, so it didn’t faze me. I figured, I‘ve got money, I’ve got a VW bus, I‘ve got a boat, I’ve got everything that I need -- ‘I can drink in peace’ kind of thinking.” She grins the lopsided grin. “That‘s as debauched as I was.”
She got an apartment in Santa Monica, and began several years of steady drinking.
“I’m not what you call a social drinker. I didn‘t really have any friends. It would never occur to me to go to a bar and spend money on drink after drink after drink, when I could go buy a bottle and go somewhere and that’s that. I drank at home. And . . . it just gave me a relief. Relief. I was a lot more relaxed, and happier. The hangovers were bad, though, very bad. I made the money last two years, and then I started to sell things. First the jewelry, then the silverware, the boat, the VW bus. It was scary, seeing all this stuff go, but I just couldn‘t deal with it. Then I started stealing. Stealing booze. I got evicted. I picked up a really bad boyfriend -- he was on PCP. We wound up living in his car. I was really badly beaten [by him], and one morning I decided, ’I‘m not coming back to this car,’ so I just kept walking away. Walking, walking, walking, through the alleys; some guy gave me five bucks, he was out gardening. Then the cops picked me up. I had no shoes, no ID, no money, and I‘m drinking. And I was sitting on the storm drain across from the house I used to own in Mar Vista.”
The police picked her up and sent her to Camarillo State Hospital. “I was penniless at this point, and my husband was on sabbatical in England. He met a woman over there, a divorcee with two kids, and they got married and had another child. My son was about 7 at the time. It was . . . okay. I knew I wasn’t really able to . . . I didn‘t really want him. I didn’t want to be a full-time mom, so I didn‘t see him very much. And I disrespected the fact that [Mike] remarried, and they had a child together. I didn’t feel comfortable at all about trying to call or anything. It just seemed the more appropriate way, you know. I needed to be on my own two feet, anyway.”
Nancy‘s third trip through rehab was the charm. For nine years, she stayed sober, kept an apartment, began sporadic contact with her son, and had a series of low-paying jobs, the last of which was at a flower shop.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city