27. August 2006 · Comments Off on Sober Blogging (060827) · Categories: Domestic, Pajama Game

With all of the recent publicity about Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest, I thought I’d make some things clear to some of you more normal imbibers of spirits. There seem to be some misconceptions out there about how a real alcoholic does or doesn’t react. While I’m at it, I’m gonna talk a little bit about A.A.. Since I enjoy a degree of anonimity here, I don’t think I’ll be breaking any A.A. Traditions. And I’m comfortable enough with the folks here who do know my real name to talk about this.

There seems to be a common perception that alcohol is some great truth serum, and that a person’s true colors come out when they’re drunk. That may be true, if they’re simply drunk and not in a blackout. In a blackout, anything goes. Inhibitions go out the window entirely. We may assume the identities of our parents, a friend, a guy on television. I’m told I spent an entire three-day bender as Dudley Moore once. Only my friends didn’t find me half as funny as Arthur.

So when anyone goes off on Mel Gibson being anti-semitic or some other presumption that he’s really that way, I just sort of shrug and assume that they’ve never had a real drunk in their life.

Now, does that excuse what happened? Nope. If someone is an alcoholic and knows that they’re alcoholic and they drink again, then they’re playing with a time bomb and they know it…or not. If they’re still playing the, “This time it’s going to be different.” game, then they still might think they’ve got a handle on it. Not much anyone can do for them until they realize, “Ya know, I don’t get in trouble every time I drink, but every time I’ve been in trouble, I’ve been drunk.” Making that connection can be harder than micro soldering with a wood burner for some folks.

One of the other misconceptions about drunks is that we can just quit and everything will be okay. Once the alcohol is gone, we’ll be just peachy. Ya know, if that were true, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) wouldn’t be necessary. For a lot of drunks, just not drinking will simply drive them crazy. I don’t mean physical withdrawal, that’s bad enough. Physical withdrawal from heroin will make you sick for a few days, physical withdrawal from alcohol can kill ya. But even after most drunks get all the alcohol out of our system, our heads are still playing with us: “Come on, one drink, what can it hurt?” “You’ve been doing so good for a month now, just have a beer.” And ya know, if you’re a normal drinker, you have no problem stopping after a beer or two. For a real alcoholic, one leads to two, leads to five, leads to oblivion. We’re kind of wired that way. One drink starts an actual physical craving for more, and more makes the physical craving worse, not better. And our heads just go along for the ride, “Well yeah, hell, we’ve already had one, might as well tie one on.” An obsession of the mind coupled with an allergy of the body. And that’s the disease concept of Alcoholism that everyone from the AMA to shrinks have used for decades. Insurance Companies HATE the disease concept because, well, if it’s a disease, they have to cover it.

Now some folks just plain don’t like A.A. and that’s fine. If everyone who needed A.A. was to show up at once, we’d need much bigger meeting halls. A.A. isn’t for people who need it, it’s for people who want it. And there are a lot of misconceptions about A.A. also, some of them for good reason and others not.

A.A. is a religion or a cult. Well, unfortunately, it depends on where you are. A big part of the A.A. program is a reliance on a Higher Power (God for lack of a better word) and depending on where you are really depends on how generic or specific that God can be. And I hate to admit, that in some areas, the folks in A.A. have added some things to the program that tend to make it a bit more cultish than is comfortable for some of us. Some areas openly embrace the religion of the area they’re in, which is completely against A.A. Tradition, but some folks don’t pay a lot of attention to that. One thing about drunks, drunk or sober, we tend to think we’re special. Your best bet is to go to a lot of different meetings and see if there isn’t one that fits you. You can worry about fitting in to others later…or not. Fortunately, the culty and/or churchy crowd tends to fall apart and head for other meetings after awhile.

A.A. has their own bible. No, we have a book “Alcoholics Anonymous” that lays out the program that we use to pull our shit back together and a lot of folks call it “The Big Book” because the original edition from the 30’s was freakishly large because they used very thick (cheap) paper to print it. Now there are some “fundamentalists” in A.A.. “The Big Book says this, that’s all there is to it.” They get cut a lot of slack because, well, basically the program of A.A. as it’s laid out in the Big Book, IS the solution that A.A. has to offer. That’s the deal in A.A.. We do these things to stay sober. Some folks don’t want to do those things, so they don’t, and then they get drunk and then get pissed off and say that A.A. doesn’t work. Sigh. Shrug.

A.A. thinks that they’re the only way to get sober. Not officially, but you’ll tend to get that attitude from a lot of folks in A.A.. Why? Because it worked for them and they’re pretty sure that if THEY can get sober in A.A., ANYONE can get sober in A.A.. Like I said, we tend to think we’re special. For me, I came to A.A., I got sober, I stopped looking for other ways. As far as I’m concerned, anything that helps a drunk get sober is a good thing.

A.A. thinks that everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Just not true. We know there are normal drinkers and we don’t understand you anymore than you understand us. Seriously. I see someone buy a six-pack and my thought is, “What the hell are they doing? They’re going to have to come back in an hour or two.” Or someone who puts down a half-full drink because “I’m starting to feel it.” Ummm, yeah, that’s the point.

So, don’t be so quick to judge alcoholics, drunk or sober, just be grateful that you don’t understand what it’s like. As for Mel Gibson? Who knows? Maybe he was just being drunk and honest or maybe he was blacked out and trying to be someone else. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

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