Mike’s Prattle


Alcoholism and responsibility

Posted by Mike on August 23, 2007

The last few months have been really interesting on a number of personal fronts. There are basically two situations, one related to an old partner peripherally back in my life and the other is basically tragedy. I credit meditation and other similar types of theurgic work for even having any sense of detachment for both situations, but also a couple of mutual friends both of whom I have the deepest respect and appreciation for. My coping mechanism for tragedy and anxiety is almost entirely humor, something I share with both friends. At least in the former situation, which more or less revolves around helping an ex through a similar situation to something I went through many years ago, things seem to be positive and working out and for that I’m grateful. Here I sense a woman on the cusp of really becoming something (even more) special especially in the sense that I find that people’s personal power can only come from one’s self and that the realization of such is one of the great liberators. Seeing someone you care about come to this realization is a great joy, especially as it tends to come on the back end of personal hell.

The other situation is intensely awful, especially absent a similar realization. It’s a situation that puts into conflict one’s loyalty to someone you’ve known forever and the need to put the same situation behind you. And as the subject states, it almost has everything to do with alcohol. Now since my college days I’ve always appreciated good drink and have gone through phases appreciating premium beer, scotch and rum. So when I say I drink maybe once or twice a month max now and have for years, I’ll say it’s the direct result of seeing alcohol destroy someone I cared about.

I’m no pioneer talking about the way alcohol can take down someone’s life, but when the alcoholic already has a self-centered and oblivious sense of ethics in place when sober, the unveiling of the tragedy is much worse. Support is entirely in conflict with one trying to find out where the alcohol stops and the true personality begins. And when the alcohol problem dates back to teen years, one starts to wonder if a true personality even exists or if it’s just modeled on years of manipulation and con artistry. Having someone you consider a friend, lie directly to your face with alcohol on his breath with the absolute knowledge that this person who you’re supposed to trust is lying about their denial is one of the great deal breakers when it comes to a friendship. It’s the point when you realize that this is a person you’ll never trust again in this lifetime, not specifically because everyone expects an alcoholic to lie, but because you realize this is the same hat worn on scores of previous occasions, even during the sober months.

Individuals like this don’t even really hit rock bottom, they just keep falling, hitting every crag along the way. When a human being feels entitled to luxury, entitled to the point of expecting it to be handed out on a silver platter, the ideas of actions and their reactions become alien. An action always leads to consequences of some sort and ignoring this connection changes the dynamic not a bit. Each tragedy that comes out of the result of a self-centered action is considered “not fair” when it’s actually exactly what you’d expect. If you drive a car with a blood alcohol level of .35, not only are you an oblivious alcoholic (as you’d have to be to even be able to operate at this horrific level – you’d literally have to have had 15-18 drinks in ONE HOUR to chart at this level) but you’re also a potential killer. When you do this AGAIN only weeks after spending a night in the tank with the property of someone who has basically gone well and above any sort of natural loyalty, you’re sending the message that you’d sell your best friends out for chump change.

Perhaps with this individual it’s too late, as so much of one’s late teens and early 20s (maybe even later in this era) deals with maturing and taking one’s place as a responsible member of society. Take that away, drown it with booze and one is eternally 17 years old, with the same careless passions for responsibility-less carousing. This individual has betrayed his friends, his family and particularly abused those whose sense of boundaries aren’t as firm. When one’s motivations are keeping one’s alcohol level at such precarious heights, everyone is fair game for manipulation. And unfortunately a 17 year old isn’t a clever manipulator, so friends are completely and totally aware of every vocal inflection, pause, sigh and bit of flattery that occurs. Every mutual friend I have could play this role in a movie to a tee and all of us are practically prophetic in terms of knowing what comes next. And yet we’re still surprised every time the latest rug gets pulled out. Can it get any worse? We have no reason to expect that it won’t. And when every other opportunity for healing is rejected, sooner or later that great healer known as death with be knocking on the door.

We all suffer knowing someone with this sort of problem and we all follow the ups and downs with our being. We spend hours wondering what we can do to change the situation, we literally despair over the problem because as friends we feel its our responsibility to give support. A friend who bails out when the chips are down isn’t much of a friend. Everyone knows the “turn the other cheek” cliche, but when both of those cheeks have been torn off, there’s nothing left for a beating.

This post is the very last thing I can possibly do and I expect it to have no discernable effect on the situation. But to me morality isn’t all that far from physics. Actions create their opposing reactions. Denial doesn’t change this one iota. Two DUIs (within ten years, let alone 6 weeks) means you get prison time and extraordinary debt, not happiness. But I suspect even the cold metal of handcuffs and bars will evoke nothing more than chagrin and accumulating outrage rather than enlightenment. And that’s the real tragedy.


6 Responses to “Alcoholism and responsibility”

  1. norm said

    Google does a daily search for ‘alcoholism’ for me, that’s how i found your blog.
    My feeling from sad personal experience is that when actively ingesting alcohol, there is no boundary under which there is ‘you’. It’s all affected by alcohol, all of it. There was only one way I got most of ‘me’ back. ‘you’ Total abstinence.

    To your question, Are all alcoholic’s selfish? Not sure. I do know that in any addicts life the addiction come first…addiction itself is the ultimate act of selfishness.

    I also am fairly certain that alcoholics tend to have some personality traits that cluster. Difficulty with social relationships, inability to ‘cope’ with everyday events, and a need to ‘escape’.

    So the question is does alcohol make you selfish, or are selfish people more likely to become alcoholics?

    More importantly, how can you help your friend. It’s tricky.
    The AA/Alanon philosophy says that you can not control anyone but yourself. I agree.

    HOWEVER, if someone had forced me to put breath control device on my car after the first DUI, i would have appreciated that. Treatment. I attended treatment five years before quitting for good. Yes intervention and getting the person into treatment is a good thing.

    Now, here is what i think is the scary part. You have to want to be alive, and you have to understand that drinking and being alive are not compatible. Seems like different people come to that realization in different time periods and in different ways.

    Once you have crossed the road to addiction…i think that its true…connections, changes to your brain have occurred, and they are permanent. Can you regain 95% of normal function. Yes. However, for the rest of your life there will be craving to drink, sometimes small, sometimes large that you will always have to be vigilant against. And the first drink does again ‘make you drunk’.

    So, drinking is something for the rest of your life you will need to be vigilant against. The longer you drank, the more vigilant. And it’s hard. Relapse is the norm, not the exception 70-90% of the time. (even at the Betty Ford Center)

    And it’s a process. You have to keep at it.

    Is there hope?? Absolutely!!! Some people recovery by ‘turning their lives over to g-d’. I am not sure about g-d, but i do know that alcoholism is one area where ‘trying harder’ doesn’t work. Acceptance can help….certainly acceptance that you are not the center of nor do you control the universe.

    The other thing that helps is connections. People connections. People who love you enough (and unconditionally) to not give up on you.

    AA has a saying, “we will love you, until you love yourself”.

    So, at least for this recovering alcoholic, “the things i never wanted to ever happen again (being arrested) couple with the good things to live for (my folks, my children) ..have kept me sober for two years now.

    So, (and this is unprofessional non medical advise)If possible: 1. Don’t give up on your friend.
    2. If there is a way to get him into treatment, do that.
    3. And if there is a way to suspend his driving privileges, do that too. I was very plain lucky…three DUIs and no one hurt…there could have been.

    Good luck. And it seems like a balance, if you sense that what you are doing just is not helping, you have to let him go.


  2. Mike said

    Norm, thanks for taking the time to make your post here, I appreciate the perspective.

    I think, and perhaps this is inspired through a Western and Christian viewpoint, that there’s an idea that one should continue to sacrifice to help another no matter what happens and that someone who doesn’t do this is somehow remiss in being a friend. From my perspective friendships are built on mutual trust and while forgiveness is essential when your friends make mistakes (after all you’d want this yourself as well), I think there’s a difference between this and someone who continues to make choices whose consequences are taken away by rescue.

    You make a good point about someone being totally absorbed by drink. Maybe that’s where the difficulty lies for those of us who have tried to help, just trying to hang onto and remember the ideas and aspects that made us friends in the first place, while experiencing the disappointment that all of it may have been illusion in the first place. My viewpoints are rather Rosicrucian so I always feel healing has to be given freely when needed, but in this case my skill set doesn’t exist for this issue. It’s kind of the same idea as a prophet not being respected in his home town, a friend you’ve known forever is not likely to have much respect for your opinions on this matter, which really only leaves true professional help, especially when there really is a great deal of enabling going on.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the palpable need for alcohol drives one to greater manipulative techniques. I remember through the drinking years thinking, I understand this guy needs his booze and knowing at the time he wasn’t about to quit, so a friend and I literally told him, there’s no need for all the trickery, if you need a trip to the liquor store just ask, rather than trying to be subtle because we don’t miss any of it. Yet the individual actually preferred the manipulative techniques and they never went away, even on the wagon. When the voice changes to a certain cadence, we recognize instantly from the first note that an attempt at manipulation is in play. We recognize from body language when the individual is uncomfortable and stressed, even when his voice is saying “I’m fine.” Every lie is like hitting a gong it’s so obvious. After a while friendship becomes more like babysitting, you’re in constant hazard mode waiting for the other shoe to drop. It becomes exhausting to even spend one evening with the person.

    But of course, none of this would mean that I wouldn’t give it a try again at a later day. One always hopes.

    Thanks again…

  3. Mike B said

    Rough story, Mike. Hope you weather it and some form of rehabilitation is available for your friend.

  4. Mike said

    Thanks Mike. It has been ongoing for years and it’s terribly brutal. I’ve left out the worst details. I feel particularly strong for his employer and friend who both have gone far and above the call of duty.

    You’d recognize the happier story though, we all went to the zoo together before you moved. 🙂

  5. Mike B said

    No way! Tell her I said hi.

  6. Mike said

    Mike, will do if I talk to her, I haven’t heard from her in a month or so.

    I didn’t want to start another post on the alcohol subject, but it did go from bad to worse and then to something beyond comprehension. Over the weekend, my friend’s father finally terminated the alcoholic’s employment, and only did so by literally having to go to the office and physically remove him (uncovering, apparently, over 10 gallons of empty vodka bottles, uncashed checks, embezzled money, dropped cases, and hanging files full of porn). He now is sorting through the mess that was a business left in the hands of a self-centered and oblivious alcoholic. It amazes me, the one guy who has continually gone out for this alcoholic is the one who gets shafted the most. Not only did he leave his business in a shambles, but went on to lie to his family and make it look like it was his employer’s fault.

    Likely it’s only the extremely negative consequences of his actions that convinces just about everyone who knows him that nothing anyone could do could possibly be worse than what he’s doing to himself. For instance, his actions will leave him without a lawyer for his upcoming DUI cases, which ought to secure a pretty severe sentence, assuming he shows up at all. And at this point, most of us believe that the alcohol problem is so severe that it’s probably caused some brain damage. Or at least these are the ideas that give small consolation when you realize a friend you had was totally amoral.

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