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Sober second thoughts on problem drinking

I had a friend once who had a promising future in the advertising profession. He was a terrific salesman and creative thinker. He loved booze.

Friday afternoons when we’d get paid we go to a popular watering hole and have a few cool ones with co-workers.

I noticed often when we had enough and ready to head home he would stay behind for a few more. Later we learned those few more became lots more, even to the point where he would binge all weekend.

Monday mornings he appeared hung over but he would attempt to fix that with a couple of controlled beers for lunch.

Later on he got married to his high school sweetheart, went through a period of sobriety with his obvious binge drinking under control.

We traveled together around the Avalon. I witnessed the gravity of his alcohol problem when we stayed at motels and bed and breakfast retreats. It got to the point that, although I admired his winning personality and salesmanship, I requested a change to exclude any future travel with him.

Counseling needed

His boss realized then the extent of his problem and tried to help him by arranging professional counseling. He went only because he needed the job.

He managed to get himself together for a while and it was scary to watch his personality change – he got short-tempered and at times missed work.

His wife called me one Saturday afternoon to tell me he had gone on the beer again. I knew where his watering hole was and drove there to confront him. He was playing pool and appeared three sheets to the wind.

I had a Coke with him in order to buy time for a chat while his wife left to come and drive him home. When she arrived he was ossified and wanted her to have a drink with him and he said; “I promise you then I’ll go home.”

I said goodbye knowing he was in good hands and left the club and headed home as I had things to do that night.

Sunday morning I received a call from another colleague from work. It was gut wrenching. She said, “I have bad news. (Friend’s name) and his wife got killed last evening…in a head-on collision with a truck. Nobody really knows to this day what really happened. Was it his fault or was it her mistake as police say she was driving their Volkswagen bug?

Hard to recall

I tell that story now and then because it reminds me of the power alcohol can have over our lives, no matter what our status, king or pauper.

Since that horrific incident and as my career took other directions I witnessed many, although not tragic, episodes of irresponsible drinking. I saw good and talented people lose jobs – employees carelessly interrupting and at times spoiling staff Christmas parties. People close to me lost their driver’s license – some with hefty fines attached. And I witnessed divorce. You get my point.

These events are tough to recall but they clearly show how cunning, baffling and powerful alcohol is. The story I told about my buddy took place over 40 years ago and now in 2008 the symptoms in society remain the same. Recently Statistics Canada reported drunk drivers kill an average of four people a day.

Annual Canadian alcoholic beverage sales amount to over a billion dollars. Liquor is a dominant factor in many cases of mental illness, depression, divorce, venereal diseases such as AIDS, and major crimes including murder.

University bars

I read recently about the problem of binge drinking at Memorial University.

Kelly Neville a wellness coordinator with MUN’s counseling center is attempting to keep up with the huge responsibility of teaching thousands of students about responsible drinking.

“Binge drinking is common at university bars across the country,” she told a reporter. It’s considered a rite-of-passage by students. A passage that is dangerous and even fatal. One such incident involved a young 20-year-old British Columbia student who died of alcohol poisoning after drinking a considerable amount in a short period. Perhaps it was on a dare? That happens often not only at university but amongst teens sometimes in a secluded area where they gather to imbibe.

Young people, men and women, drinking excessively make bad choices including fighting, driving drunk, having unprotected sex – relationship problems and often experimenting with drugs. Soon they have a physiological dependence on booze.

It’s a treadmill hard to shake. The more they drink the more they want. When accosted they deny having an alcohol problem. “Everyone is doing it,” is a common answer. Mentioning alcohol awareness group sessions is often met with a laugh and a roll of the eyes. “When I get drunk,” said one student, “I just want to get drunker.”

University students are just the tip of the iceberg. Problem drinkers are found in just about every sector of society. Alcoholics Anonymous “the champion of sobriety” regularly welcomes victims of alcohol dependency ranging from the one in the gutter who has hit rock bottom to professionals dealing with the problem of keeping their jobs, their families and their sanity.

When they admit alcohol has beaten them they are ready to tackle the AA 12-step recovery program known worldwide – a program that demands rigorous honesty and hard work.

Drink takes a drink

Speaking of the deceiver, alcohol, I read a story titled: The drink takes a drink then the drink takes the man. Here are some powerful facts I learned from that interesting revelation.

Alcohol is a wonderful preservative – it will preserve anything but health and happiness and will keep anything but secrets. Science has shown when the concentration of alcohol in the blood reaches .04 per cent, driving ability is impaired. Physicians say not only are judgment and concentration lessened, but also physical responses of the eyes, hands and feet are slowed considerably. Yet, the intoxicated driver feels confidant thinking he/she can drive as well as before a drink was consumed.

This person is a menace to other drivers and pedestrians alike. He is a killer behind the wheel.

Poison

Alcohol is not a stimulant but a potent depressant. When we drink we think it picks us up – actually it slows down our functioning. Alcohol is not a food it is poison chemists say. It has calories but no vitamins, no minerals or proteins. If taken too quickly in large quantities as a student in a B.C. university found out it can be deadly.

The decision to drink excessively is a personal one. If you refuse to get drunk there’s a deep satisfaction of maintaining personal dignity and not being pushed around. Perhaps unknown to yourself you may be helping peers to refuse that one more drink thus bringing you respect.

Stats Canada says one in 12 who take that first drink become an alcoholic and two others become drunk drivers.

The question remains for us – will we become but another sad statistic in a provincial court facing life-changing events because of booze?

It’s too late then to blame it on that cunning thing – the phony joys in the bottle – the one making our lives unmanageable.

Drink responsibly or better still don’t drink at all!
______________
source: The Compass

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