Floating Down the River in Egypt
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 4-9-2006.
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When it rains, it pours. Does it have to do so much of it when I visit "sunny" Southern California?
That isn't the only problem I've encountered since I've been here. The other problem won't be beneficial to the water supply and has hurt a number of people. I'm one of those it has hurt.
That problem is alcoholism. Not my alcoholism, since it remains inactive since my last drink in 1975. It is the active alcoholism of a very close, dear and long-term friend who, for more than 25 years, didn't drink. Then, one day about eight months ago, I've since learned, he decided to take a drink. The disease reactivated as if he had never stopped drinking all those years.
For all of you who can drink alcohol without any physical, psychological or emotional problems or any run-ins with the law or problems on the job, have at it. You aren't the problem. Or are you?
You see, the first symptom of the disease of alcoholism is that of denial. "He's not that bad yet" or "I'm not that bad yet" are the common phrases used.
Well, 10 to 15 percent of the population has the disease of alcoholism. There is no cure. Ever.
I've never seen an alcoholic become a "normal" drinker. Not once. I've seen plenty die from the disease because they thought they had beaten it somehow, against all odds.
How "bad" does it have to be for the alcoholic, for him or her to get help? I don't know. My education at Seattle University in the Addiction Studies Program never really answered that question.
I do know that alcoholism is a great solvent. It dissolves bank accounts, friendships, bodily organs (brain cells, too), marriages, jobs, relationships, religious and spiritual beliefs and eventually lives ‹ if not treated.
And unless treated, it always gets worse, never better. Always worse for each and every alcoholic who continues to drink or starts drinking again. Without fail.
This time I saw how "bad" it could get, my third night back in California. My relapsed friend and I were to have dinner together in Woodland Hills. As he walked to the table, I got up to shake his hand and greet him. As I sat down, he was still standing, and as he moved to his seat, I noticed that there was a puddle of water on the floor where he had been standing.
It wasn't from a waiter who had spilled a pitcher of water. My friend was very drunk and lost bladder control. He then seated himself as if nothing happened and attempted to eat dinner.
Fortunately, his place of employment has an employee assistance program of sorts. The next day his boss was able to intervene, along with a counselor, and get him into a detox facility and into long term treatment for his alcoholism.
My friend is very angry at me for "turning him in" to his employer. He has called me every name in the book, most of which this newspaper won't print.
Needless to say, I'm hurt. I didn't want to do it. I didn't like doing it. But it had to be done. He was that bad. It may save his life and some other lives. You see, he was known to drink and drive.
Drunks are that stupid. Denial is that strong. To an active alcoholic, "denial" is just a river in Egypt.
My friend has never had a DUI. He has never had any legal problems. He has all kinds of friends and family who love him. He has been very successful in his profession. He doesn't even have financial problems, as do many alcoholics.
I don't know or care why he started drinking again. It doesn't matter at this point. It really doesn't. He won't know anytime soon, himself. Alcoholism is like that. Very cunning, powerful and baffling to the alcoholic and those around him.
It is also very patient, just waiting for that right time and place to strike again. The alcoholic who forgets his or her last drink is sure to be close to the next one.
Please, my friends, if you know someone who seems to have a drinking problem, don't wait for them to get "that bad yet." It may be too late once they get that bad.
If you suspected they had cancer, you'd get them to a doctor, wouldn't you? You don't hesitate to take your children to a doctor when they have a bad cold or fever, do you? Why do you hesitate when it looks like someone has alcoholism? It is always a fatal illness unless treated. Period.
If you need more information, don't hesitate to call Al-Anon Family groups or Alcoholics Anonymous. The numbers are in the phone book. You can also look them up online. Talking with your doctor or other health care professional is good, too.
Denial kills alcoholics and others. Get off that river of "denial" and save a life.
What my friend may not realize is that his drinking helped remind me of what it used to be like for me, what happened, and what it is like today.
Yes, I hurt, but I am grateful for that experience. I just wish it hadn't been he who taught me that lesson once again.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He now lives in Virginia.