News Writing and Reporting Class-Alcoholism Final

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News Writing and Reporting Class-Alcoholism Final

  1. 1. Alcohol Dependency Melissa Luneau [2009] Roger Williams University News Writing and Reporting Professor Scully
  2. 2. Kaila’s Sober Senior Year Mid-summer had just come into full gear for Kaila and her friends in the small town of Milton, Mass. It was July 26, 2008 and the only thing they had to worry about was finding a ticket for the Kenny Chesney concert they had been tailgating at for the past couple hours. “Almost everyone in my town goes to tailgate and get drunk because there are so many empty parking lots where everyone posts up and then drinks and barbeques all day,” she said. Good times, good people and summer nights are what most college kids yearn for especially coming up their senior year. Kaila was ready to bask in the last months of her care-free youth, never thinking about the tidal wave of events that was slowly creeping up on her, until she got the phone call that would change her life forever. Kaila was at her friend Anthony’s house at a pre-game party before drinking ahead of the tailgating party waiting for them in the parking lots outside the Kenny Chesney venue. The phone rang and the worst news of her life was soon relayed to her and all her friends in the room. A friend had seen an accident on his way to Anthony’s house and was surprised when he realized he recognized the car gnarled in the wreckage. A few minutes later, they got a few more calls confirming the horrific news that was about to hit them. Two friends were on their way to join the party when the driver lost control of the vehicle and smashed head-on into a tree; both died immediately. The news devastated Kaila: Debra had been her best friends since she was a child. Kaila’s knee gave out as she collapsed to the floor, lying there on in disbelief for what seemed like hours. The pain of losing someone close to feels like an aching hole in your heart that never quite goes away, no matter how much time goes by. So many memories and bright futures lost in a split second tragically and uncontrollably. When she could finally bring herself to stand she walked to the porch to see her friend Pat Mcmahon, crying in his arms until there were physically no more tears left in her tremblingly body. Pat was in the middle of making a phone call to his Marine officer for permission to stay home long enough to make his two best friends funeral (he was set to leave for Iraq the next morning) and was denied. 2
  3. 3. Fourteen years of memories spun through Kaila’s throbbing head as she stood over Deb’s casket: “It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and was never going to be the same again,” Kaila said. The only thing that kept her coherent within the next few weeks was the support and mutual pain her friends shared with her. She thought of that night on July 26, 2008 and how they had planned to initially all drive together to the concert. Thoughts kept whirling through her head; if they had just taken one car and if she could have just gotten to see her one last time and how Deb was upset that night because her ex-boyfriend had called her ugly before they had left. Thoughts of what could have been flooded her head…. eventually flooding herself of alcohol to numb the pain would be her only other escape from the hurt. Returning to Roger Williams University beginning her junior year, she assumed taking herself away from the horrifying memories of the summer and surrounding herself with a new environment would help her slowly recover. But she could not get herself to stop thinking about the accident reliving the events in her head like a broken tape. “Nothing made sense, and I questioned, sometimes more than once a day, what the whole purpose of living is,” Kaila said. “I was as confused as to whether Deb could still see me, or hear me or know I was hurting. I would talk to her daily and cry, begging her to come back.” Almost every time she drank she would go out, but she still could not stop herself from thinking about Deb and what had happened. The drunker she got, the more she refused to face the fact that her best friend was gone forever. “I would find myself in front of my computer watching the videos she was tagged in on Face book…just to hear her awesome laugh and ser her gorgeous smile one more time,” she said. “I didn’t care if it made me sad or cry or angry, I just wanted to see and hear her voice.” This incident seemed to repeat itself with the weeks to come affecting both her grades and social life. She started to fall into a deep depression to the point where her parents and friends attempted to step in. Her depression seemed serious enough, so her doctor put her on Xanax and Prozac both anxiety and depression medications types. These medications have an obvious effect when consuming alcoholic beverages so 3
  4. 4. one could only imagine what was in store. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) “about 20 percent of Americans with a current anxiety or mood disorder (depression) have a current alcohol/substance abuse disorder.” Kaila’s alcohol problem stemmed from her anxiety and depression. Doctors are quick to prescribe patients that are depressed medications, but sometimes adding pills into the mix of someone who is vulnerable to alcohol could end dangerously. Nonetheless Kaila had listened to her doctor and took her medication daily, usually only the depression one and the anxiety when she was feeling extra stress or negative feelings. The day she dreaded had come; it was time to present her speech in class, and the one thing that peaks her anxiety is public speaking. She took her anxiety medication accordingly, and got through her speech, forgetting that night that she had taken both. Kaila took her first drink of the night. That first drink ended up being the whole one she would remember that night. Kaila had blacked out waking up on her friends couch having no recognition of what had happened the night before and missing her class that morning. Blacking out A blackout is a phenomenon caused by the intake of alcohol in which long term memory creation is impaired or there is a complete inability to recall the past (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2002) Blackouts have been compared to anterograde amnesia (the person cannot remember what has happened to them in their recent past). Research on blacking out due to alcohol was begun by biostatistician, physiologist and alcoholism researcher, E.M. Jellinek in the 1940s. He used data from Alcohol Anonymous and came to the conclusion that blacking out usually leads to alcoholism. Another study done by U.S Department of Health and Human Services surveyed 772 college undergraduates about blacking out because of alcohol. They asked, “Have you ever awoken after a night of drinking not able to remember things that you did or places that you went?” A staggering 51 percent said they have blacked out. They also stated, “Of those who reported drinking in the two weeks before the survey, 9.4 percent said they blacked out during that time. The students reported learning later that they had participated in a wide range of potentially dangerous events they could not remember, including vandalism, unprotected sex, and driving”. Black outs are too common among today’s 4
  5. 5. college student. Medications are given out too casually to young adults who are still in the habits of binge drinking constantly. …Kailas Sober Senior Year The rest of her semester went pretty similar. “I didn’t care about anything, especially myself, I would go out, drink, act like I was having the time of my life, go home, cry, flip out, scream, beg for help…anything… I just could not handle it,” Kayla said. Winter break was coming soon and no one else needed the supervision and care from their parents more than Kaila. Her parents sat her down and tried to have a sincere conversation with her about what her life was turning into and how much she had going for her. Kaila knew that she was spiraling out of control and needed to desperately get some kind of grip on her life. It was second semester and with her new mentality instilled in her head, she began to dive back into the social life of Roger Williams. It turned out that this semester would go a lot more smoothly and promising…. but not without major downfalls and struggles that were soon going to sneak up on her. She still had rough nights of drunken stupors just as Deb’s 21st birthday was approaching…this time she became angry and resentful as ever and drank more and more, attempting to drown the pain. “When you bury one of your best friends at the age of 20, come back and talk to me,” she would exclaim to her friends trying to help her. She felt that no one knew her pain, and had to go through this terror of burying one of your best friends and attending their wake at such a young age. “I was selfish, insecure, depressed, angry… and to say I was confused would be an understatement,” Kaila describes. Realizing her depression had starting to creep on her again, she had come to one of the biggest decisions in her life thus far. Summer had begun and Kaila had decided to quit drinking: “I didn’t know what my plan was at the time or how long I would last,” she said. “But I knew it needed to happen, and happen soon”. 5
  6. 6. Remaining sober in college is exceptionally difficult, social events such as the local bars, Chameleon club (a large dance in the Recreational Center of RWU where most students are known to dance, and drink on the brink of black-out), or just weekends in general are based on the consumption of alcohol. If students stay sober, they are usually surrounded by peers that support them and their habits or are sober as well, making it easier to go against the bigger percentage of college drinkers. To become sober the summer before your senior year of college after three years of socially drinking with your friends, could most likely be one of the hardest tasks and challenges a college student can face. Kaila did not know how supportive her friends would be or what it would be like to remain sober around all her intoxicated friends every weekend (most of the time Thursday through Sundays). She was not focused on how hard this was going to be, but focused on herself for the first time and made a brave choice in bettering her future. At first, no one believed in her, as no 20-year-old would be presumably taken seriously, especially when they have drank up until then. No one believed in her success, which is most people’s basis of motivation when reaching a goal, in this case …a life altering one. College kids always have the “I never want to drink again” type of weekends, but it was different for Kaila. She did not want to quit drinking because of her actions when drunk but her thoughts and feelings from what had happened because of alcohol that had now come to the surface when under the influence. Her first sober weekend as predicted was the most difficult, but by the time the fourth rolled around she despised the mere thought of being drunk or around her friends when they were. “I decided to move away because I did nothing except fight with everyone in my family at all times.” She moved to Newport, Rhode Island, in a little quaint cottage right on the ocean all by herself. She knew it would be a struggle to be by herself but she had faith that with time, things would get better…or so she thought. Kaila had been living in her peaceful cottage just two weeks before she received a phone call one morning at 8:30 am from her friend Corrine from home. She hesitated in picking up that phone, sub-consciously feeling the pain that was about to come on the other line. When I said hello, she responded ‘Kay, I need to tell you something’. I jumped right up and my immediate 6
  7. 7. response was ‘Is Jim dead?’ (Jim is her ex-boyfriend who went to the same high school and lives in the same town as her). She replied ‘no, it’s not Jim…its Nudge.” Nudge is one of her closest friends that she grew up with. His real name is Patrick J. Coughlin; he passed away last summer on June 19th, 2009. He had been at a bar with his friends, gone home and went to bed, but was woken up by a friend’s phone call. His friend told him “come on man, get up were going to jump the Qs!”; the Q’s are the Milton/Quincy Quarries in Massachusetts. Jumping them is extremely dangerous, she explains, “but it is one of those things we all tried in high school. It was a big drinking spot for many generations in my town”. Kaila’s bubbly personality transitions into a somber and deepened sad look of pain as she goes on to explain another one of her painful stories. “Pat got out of bed and was picked up by his friends. He went to the quarries to jump, despite the fact that it was raining and he had been drinking. He slipped on a rock right before he drove off, which caused him to hit his head and drown… the day of this death marked my one month of sobriety. Pat was the person I sat with all night when Deb passed away…things would never be the same.. But they already weren’t.” Kaila decided to come home for the comfort of her friends, but got the exact opposite. She noticed the same patterns in her friends after this tragedy that she had seen in herself just a few short months before. No one could handle the pain and turned to alcohol to numb reality. One of the main causes for the first stages in alcohol dependency is a stress reliever or a numbing of their reality. The short period of numbing not only skews with the persons reality once sober, but they are more likely than not to make unhealthy decisions when drunk because of this reason. She had realized something that had been right in front of her face all along, “the reason we kept burying our loved ones is because we all drink too much”. With this revelation, she had simultaneously reached the four month anniversary of her soberness. Kaila’s bubbly smiles turns back on, recalling the start of her new, positive alcohol-free life. You can see the pride and sense of accomplishments in her stance and confident presence. She explains how she realized that turning to alcohol when something goes wrong is the worst option there is, at least for her. Her 7
  8. 8. friends have been nothing but supportive of her decision. “They all seem happy with the challenge I have put myself up for and a lot of them joke around that they refuse to be part of my relapse if I ever decide to drink again.” After Pat’s funeral, she was on the first bus back to Newport. Kaila knew that the last place for her to be right now was a setting that reminded her of Pat and her previous routine of drinking and partying.” As hard as it was to be away from everybody during this time, I knew it needed to be done. Her friends had asked her to make posters at his wake because they knew how much pictures and memories she saved and collected throughout the years. At first, Kaila couldn’t bear to go back to that place in time and take a hard look at the pictures. Eventually, with her new sober attitude, came her ability to appreciate the good times they once had. Kaila was able to eventually face what had happened but also feel grateful for the good memories they got to share before Pat passed. The pictures and memories seem to be the main thing that keeps Kaila happy and positive; the irony is that these same pictures and memories were what peaked her anger when she was drinking. Now that the alcohol has left her live, the pictures and memories are what help her go on and stay sober. Getting away from and everything helped her realize the importance of life. “Living on the water made me have so much appreciation for my friends, family and the whole world around me. I had more than enough time to think about things, especially all the events that had occurred within the past year.”Kaila reminisces. The Expert Donna Darmody, the Director of Health Education and Alcohol and Drug Prevention Coordinator, is not your typical enforcer. Short, built and blonde a bubbly and personable lady answers her office door, “Your early!” she exclaims . Her office is small blue, and looks rather busy just as her everyday routine entails. Darmody has been with Roger Williams for almost twenty years starting off as a Health Coordinator. She has made her way to what is now the main authority when serious drug and alcohol related incidents happen here on campus. On the surface her job may seem pretty standard, but it is much more than that. Donna Darmody is the Regional Director in addressing collegiate alcohol and drug issues. There are only 18 regions with two to three directors in each, Darmody being the only one in the state of Rhode Island. Begun in 1987, this network has become a national. Nationwide recognized group of professionals that aim at informing and spreading important facts that could potentially help decrease 8
  9. 9. alcohol and drug abuse as well as violent behavior among college students. The group is voluntary and is connected with the U.S Department of Education. Darmody has a team of students known as Health and Wellness Educators that help her inform students of the dangers with alcohol and drugs abuse. They place ads, posters, and seminars for the freshman as well as one on one meetings with students to inform them of what could potentially happen to them as a result of alcohol and drugs. Her conclusions with alcohol usage in relation to college students is that it has consistently mirrored the habits of the media and the national statistics, “When the media and national alcohol abuse stats go up , there is an immediate relation with that of college campuses, which include ours”. She explains that today’s media and society promote drinking large amounts as a norm or regular habit in which is used to relieve stress, socialize and party. One her corrections with the alcoholic terms, is that alcoholism is not the correct name but now rather Alcohol Dependency. Darmody explains that since it has been diagnosed as a disorder the name has changed to Alcohol Dependency, what is known as “is a condition characterized by the harmful consequences of repeated alcohol use, a pattern of compulsive alcohol use, and (sometimes) physiological dependence on alcohol (i.e., tolerance and/or symptoms of withdrawal). This disorder is only diagnosed when these behaviors become persistent and very disabling or distressing” (Mental Health Organization, 2008). The result of this increase in alcohol abuse has resulted in decreasing major events within the campus as well. Chameleon Club, a dance monthly that Roger Williams previously had has been cancelled all together due to as many as twelve students having to be taken away by ambulance from alcohol poisoning. Roger William’s concerts and well as the Bonfires have now also come into question due to the high amount of binge drinking before and during these events, Darmody explains. This new generation of binge drinkers and drinking in access more than before could ultimately be the reason or cause of the increase in alcoholism. Binge drinking is most acceptable in a college atmosphere which can only lead to future unhealthy and even potentially deadly habits. When people label someone as an alcoholic, the first misconception is that it is someone that drinks every day. In this new world of binge drinkers , they do not see themselves as alcoholics because they can remain sober throughout a portion of the week, but by the time the weekend has come they have consumed more alcoholic drinks that the average alcoholic in one night. 9
  10. 10. Fortunately, Darmody shows me some new positive information about alcohol abuse and college students. According to the statistics that are taken by every student entering Roger Williams a noticeable decline has been seen with incoming freshman and the percentage of students wanting and planning on remaining sober in college. History of Alcoholism When you think of alcohol consumption today, the Bible would not normally be your first source of information upon researching its origins. Oral tradition recorded in the Old Testament (Genesis 9:20) records that Noah planted a vineyard for wine making on Mt. Ararat (Eastern Turkey) assumingly used for consuming alcoholic beverages, just as beer and wine being consumed for medicinal purposes as early as 2,000 B.C. The consumption of alcohol has brought us back to Biblical times and has not once lost pertinence or popularity within our society. Rituals with alcohol were of great importance for thousands of years and have stayed as one of the most popular rituals when bringing a large number of people together to celebrate almost any kind of event. Vikings used the skulls of their enemies as drinking vessels, in 1500 Benedictine, “a cognac-based alcohol with added herbs,” was developed at the monastery in Fecamp, Normandy (Bible Gateway,2009), and the famous story of Jesus turning water into wine when a couple in Cana ran out of wine for their guests. In ancient history, alcohol was even to have been a technique of bringing yourself “closer to the gods,” ancient Egyptians offered wine and beer to them as an act of their devotion. In ancient history it was not until the 1800s did the first social awareness of alcohol start to embody negative connotations. The negativity of alcohol started to take form in the 1800s and gradually turn into what we know consider it as Alcoholism. Alcoholism is defined as ‘a chronic disease that makes your body dependent on alcohol. You may be obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much you drink, even though your drinking is causing serious problems with your relationships, health, work and finances” ( MayoClinic,2009). According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, more than 14 million Americans are currently suffering from this disease today, more than any other country in the world. Our obsession with alcoholic drinks and the psychological obsession with being drunk have favored our culture especially. Americans are known 10
  11. 11. to have high stress levels and go for quick solutions in fixing their problem, such as alcohol to escape realities, or pill-popping to heel the pain temporarily. We are socially inept in the way that most Americans are prone to millions or media messages per day about how we should act and what kind of entertainment is most pleasing. In the media, drinking and partying is something that has been highly praised and seen as a privilege to us. We are exposed to all these messages about how luxurious famous people’s lives are, and then see them constantly out partying and drinking, (most ending in rehab but eventually, recovering). We are not exposed to any of the serious ramifications that can happen with over use of alcohol such as drunken driving accidents, date-rapes, alcohol poisoning etc. The main messages we are given is that high society’s main form of entertainment and fun is to socialize by drinking and partying. This message is especially prevalent in today’s youth. With more mediums than ever before we look up to pop stars and mimic their actions accordingly. The younger generation of today is exposed to television, Internet and media more than ever, with thousands of commercials, on different medications that can help fix whatever problem we think we may have. Also, more than any other generation before, most young adults are in college, living constantly with only people of their age and specific interests that can easily influence and stray each other in different ways. Alcoholic intake is something that is known among almost every college campus across the United States. Rules and regulations have been hard pressed in order to stop this widely known issue in college. Twenty years ago, most twenty years olds were starting to settle down with their families or begin their life long career immediately after high school. The difference in lifestyles could ultimately account for the difference in alcoholic intake in young adults today. Instead of focusing on settling down and becoming an adult, we are now thrown into an environment of stress driven work and socially driven activities in order to fit in to the small , but exceedingly important world around us. The more common attribute to college alcohol abuse is binge drinking, which can be seen as one of the most dangerous types of alcohol intake. Binge drinking is defined as “A “binge” is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram-percent or above. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours”(College Drinking Prevention,2009). This activity or numerous drinks in a short period of time can be assumed heavy among students due to drinking games and contests such as “Kings” (where you pick up a card and follow the rule usually 11
  12. 12. resulting in drinking), Beer pong (filling the cups with beer and shooting them in each other’s cups which entails then drinking), and flip cup which is drinking as fast as you can in order to flip over your cup onto the next person. These norms and traditions that are widely known is something that has been socially accepted as well as expected when spending the night out with fellow students. College is usually the first time a student has the freedom of making their own choices and experimenting with different things such as alcohol. A staggering 80 percent of students drink alcohol on a weekly basis. This issue of alcohol and college students has become so serious that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse recently released its “Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems,” essentially coming up with a plan that these programs involved building motivation to change drinking; changing the drinker’s expectancies about alcohol’s effects; clarifying norms through feedback on the drinker’s alcohol use in comparison with other students; providing cognitive-behavioral skills training, including how to monitor daily alcohol consumption and stress management; and developing a tailored plan for reducing alcohol use”( Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs,2009). They have come to the conclusion that no known form of intervention has found best suited for students as of yet, except for fining or banning from campus, and also that college drinking continues to be a serious issue. With this in mind, alcoholism decreasing does not seem to be too promising for the near future. Alcoholism is known for the most part to be genetically and hereditarily related. With the mindsets that college students have on alcohol now, their children do not have much of a promising future either. Alcohols Anonymous Meeting Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church, about two minutes away from Roger Williams University in downtown Bristol is one of the many spots that hold weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Rhode Island. Middle-aged women and men greet each other with smiles and welcoming eyes.., all with cups of coffee clenched in their hands. Four tables are set in a square shape with seats. There is a small kitchen to the left of the room with cookies, cakes, muffins... and of course a huge jug of coffee. That seems to be the consensus of all the alcoholics in the room, always having something in their hand, whether food, coffee, cigarettes or knitting, something to keep them distracted from the disease that is eating them within… everyday of their soberness. 12
  13. 13. Walking into the room, there are two large white pamphlet-like posters in the background that describe two versions of the 12 steps. Above that is a large cross with the words “the glory of god across it”. Everyone sits downs and automatically notice the newcomer in the room. An older lady is sitting the end of the table with a warm smile and introduces herself as Nancy. She is crocheting a scarf and making small talk to the other attending the meeting about the new oatmeal cookies she has baked from scratch for tonight’s meeting. The man in front stretches out his hand to me and introduces himself as Greg; the tattoo on his arm spells out in loving memory of his mother with a portrait of her. Another elderly man with thick glasses, Bob, is scoping out the meeting to see if there are any fresh new faces that he can introduce himself to. The meeting starts and an old man at the head of the table start to read the 7 rules of the meeting with a short prayer and moment of silence before it starts. “My name is George and I am an alcoholic….” “Hi George,” the room replies. His hat that reads “The US Navy” and is wearing a leather jacket, which has an American flag sewn on the left arm; his arms are crossed, covering the cane he has gripped in both hands. His beard and glasses cover most of his expressions and his low stern voice demands the silence of the rest of the room. After the rules are read, upcoming events are announced and the meeting takes way. The first story shared is by George. Today he has become 21 years sober. When George was 11 years old, his dad “wanted to teach him how to be a man;” so every winter he would have him go door-to-door with a shovel and offer to clear the neighbors’ snow- covered driveways for free. All the people insisted on giving him money but his father was sure to “give him a beating” so he rightfully refused. Instead, they would treat him with hot chocolate and cookies. And then one house gave him his first alcoholic drink of Portuguese Brandi. “From the moment I tasted the Brandi, I loved the taste and the way it made me feel. More and more houses would treat me with Brandi and Scotch since it was so rare at the time. Before I knew it, I was rushing during 13
  14. 14. the storms, to shovel all those driveways and get that taste… that’s when my love for alcohol started,” George explained with a look in his eyes like he had been waiting to share this story for 21 years. He had drank almost weekly ever since that day during any kind of social activity. Then when he was 17, he joined the Navy. Working one day every six, he would get drunk every day except for the day he was on shift. He was a sailor and his captain and he were the best of drinking partners. He would drink with all of his sailors and always knew he could drink a great deal more than the rest. One sailor told him he had a drinking problem, he explained: “with the way my messed up head thought, I took it as a compliment”. He had started to hear about the AA meetings some of the others had gone to after serving and suggested to one of his friends if he thought he should attend one. They disagreed immediately and said that they would just try to “shove God down his throat.” George had come from a deeply religious family and the last thing he thought he needed was to lectured to by religious zealots. He explained how it was a normal occurrence to see the local priest in his front yard when he got home from school as a kid just to check up on his family. George had eventually finished his time in the Navy and was scheduled to go home. “What was he to do now?” he thought and when he got home he filed for unemployment and spent every cent on alcohol. His first job interview came and the interviewee happened to be a previous naval officer. “We didn’t talk about the job for more than 10 seconds. Instead, we talked about all the places we drank while in the Navy: Spain, Italy, Rome, etc. He asked me if I knew anything about digital electronics and I had never even heard of the term before”. The interviewee told George to go home and research immediately, which is exactly what he did. He went to the local library and read just about every book about digital electronics he could get my hands on. The next day, he found out he beat out more than 65 people that had taken the interview. He never thought about the fact that he was the most accomplished, but that his drinking tales had gotten him the job. He managed to make his way to work every day and got the work done that was expected of him efficiently. 14
  15. 15. After a few weeks, his boss told him that every Friday morning George was useless because of his Thursday night benders at the VFW. His boss gave him the ultimatum of choosing between his jobs and drinking every Thursday night at the VFW. “I actually had to sit down and think about it before I came up with the brilliant idea of drinking on Friday nights at the VFW, knowing I could sleep in and handle the hang over [on Saturday mornings],” George explains. Years went by and he knew he had a serious problem… to the point where he brought himself on a whim to the Emergency Room. They took tests and the doctor explained that his kidneys were going to fail if he did not stop drinking. “I asked the doctor… so, I can drink a couple of times a week?...No. A couple times a month? No.” The doctor explained to him that if he continued to drink, he would kill himself within a matter of months. He knew that his life would soon be over if he did not stop drinking. George seemed to always have a certain amount of control on his life, more than most alcoholics do when they are in the middle of the disease. Most alcoholics deny the health hazards of what happens to their body when consuming large amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. “I knew what I had to do…,” George replied in the manner in which you could feel his pain, still yearning for just one drink as he took himself and the rest of the room to this crucial point in his life. He did stop drinking, and the heroicness of his story did not just end with his successful soberness for 21 years. He has helped many alcoholics become sober through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Other members that shared their stories mostly spoke about how they began to go to the meetings, and how George himself would make weekly visits and read the Bible together and help speak about their struggles. One of the older men describes his alcohol addiction and well as drug issues and how George would come every Sunday to check on him no matter what. Another man in his 70s years old, sat wearing old bifocals, explained how George helped him remain sober and would always put himself before others. George’s strong will and determination to fight this ongoing sickness he has made him a hero, at least for the Alcoholics Anonymous members at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. 15
  16. 16. Make no mistake that sobriety does not get any easier as years pass by. A commercial about a new beer will come on and George still gets the same thought in his head: “Why didn’t they come out with that 22 years ago?” No alcoholic ever loses the urge and desire to have that taste of alcohol in their systems. Every day is a struggle and fight against the evil that rests quietly among them. George’s families, as well as most alcoholic’s families, are also heavy drinkers. He explained a story about his uncle a few years back: “Everyone was scared of my uncle. Every time he picked up the bottle, everyone knew to stay away or suffer the wrath of his alcoholic emotions. He’d beat the shit out of me and his son. For about three days, my uncle didn’t move from his room and I was not the son of a bitch who was going to check on him. Finally after two weeks his son, my cousin, found his body on the floor with a bottle of Scotch by his side… decomposed. He had died from liver failure”. Along with George’s uncle, his father, sister and brothers sharing this disease; his wife also was an alcoholic. He helped his wife remain sober for 10 years and describes how hard it is to marry someone who would kill for another drink as well. He would mediate with her and well as read the “Big Book” (the Bible). He explains, along with most of the other people in the meeting, that the “Big Book” is what has helped them stay clean. It helps them believe that they are important and there are more significant things that alcohol. His wife died just a few days before the meeting. The empty chair in the middle of the tables was meant for her. She had lost to the disease and not even George could help her. George’s face remained stern and strong throughout his whole story about his struggle, but when his diseased wife was mentioned, his eyes gave off such a pain of loss and hurt that it gave everyone chills. The meeting goes on and other members give their stories and struggles they have, others make excuses as to why they haven’t been attending as much. The sound of clunking high heels on the wooden floor interrupt the current speaker as a middle aged woman walks into the meeting about 25 minutes late. She strolls in with a desperate looking smile and starts to eat the cookies. She was slightly over-weight, with a good amount of black smoky eye-liner covering her vulnerability that eased off her much like the smell of alcohol that drifted off her clothing. Nothing was said, but everyone knew that she was a bit drunk or extremely hung-over. 16
  17. 17. She introduced herself and actually started to talk about her soberness. Her words stumbled as her raspy voice continued to talk of how George has helped her to decide to come to the meetings. She then sarcastically but genuinely thanked him for having the patience to listen to her problems and give her rides. Her turn is over and they thank her, in unison, for sharing her story. The next guy explains to the room about how he is starting to feel resentful towards people who are not alcoholics and have the ability to drink casually. “They are like snakes that prowl on you,” he explains, and then begins mimicking his friends that ask him why he cannot go out for just one drink. It is assumingly hard to socialize with anyone who drinks at all, being around the one thing that affects their lives every day. The meeting eventually comes to an end and everyone stands up holding hands. They say the ending prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.” Each member repeats this with the hope and the angst that they will continue to stay sober and that God will help them and give them the strength in conquering this disease. The prayer is over and people begin to socialize with each other about their lives beyond alcoholism. It is hard to imagine that alcoholics can have functional lives when they explain how they think about struggle with their addiction everyday sometimes each hour. The 70-year-old man with the bifocals goes on to explain each meeting that is held in Bristol and Portsmouth, with vivid directions and times of each. He explains how it is a joy having a new guest attends the meetings. For some, especially the elderly, these meetings are their only chance to socialize with other people. He takes pride in the meetings and that he has a duty to attend each one with open arms. Today will be a great day if you just let it be… 17
  18. 18. Kaila has now successfully remained alcohol free for 251 days going onto her last semester at college. Looking back one of her biggest revaluations happened on the day she returned to her house in Newport last summer, “Walking up and being able to look at the ocean and be at peace with myself was the best thing in the world”. She would wake up and repeat one phrase in her head that she has stuck to until today, “Today will be a great day if you just let it be”. Just like George and the millions of people battling with this disease, its one day at a time in winning the battle of this disease. Another positive to Kaila’s long lasting sobriety was her noticeable change in mood. She noticed it was much easier to relax without alcohol in her system and did not have the previous upset or anxious feelings on a daily basis. Her moods and health in general has noticeably changed for the better, she has room to eat much more now that she is not in taking most of her calories through alcohol. Alcohol contains seven calories for each gram that you consume. It is known as empty calories with essentially no nutritional value. The lightest alcoholic drink and most health beneficial is known to be red wine, but even this alcoholic drink is about 115 calories a glass. Other than the fact that alcohol is high in calories with no nutritional value, the more you drink the less you will power will be in judging the amount of food you intake , or which type. The more alcohol consumed is known to intensify cravings for greasy and unhealthy foods. The freshman 15 is not just because of the difference in your diet, but of the increased amount of alcohol being consumed. As hard as it may seem to stay sober during senior, Kaila explains it’s really not as hard as she thought it would be… “Yet”. She still goes out and does what every typical Roger Williams student does every weekend; hits up the three main bars: Gillaries, Anchor and the Bean. She proudly and excitingly gives her secret in mingling with drunken students all night, “I just pour red bull into a cup so that it looks like I’m drinking…that way I can still dance like an ass and no one knows I’m sober!” You can feel the excitement and overconfident essence about her in accomplishing this feat in one of the most difficult and challenging environments someone could possibly remain sober in. Her goal is to finally be able to say she has had one full year of sobriety; twelve months of sobriety will help her prove to herself that alcohol is 18
  19. 19. not a necessity in her life. Unlike diagnosed alcohol dependant people suffering with this disease, Kaila has taken sharp notice of the issues that alcohol added to her problems when drinking. She is not necessarily an alcoholic, but someone who took notice of her struggles with alcohol at the earliest stage. Young People and A.A… One of the pamphlets at the St. Michaels Church Alcohol’s Anonymous meeting was “Young People and A.A”, Nancy the crotchetier was adamant in this pamphlet helping the younger alcohol depandant people of today. She has been a sponsor to many younger adults dealing with alcohol dependency and explains that the pamphlet is “right on”. Opening the pamphlet the first page starts out with a brief but personable explanation of the differences between younger alcoholics versus the more stereo typical older. It explains that younger people may be hesitant in attending these meetings because they might be the youngest one their or the older people might not take them as seriously. A lot of these assumptions could also be the reason that many younger alcohol dependents do not attend these meetings and instead, take it upon themselves to deal, or deny the problem. It continues with several first hand stories of younger alcoholics and how they dealt with their struggles, ages as young as 13 years old. The first story is of Tina, a thirteen year old girl who wanted to fit in with the older crowd. She started drinking at age eleven and found that 6th grade was now getting in the way of her consistent drinking. It was apparent that her lifestyle was not normal, especially as a pre-teen, she was then taken to her first mental hospital. It was not apparent to Tina that alcohol was the issue, being placed in a mental institution meant she was crazy, she was relieved, “Crazy was cool”. Tina was okay with admitting that she was crazy, but not an alcoholic, if she admitted that then she would have to stop. She was placed in several institutions until a doctor suggested Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The only reason she first attended was for the “cute boys” that were have said to attend. Attending these meetings helped her realize and confront what Tina had been trying to hide since age eleven. The fellow alcoholics 19
  20. 20. at the meeting were the first group of people that she could relate to and felt like she belonged. The other alcoholics in the meeting helped her come to the conclusion that she was one of them and needed to change. The biggest challenge with alcohol dependants is helping them realize that they are in fact alcoholics. If they do not admit to having a problem then they do not have anything to change. The first out of twelve steps in Alcoholics Anonymous is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives have become unmanageable”. This first step of admitting that alcohol has now overtaken their life is the most important one. The alcoholic has to see and open up to themselves and society that they need help in order to receive any. It is virtually impossible to recover from such a disease without the support and help of family, friends, and fellow strugglers. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous… The second step is “Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. This step is essentially meant towards their faith in God, or to whom whichever they worship or look to for a higher power. Most of these steps focus around religious beliefs and the faith to conquer the disease, “The Big Book”. Just as the people at St. Michaels all described how the Bible helped them steer clear of the temptations they face in their everyday lives. The Third Step, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”. This step is helping in admitting to themselves that their own, personal will is not competent enough for them to overcome this disease. They instead need to turn to the care of God or someone else to guide them in their future steps to overcome the disease; they cannot depend on themselves alone. Alcohol’s Anonymous require a sponsor for each alcoholic. The sponsor’s job is to help the alcoholic in remaining sober by keeping in close contact and giving them the support they need. Sponsors are usually recovering alcoholics as well and are able to relate and personalize with them on a closer basis. George has sponsored over twenty different recovering alcoholics, and has gone to such lengths as showing up to their houses weekly and reading the bible to them. The fourth step is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. This step is meant for the recovering alcoholic to take the time to realize their past and what has to be done in order to have a successful 20
  21. 21. future. Coming to terms with all the mistakes and wrongs they have done while alcohol has taken over their lives, and facing the ramifications soberly. They may not want to face the reality of what has happened with their lives since becoming an alcoholic, which could also have the affect of wanting to drink again in order to forget this feeling. Kaila’s moment of clarity within herself was the day she came back to her house in Newport last summer and realized her past and that she needed to be away from her friends in order to successfully stay sober. The fifth step is “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. This step is when the recovering alcoholic realizes their wrong-doing they have done to others and confronts these problems. They have to let themselves be vulnerable to the people they have hurt in the past and ask for their forgiveness. Alcoholics have more than likely hurt those who are closest to them or pushed them away with hateful words or actions. In the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, a woman spoke about her kids being taken away from her due to her alcohol problems. They currently live with their grandparents, and she has yet to come to terms with her children and explaining to them why they had to go and live with their grandparents. She knew that it was her fault they had left, but has yet to come to this fifth step in asking for their forgiveness and admitting her faults and mistakes. The sixth step is “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”. This step comes rightfully so after admitting to themselves and others that they have committed wrong doings in the past and are ready to move on with a clean slate. Almost every recovered alcoholic has done things in their past that they had regretted due to the alcohol. In order to move on in a sober, successful future, they must come to terms with what has happened and acknowledge that as the time when they were sick with this disease. The seventh step is “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”. This step emphasizes a good and positive attitude towards the person’s newly sober life. No one is perfect and their will be , without a doubt some hard temptations and tough times ahead in the recovering period, but the person has to be aware of this. Knowing that they are not perfect but successfully overcoming what is ahead of them with a good attitude with help take sobriety “one day at a time”. 21
  22. 22. Kaila’s attitude has noticeably changed for the better as the days of sobriety turned into months. As time goes on instead of struggling to stay sober, her attitude slowly changes to a feeling of achievement and confidence in what she has achieved. Her shortcomings have now depleted along with the negative attitudes that came along with the alcohol. The eighth step is “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”. This step is similar to the previous ones concerning the confrontation of what negative wrongs the person has done to the people they care about and having the courage to admit this. Sometimes the people they have negatively affected do not want to forgive them because the pain is too deep or hurtful, but it is the recovering alcoholic’s responsibility to admit to what they have done and ask for forgiveness no matter what the outcome will be. These steps will not always turn out the way they hoped it would, but accomplishing each step, negative or positive is the only way they can successfully remain in Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps are made to cleanse and re new the person within once the alcohol has left. Usually this step requires making a list of all the people we have harmed in the past. The ninth step continues from the eighth with, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. This is the point at which they cannot forget anything they have done in the past that has hurt anyone. The person must come to a point where all their previous mishaps have been asked for forgiveness in order to be fully cleansed. There can be no ghosts in the closets. It is not an apology of what they have done, but rather a clear, sincere and sober explanation from their heart of why perhaps this has happened and that it was not meant to personally hurt them. The exception of not injuring or harming others come into play when the case of brining up the past might open old wounds or bring up things that are too hurtful for the other person to face at this point in time. The recovering must be aware that even though they are in the process of change, other might not be ready to face the hurtful past of what has happened. The tenth step is “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”. This step suggests that after initially apologizing and making amends to the people the alcoholic has previously hurt or negatively affect, they remain acknowledgeable that they did this and are sensitive to their feelings. Some people that have been affected from their family and friends having this disease ,struggle and experience just as much hurt 22
  23. 23. and pain as the alcoholic themselves. It may not be in anyone’s best interest to continue the relationship with the person if they have gone through such an exceeding amount of paint with one another. The Eleventh step is, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out”. This step is what the members at St Michael’s church enact in their steps for recovery. Reading the “Big Book” on a daily basis and steering clear of the daily temptations is something they have to be readily aware of. Recovering might get easier as time goes on, but to most, it is a life-long test and fight that could not be accomplished without daily scripture or mediation and prayer. The twelfth and last step is, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs”. This step emphasizes on the fact that fellow alcoholics need the help of each other and not just professionals and family. After accomplishing these steps, it is a duty in sharing the story of how they succeeded these steps to others who want to. Sponsors such as George, have gone above and beyond their call of duty in helping fellow alcoholics with their recovery. Most of the members at St. Michael’s church admit that they could not have successfully gone through all the steps without the constant support of someone who has been threw the same thing. It is impossible to assume that someone who is not addicted to alcohol to understand what they are going through. To alcoholics, alcohol is almost like a best friend or even significant other that is there to comfort them when they feel the urge to intoxicate themselves. The Disease Alcoholics or more recently referred to what is known as Alcohol Dependency is now nationally recognized as a chronic disorder that requires maintenance treatment. Alcohol Dependency is now put into the same category as other serious diseases such as diabetes. According to the World Health Organization; genetics, environmental factors and cultural attitudes play a significant role in the development of Alcohol Dependence. It is easy to recognize how both Kaila and George’s environment and cultural attitudes played a significant role in each of their lives in relation to their struggles with alcohol. Kaila’s environment and cultural attitudes towards alcohol was that it was an essential ingredient when socializing and mingling with friends. Every big event that takes place in college, such as Spring Weekend Concerts 23
  24. 24. or Commencement (the senior dance) is surrounded by alcoholic intake and casual drinking. Growing up with alcohol so pertinent and available to someone, especially when they become unhealthily involved with the toxic substance, can only worsen the dependence. It took more than one tragedy that was alcohol related for Kaila to realize that she used alcohol for reliance when something negative happened in her life. Although, unlike many other young adults who deny their abuse of alcohol she faced her problem head-on and broke the habit before it turned into something that could potentially overtake her life. George was not as lucky in noticing his alcohol abuse at an early stage. His alcohol abuse differed in his cultural surroundings because he was given alcohol as a treat or present at a significantly early age. Alcohol was first introduced to George as a reward for his efforts and hard work when shoveling neighbor’s driveways, which later evolved into a social norm between him and his fellow naval officers. His alcohol abuse stemmed from his genetics of alcoholism in his family as well as the cultural surroundings. For all alcoholics, including Kaila and George, remaining sober is something that they need to stay consciously aware of everyday. New media-crazed attitudes towards celebrities have recently increased with the new technologies of our time. This is turn leads our society to enact and follow these socialites, who publically abuse alcohol and downplay the seriousness of alcohol-related situations such as drinking under the influence. Habits of consuming alcohol have also changed with our new generation. Binge- drinking and Blacking out are now socially accepted among college students as a weekend social norm. Many people do not think of Alcohol Dependency as a disease that can be related with diabetes. There has always been speculation among the professionals about whether or not Alcoholism is an actual disease. The Temperance movement (during the 19th century) in which alcohol was completely banned was thought of as the first acknowledgement towards addiction-seeking behaviors with alcohol abuse. Along with this came research from Yale University about this newly found disease and the eventual development of the National Council of Alcoholism. There has also been research that the natural craving for alcohol can be related to “natural occurring deficits of opiate-like substances as well as other neurochemicals” ( The Book of Psychiatrists, 1994). Through professional and personal studies, there are still many different forms and reasons for the abuse of alcohol. Either way, it is an obvious factor that the abuse of alcohol has taken on a toll on millions of people’s lives and health. It is unlikely that there will be a cure for alcoholism anytime in the near future, but it is safe to say that we have gone a long way in figuring out the personal traits, psychological faults and just how intense the addiction can be. The 24
  25. 25. stories and backgrounds of people dealing with alcohol abuse all seem to stem from negative cultural and environmental experiences such as death or numbing a pain from a traumatizing experience. One thing that is for certain is that once the addiction or what seems like an obsession for the taste of alcohol does not go away with time, rather other positive things have to replace this life altering disease. Works Cited "What college needs to know now." College Drinking Prevention. 29 Sep. 2009 <www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/1College_Bulletin-508_361C4E.pdf>. 25
  26. 26. "Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 30 Sep. 2009 <http://www.jsad.com/jsad/downloadarticle "Alcoholism - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living - MayoClinic.com. 30 Sep. 2009 <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health "BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages.." BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages.. 30 Sep. 2009 <http://www.Biblegateway.com/>. Alcoholics Anonymous World, Inc. Young People and A.A. New York: The A.A Grapevine, Inc., 2007. Print. "What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain." NIAAA Publications. Web. 6 Dec. 2009. <http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm>. Book of psychiatric books. Northvale, N.J: Jason Aronson, 1993. Print. Donna Darmody.Personal interview. 6 Nov. 09. Kaila Mcgreal.Peronsal Interview.20.October.09. 18. Nov.09., 10 Dec.09. Dr. Steven Katz. Phone Interview. 14.Dec.09. 26

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