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Just because you move away from alcohol, just because you divorce yourself from a spouse who is drinking or an alcoholic relative dies and you think you are free, you are not. Alcoholism has far reaching tentacles that follow you around and tap you on the shoulder, “Hi, it’s me again. I never went away, I just got a new body.” Alcoholism will always find you- you cannot run away from it. You may be sitting placidly in a restaurant with friends and there it will be at the next table, a woman arguing loudly with her husband, not caring who hears, slurring her words while her husband tries to shush her. He thinks he has her under control. He doesn’t. Alcoholism is the dinosaur in every room, there is no blanket big enough for you to throw over it, there is no closet large enough to fit it. It touches every life somehow, someway.

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You leave your father’s house relieved to be free of your alcoholic mother but it doesn’t work- there she will be showing off her inability to keep her drinking under control in front of your new fiancé. Or, you take your children away from their alcoholic father and try to raise them in safe place but alcoholism will find them. Alcoholism will be the dad that never calls or writes. Alcoholism will be hiding in their new girlfriend. We will have a smile on our brave faces pretending we don’t care or that the alcoholic monster is tiny and controllable but we are lying to ourselves. We hope to hell you don’t recognize the stench of alcohol around us because we are ashamed and embarrassed so we will politely clean up ‘that little mess in the bathroom’ or promise to ‘replace that expensive dish’. On the way home we will cry burning tears that run down our cheek along our neck and onto our chest. Silent tears that you will never see. Quiet tears that alcoholism won’t recognize, because, “What the hell is wrong with you? Can’t I just have a little fun?!”

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Alcoholism will be there at the party basking in its glory while a sister unobtrusively scurries around tucking dirty laundry in a closet and quietly putting 3 week old dirty dishes in a sink because, “She’s been so busy at work lately, I guess she didn’t have time to do the dishes.” While shame burns red across the sober sister’s face. Alcoholism loves to squander money, your money, because, “Why not? We deserve these new online purchases.”

So you leave, breathing a sigh of relief that it is behind you. But it isn’t. Your new worker is an alcoholic. Your new boyfriend’s father is an alcoholic. Alcoholism is the monster who ruined your car even though you were driving safely (and sober). Your son’s new school friend suddenly needs a safe place to stay for the weekend because the sheriff calls and explains that alcoholism has invaded the child’s home.

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Sometimes alcoholism dresses itself in fancy names- wine sommelier or wine connoisseur, or wine aficionado. Sauvignon blanc alcoholism imported from the Bordeaux region of France is not a much better behaved alcoholism. It can be deceiving but alcoholism in a silk dress is just as ugly. Alcoholism retching in a marble bathroom is no different than in a gas station toilet. But elite alcoholism isn’t like that! Like those ‘others’. Certainly elite alcoholism is superior to common alcoholism, isn’t it? No. It simply has the ability to cover up with lawyers, easily paid moving violations and daddy or wife paying to remove evidence.

No matter how hard you try to get away from alcoholism, it will find you because we can’t evade it. We have to wait. Wait until our bank account is drained. Wait until our 401K is gone. Wait until we lose a job. Wait until our home is foreclosed. Wait until our children are ashamed of their parent. Wait until the wedding of our dreams is ruined. Wait until the call comes for bail money. Wait until the family car is smashed. Wait until someone is killed. That’s rock bottom. Until there is rock bottom we are doomed to endure it.

Alcoholism has seeped into our collective unconscious and filled it with lies. “They have to help themselves.” “There is nothing you can do until they ask for help.” “It’s not that bad.” “Everyone drinks a little.” “We can’t have a social event without wine or beer.” We have to walk over the half dead bodies of our loved ones lying in a pit of despair because we are told they ‘have to ask for help’. If lying unconscious in their own vomit is not a cry for help, what is?

Where are the defeaters of alcoholism on their steeds? The alcoholism dragon spews its drunken fire breath at us and we are defenseless. There are no wise kings or queens willing to acknowledge the demon, open their draw bridge and welcome the ailing dragon in for treatment. Not until the dragon is broken. Then, only then, can a meager handout of help be offered. “Bring them in for a month and we will dry them out.” Then what? Where do they live? Where do they work? Will there be family left? Perhaps, but it will cost them their entire bag of gold.

Alcoholism grows where there is pain, anxiety, loneliness, abuse and misunderstanding. Until we treat the causes alcoholism, it wins. Until we recognize that alcoholism is the symptom of a disease and begin with understanding and treatment, it always be creeping around looking for the next body to inhibit. Alcoholism is a powerful demon, much more powerful than mere mortals. Alcoholism doesn’t infect one person, it infects a person’s whole world, and all the people they touch are affected. Rock bottom is expensive and often too late. We need a better course of remedy.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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