May 31, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver
“Dennis, I’ve read your column since it first appeared in my town’s newspaper, over 20 years ago. In one of your articles, the person interviewed made so much sense about why alcoholics must get away from their drinking friends.
“My husband read that article, followed the advice and quit drinking.
“Now our adult son has become or is becoming an alcoholic, constantly out with his drinking buddies, making us terrified that we will get a call from the police that he was arrested, or killed in an auto accident.
“Please, could you revisit this subject, for our son? He reads your column, and if he’s like his dad, it will help him as well. Thanks, Elaine.”
There is only one possible response to that kind of request:
We located “Dr. Ken.” As an Educational Psychologist, he strives to keep kids in school and has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 34 years.
Alcohol — a key part of their social scene
“One of the difficulties in giving up alcohol is that for many people it is a key part of their world,” he explained. “It’s often central to their social circle, cultural and family history.
“So, drinking is deeply ingrained, the alcoholic seeing it as normal. But alcoholics generally do not know when to quit. They will continue to drink until drunk, pass out, black out or run out of money.
“Worse yet, giving up drinking seems like an impossibility. ‘How can I be with family and friends, with the people I deal, without alcohol being part of it?’ That’s the first hurdle to overcome – understanding what ties them to alcohol.
Do you really want to stop the cycle of madness and insanity?
“To stop the cycle of life destroying madness and the insanity that alcoholism is, then Elaine’s son must give up a lot of his old life. He has to be able to say; I’ve got to find something new.
“This can be accomplished by establishing new relationships with people in AA, also through church, school — simply being around people who don’t drink.
“At AA meetings we hear so often, ‘All the people I was such good friends with? When I stopped drinking they stopped calling! They weren’t there to say, “Gee, what happened to you?’
“However, your new circle of friends in AA are always concerned about you. You realize that here is a different kind of friendship, because a friendship based on a mutual dependence on alcohol is not friendship.
“Dennis, to the alcoholics who read your article, if you want proof that your drinking friends are not friends at all, just try this: Go out with them and have no money. Just see how long that social contact lasts!
Jail makes sense — especially for younger people
Dr. Ken points out that younger people face a greater challenge, because:
• Drugs are often involved.
• They have a much stronger connection to “friends” than older folks;
• They are in continuous electronic contact;
• Drug use tends to be more communal, while many alcoholics become isolated.
“A few days in jail can make sense, especially with young people — say, a first time DUI. The benefit of spending time behind bars is a clear message: ‘If you don’t stop now, these negative consequences only get worse.’
“When younger people spend those couple of weekends in jail they have an easier time in quitting. Sadly, for some reason, older people can’t seem to do that, rationalizing, ‘I will be more careful, next time I drive.’ ”
Grow up, deal with life as it is
“The challenge facing every alcoholic is learning to grow up and deal with life as it is—not covering up feelings and pain with alcohol.
“At 36 years of age I couldn’t go on. My second marriage was failing. I lost every job I had. My wife said that she was going to leave me. I was afraid to be alone and so, in desperation, I made a deal. “If I go to AA will you stay?” I asked my wife. She said yes!
“I didn’t think I could get sober. I thought that I must be insane, that I was the only one like this. So, I went to an AA meeting to get the heat off at the moment. I found people just like me and they had gotten better! And it worked right away!
“I remember that night I promised to do whatever they told me to do. That was in 1980. There has never been a relapse. If I am able to stay sober until tomorrow, that makes 34 years.
“It’s one day at a time. You are never cured.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.