The following is an article I published on
SelfGrowth.com in January, 2015. It seems more
relevant now than ever. I added some current
thoughts at the end. It’s a long one but I hope it’s
worth the time.
Addictions (Self Growth 1-2-15)
When I was a kid my mother’s younger brother
Sammy was a guy to look up to. A marine during
world war II, a foreman in an auto plant after the
war, a decent house in a nice neighborhood, wife,
two kids. He was a big happy friendly guy who was
fun to be with.
On social occasions drinks were usually available
and he had his share along with everybody else.
When he and my father played golf every week
they routinely had a few beers in the clubhouse
afterward. We always had beer in the refrigerator
and liquor in a cupboard somewhere. Nothing
seemed out of place to me. Adult smoking and
drinking was normal.
Later as a young adult I noticed that Sammy was
drinking more than the rest of us. He drank before
work, during lunch and after the shift. He had drinks
in the car on the way home. When he showed up at
our house for a family visit he brought his own
bottle in case we ran out. He always had some
alcohol in him.
If anybody mentioned it he was defensive. Insisted
he could handle it and didn’t like being interfered with.
Unfortunately that didn’t fly when he was under the
influence at work. They eventually fired him.
As an unemployed man his drinking became
continuous. I have no idea what his thoughts were
but I watched him lose his marriage, home, family,
and eventually his life. He died in a cheap motel
room at age forty nine. None of what appeared to be
the good things in his life seemed to have meaning
for him. Only booze.
My father took a different path but ended up in the
same place. He kept his drinking under control until
retirement at age sixty four. After that he started
having a beer to wash down his pills in the morning,
more beer with lunch. Cocktail hour at the same local
bar every afternoon. More drinks at home after
dinner. He was under the influence continuously until
he fell asleep in front of the TV.
He ate less and less. Just smoked and drank. He lost
his health, went broke. His second wife left him, he
moved in with us until he could no longer function.
When his medical needs got beyond what we could
handle he was hospitalized until he died. Like Sammy,
dad seemed to reach a point where nothing mattered
to him except alcohol and cigarettes.
My first wedding was in November, 1961. My best
man had been my good friend since seventh grade.
He followed the pattern with drugs and alcohol until
his death at about age fifty two. In addition to those
three men I have personally known five people over
the years who have either died or seriously altered
their lives because of substance abuse.
Addictions to food, sex, gambling, hoarding and a host
of other things are all over the TV and internet too. I
don’t know what percentage of us have the addict
disease but it has evaded a cure throughout my lifetime.
It stays with us because a constant percentage of us
choose to do it.
I can imagine the loud voices arguing that people don’t
choose to destroy their lives. They don’t wish to lose
their health and relationships. They don’t want to
become so dependent on habits that nothing else
matters and that is true but step by step they do it
Alcohol, other drugs, food, gambling, sex, etc. under
reasonable control are fine. Those things don’t ruin us.
Addicts are either unable to moderate their habits,
choose not to, or deny the problem until the cure
becomes less desirable than the disease. Maybe some
specific mental or physical condition is necessary,
maybe not. There continue to be more questions than
There is no shortage of information. We all hear about
the dangers. Why is a constant percentage of us still
suffering? Like a whirlpool that keeps drowning
swimmers some just don’t believe the obvious. The
danger is exaggerated? Can’t happen to me? I can’t
resist it? It’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it?
This is pleasure, not suffering? Probably those
thoughts and many more.
Those affected by the addictions of others can’t cure
the disease. We reach a point where there is nothing
left to say they haven’t heard or do that we haven’t
tried. We either put up with it or withdraw. No good
It’s not hopeless it is just out of our hands. In the end
addicts decide their own fate and we can only watch.
Notes in November, 2016.
Addiction is loss of physical and mental control. We
can become dependent on many things but alcohol
and narcotics are the real killers. It starts with
enjoyment, progresses to need and passes through
denial on the way to hell on earth and death.
Babies can be born addicted if mama is hooked
during pregnancy but nobody does it on purpose.
We ease into it a step at a time until it becomes like
quicksand. The need exceeds all else.
We now have an epidemic. Medical counseling and
replacement therapies work for some but daily
deaths increase anyway. Long term progress will
come from education. The pathway needs to be
marked by parents and teachers.
We can’t legislate moderation or control it. We must
teach the value of it. It needs to be part of school
from an early age. Understand the dangers and how
to avoid them or you don’t pass. Nothing is perfect
but we can progress.
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