tom walsh

Having grown up in an environment in which alcohol was a huge influence (due to an alcoholic parent), I've seen first-hand the truly devastating effects that alcoholism can have on us, even if we aren't the people drinking it to excess.  Alcohol is a completely legal drug that changes our ways of thinking and acting, and for many people it becomes a drug of choice that they use whenever they feel a need to make themselves "feel better" or to "escape" from reality for a short while.

What they don't count on, though, are the insidious effects of alcohol, the ways that it can take a person over and cause them to do and say things that they would never say otherwise.  Millions of people all over the world are made miserable by alcohol and its effects, many of them helpless children who have absolutely no way at all to escape the abuse that they face due to the effects of alcohol.  Children lose parents to the effects of the substance--that drunk person in the chair isn't my father at all--and tend to start blaming themselves for something that's completely out of their control.

Personally, I've been very fortunate to have avoided the hell of an addiction to alcohol.  I reached adulthood not drinking at all due to my father's actions, but after living a few years in Europe, I found that I truly enjoyed a nice glass of wine before a meal, especially with a couple of crackers or cheese.

But I never go beyond that, and there is no hard liquor in our house--there's simply no use or need for it.  And I really do feel fortunate--picking up such an addiction can be very easy if life has become difficult or if we're facing challenges that we feel we can't cope with.

It's almost kind of sad that when we search for quotes about alcohol online, we tend to find words that make light of the topic, jokes about how important beer is in our lives or how stupid it is to go through an entire day without getting drunk or how drunkenness is such a desirable state to be in.  The truth is, though, that alcohol is one of the most common and most predominant obstacles to living our lives fully and happily.

We don't have to be alcoholics for alcohol to affect our lives strongly.  We don't even have to drink a single drop for our lives to be ripped apart by the misuse of the liquid.  All it takes is for one person in our lives to start drinking too much for our own realities to be shaken dramatically or even shattered beyond repair.  It's especially bad when it's a person we have to live with in the same home, but it can be just as painful to watch someone else fall into a downward spiral of substance abuse and harming their loved ones as they do so.

And the emotional and physical damage is only part of the story--the fact is that alcohol is quite expensive, and an alcoholic can do horrible damage to his or her families just by the constant spending that they have to do in order to sustain their drinking habit.  And things get worse in bars, as each drink further lessens one's ability to make rational decisions--in one family that I knew while growing up, the father (who was in the military) would often go out drinking as soon as he got his once-a-month paycheck, and by the time he got home sometime the next day, his entire month's pay was gone.  Try feeding a family of five on no income for a month.

The human being's desire to be in an altered state brought on by intoxicants is truly a perplexing desire.  Nothing is gained by it.  People use it as a supposed escape, but we really do escape nothing when we intoxicate ourselves--we just change our ability to think a slight bit, and we allow ourselves to be angry about our debt or about someone else dumping us or about another person's actions.  We're spending a significant amount of money just to try to avoid thinking calmly and clearly for a while, but once the intoxicant wears off, there we are with our problems once more, and they're often compounded by problems that we created ourselves while intoxicated.  I don't know if my dad drank to try to avoid problems, but he created plenty more of them by crashing a couple of cars and breaking his glasses several times and causing huge amounts of stress in the family--among many, many other problems.

Almost worst of all, when we do start using alcohol excessively, we very often start lying to the people whom we love, causing huge trust issues in our relationships.  We lie to ourselves most of all, though, giving ourselves more justification for doing what we're doing by telling ourselves that it's okay, that we're not hurting anyone, or that it's none of anyone else's business.  But when we start affecting other people's lives, of course it's their business.

One of the most painful films that I've watched in a while was Flight, with Denzel Washington, which provides a brutally honest portrayal of a man who allows alcohol and drugs to take over who he is.  It's not a film that I would watch again, but it is extremely effective in showing just how people lie to themselves and to others to cover up their unwillingness to deal with their drinking problems.

We have to be very careful when we let things like alcohol into our lives.  While they seem to be quite innocuous most of the time, they can cause us to complicate our lives very quickly, almost without warning at times.  They can cause us to change our behaviors, and they cause us to sabotage our relationships and jobs.  A major problem with dealing with it, though, is that alcohol use is so widely accepted, even to excess--it's something that other people joke about and expect their friends to do.  There are hundreds of songs and movies that glorify drinking and even glorify the stupid things that people do while drunk, thus adding to our societal perception that this is something "normal."

But when a substance can make us behave in ways in which we normally wouldn't behave, that can hardly be called "normal."  It's very important that we recognize that even though alcohol is legal and generally accepted in our society, we need to deal with it on our own terms, honestly and clearly, and not on anyone else's terms.  After all, we're living our lives, and what we make of them is definitely up to us, not to anyone else.

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The first thing in the human personality that dissolves in alcohol is dignity.



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Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the
hearts of too many others. Even though it did this to me and it almost
killed me and I haven't touched a drop of it in seventeen years,
sometimes I wonder if I could get away with drinking some now. I
totally subscribe to the notion that alcoholism is a mental illness
because thinking like that is clearly insane.

Craig Ferguson


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