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Michael Shaeffer Wilson

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by Michael Shaeffer Wilson   

Last edited: Sunday, November 30, 2003
Posted: Friday, September 12, 2003

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A little of what this dangerous liquid drug did to me and my family.


It is so sneaky, so insidious. Just a drink here, a drink there. Especially for a susceptible part of the population, addiction begins to take hold. The mind justifies another drink. Judgement is affected. Inhibitions are loosed. Trouble begins. Many people can tell what is coming on and, know when to say when. But many cannot. Health deteriorates, weight is put on. Blood pressure is affected, the heart is affected, the liver is stressed, brain cells are killed off. In extreme cases, alcohol kills. From college students binge drinking, to older people finally succuming to the disease of alcoholism, to innocent babies killed in accidents caused by drunk drivers. My family is one example of how too much alcohol can screw up lives and bring great unhappiness.

When I was little, I didn't know much of what was going on. Just knew that Mother had to go away a couple of times, and we had women that stayed with us to help with the house. Later, she got me and my brother to go to church almost every Sunday, so evidently the church was a big part of her recovery process. Later I learned that this was indeed a part of her support structure as a recovering alcoholic. I heard much later on that she drank heavily while pregnant with me - god only knows what it did to me in the womb. I learned that my oldest brother had to take care of the rest of us kids, because Mom was out of it and dad worked a lot of overtime. I didn't know any different way of life, just the life we had.

She didn't seem to mistreat me or anything. But she just was not always around; and there were some strange family fights we had. Like the times that the glass screen door in the back kept getting broken, either with someone's head being pushed through it, or with a hand (by us kids). Motherhood has to be incredibly stressful, they have to do a hundred things at once, and try and satisfy everyone (or so it seems). I suppose the stresses of it just overwhelmed her, especially since she had lost two babies shortly after birth - one made it six weeks I believe.

Anyway, she had been recovered for twenty-some years when they diagnosed her with throat cancer. A year later, her voice box removed, her future very bleak indeed, she began taking Gin up her feeding tube. It didn't take her long to go after that. What a stinking, crappy mess humanity is. We are so weak and frail and susceptible to addictions.

Later on, around 1980, my dad began to drink rather heavily, especially after losing a job at a local S&L (and finding out the bosses were crooks). My stepmother finally had to call AA in desperation. After some counseling and such, he made a quick recovery, though. I felt that he had more control over the bottle than did my mother. Still, at his worst, he was laying in bed, drinking a bottle or more of vodka a day. He was very depressed. After quitting drinking, he snapped back quickly, getting another job and moving on. Since he also had thyroid problems, medication for these also helped his overall state of being. He has had some drinks since, but has never lapsed into heavy drinking again (to my knowledge). His limit is two or three drinks or glasses of wine a day, if even that. And many days, he doesn't drink at all to my knowledge.

My eldest brother had a long, ugly romance with the bottle. He started drinking beer in college (it helped him put on weight for football!), and continued after. He got into the hard stuff as time went on. Working in the food and beverage industry probably did not help. He did pretty well for awhile in business, but ended up losing it all in the end. Drinking, gambling, being overly generous with friends and hangers-on (especially during drunks) cost him dearly. His first two marriages ended in divorce. He found a woman that was stoic enough to put up with his raging drunks (or tough enough to stand up to him). Finally, finally - when he had to have a drink by mid-morning; when he was on the merry-go-round, never really getting rest, just drinking and dozing, almost around the clock; Then he had to try again and quit. He had been in treatment a couple of times before; He had wrecked cars, lost his license. This time he hit the lowest point ever in his life - it was either quit or die. So quit he did. Finally, after all the damage and destruction, all the sorrows and broken promises and resentments, he quit. And has stayed sober to this day (roughly 2 1/2 years later). And I congradulate him, because alchohol was the poison that caused all of the trouble, and he finally conquered it.

As for myself, I was up to a quart or more of beer a day, every day for many years. I actually made it through some computer schooling. But the beer was taking its toll, and I was really putting on weight. After a bankruptcy, losing my house I had managed to buy, and nearly ending up staying back at the "Y" where I had started out, many years before, I finally quit the weekday beer. My finances are still messy. Am still a little heavy. But at least I'm not treading down that same, awful road to certain destruction. Even that relatively minor amount of beer (compared to some drinkers) had a bad effect on me, causing some of the other problems.

Of course, the drinking takes a toll on more than the drunk. Family are also affected in a negative way. Promises are broken. Feelings are hurt, as the drunk spouts off at his kids or spouse, or goes into a drunken rage. Finances are screwed up. Expenditures are forgotten or misplaced, money goes to alcohol that could otherwise go into the family budget. Accidents, gambling and other consequences of drinking also take their toll on the bank accounts. So there are a lot of things that drinking affects besides the health of the drinker. Not a good thing for families.

Prohibition has been tried already, so I'm not even going to 'go there'. All I can do is sound a heartfelt warning to anyone that puts a glass or bottle to their lips. From my own bitter, painful experience, and that of my family: Watch out - that crap is dangerous!

Alchohol - what a destroyer. Too bad it has to feel so good.

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Reviewed by Heather Bricklin (Reader) 9/14/2003
This was another excellent piece of writing; it must have been very difficult for you to reveal all the personal stories, but so worth it, as the personal stories are what can make the difference in somebody else's life.
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