Saturday, May 30, 2009


As I entered the office of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was pleasantly surprised. Though the office was sparsely furnished, the people who greeted me were definitely not my mind's image of what an alcoholic would look like, but then neither was my dad. Two men and a woman greeted me. They were so clean cut and clear eyed that I started to believe that they must be the coordinators, not actual alcoholics. Quickly I was set straight.

A tall man with glasses and a buzz cut stood up with his hand outstretched. "Hello, I'm Ben, I am an alcoholic. How can we help you?"

Awkwardly at first but then feeling more comfortable, I explained my problem. I ended my story with the plea, "How do I behave around my dad to make it easier for him?"

"First," Ben said, "is your father an alcoholic?"

"The doctor said he may be but how can we tell for sure?"

Ben was watching me closely. "Your father is the only one who knows if alcohol controls him but there is a test we can give that may help."

"A blood test?" I eagerly asked.

"No." he said. "This test." and he handed me a brochure.

I read the brochure carefully. It was a series of questions. First I examined the questions from my father's view point but slowly I started applying them to my own situation.

1. Do you ever NEED a drink?
2. Do you ever drink alone?
3 Does your work performance suffer due to a previous nights drinking?
4. Do you think it is cool to be able to hold your liquor?
5. Do you ever have loss of memory due to your drinking?
6. Do you gulp your drinks?
7. Do you drink to relax or because you have problems?
8. Have you begun to drink in the morning?
9. Do you drink till you pass out?

10. Do you lie about your drinking?

I could not answer all of them for my father but I was pretty sure he got a failing grade. I personally had to honestly answer yes to three of the questions (3, 5, and 9) but thought surely 70% was at least passing. Then I read the final sentence.

If you answered yes to any ONE of these questions, it is time to take a serious look at what your drinking might be doing to you.

This hit me like a sledge hammer. My God--could I also be an alcoholic?

Ben was again watching me closely. "Anything hit home?" he asked softly.

"I'm not too sure I don't also have a problem." I laughed with out humor.

"It is common in families for more than one member to be an alcoholic. Many believe it is hereditary. Someday this will be treated like the disease it is." Ben said.

"Well, I certainly got more information that I wanted, but thank you."

I started to leave when Ben made a final offer. "You are both welcome to come to our meetings. We can help."

I was consumed with thought as I drove away. This was not at all what I had hoped to learn. Dad AND I alcoholics--no way. I looked ahead to the 40+years I should have left and I did not like the idea of never having another drink. I drank not for a need for the first drink, but to have fun and fit in. My problem was stopping after that first drink. Lately, I drank till unconsciousness or even worse, till I blacked out. It was getting worse.

To never drink again seemed the equivalent of never having fun again for the rest of my life. Only the thought of my Dad and my love for him made me resolve to give up drinking at least for a year till we got him straight. If saying I was an alcoholic helped him, then by God--I was an alcoholic.

I am not a person who can lie. Not so much for high minded reasons as for the simple fact that I am no good at it. I always forget the details. But since there was a dim possibility that I could be an alcoholic, I felt I could carry it off.

Dad recovered and came home from the hospital "dry" but not happy. I was visiting one day and we were alone so I broached the subject.

"Well Dad," I started cautiously,"it looks like both of us will be sipping sodas in the future. I am afraid I'm an alcoholic." I bit off the word "also" for Dad was visibly stiffening whenever any of us used the word alcoholic.

My thinking that he would open up after my confession was foolish. Instead he got angry with me.

"Too bad about your problem." he said coldly. "I just had a bad reaction to some alcohol. I certainly don't have a problem. I'll be fine in a couple of days."

Oops, I thought, I am out of my league here and went scurrying back to see Ben for some much needed advice.

"One of the hardest things for a person to admit to is that they are an alcoholic. It is easier to say you are a drunk. Drunk means you have to watch your drinking--alcoholic means you can NEVER drink again. This for an alcoholic foretells a very bleak future." Ben explained.

Again I felt the blow to my gut. Ben was talking about me also. Even though I had used the word alcoholic to describe myself, I had not really believed it. I had been willing to abstain for a year- but for life? Wow.-----
Final chapter tomorrow


  1. Your honesty will surely help others, Patti. I have met two people whom I know to be in AA, and they are wonderful people. My ex son-in-law went to some meetings, but he back-slid and recanted all his confessions.

  2. Is there a Part III? Will we know how this all works out?

  3. alcohol is one thing. food is another. both are addictive. like tobacco is addictive. like heroin is addictive. sometimes it is very hard, if not impossible, to break these addictions. i know i had a severe problem with smoking but was in the hospital for two weeks with a aortic aneurysm and that fixed my smoking for me.

    excellent post.

  4. kenju
    I hope your ex son-in-law doens't
    give up.Many people have to try and try before they make it. Some never do. I am glad your daughter is out of it though. This is his problem,he needs to solve.

    Hopefully I will finish up tomorrow. I wrote this a year ago on my Dad's birthday. It mostly works out.

    Thanks Abe,
    So glad you were able to beat smoking though it was a tough way to do it. I've been there also.

    Now if I could just kick food.

  5. Interesting couple of posts, Patti... You are so honest ---and are willing to share you life with us. That means so much!!!!

    I hope you will continue to tell us the story. I hope and pray that your Daddy did quit drinking and that you did also.

    My drug of choice is FOOD. I have had a weight problem all of my adult life. I could write a book....

    Thanks again for sharing. We got home this evening and had a wonderful couple of days in the North Carolina mountains.


  6. Thanks Betsy,
    It has not been easy to post this. Often I felt I was at the top of the roller coaster and wanted off but hopefully if there is anyone out there that this might ring a bell for, either for them or a family member, it will be worth it. There is life after addiction.