Sunday, July 17, 2011

Alcoholic Harm

Can you tell the roses are between blooms? I have no roses in bloom right now... but I have buds. There will be more roses within a week or so. Anyway, I went through the photos from the last 12 months, and came up with this photo from our trip to Moab last September. That's a good memory.

I've got a sort of half-formed thought about something that has been on my mind. I am not sure where I am going with this, but it has stuck with me.

About a year ago, I was at a Friday morning speaker meeting. Sometimes a person will chair the meeting with a democratic idea about who ought to speak at a speaker meeting and they ask someone who is barely sober. That happened at this meeting. There was a young man who was not sober 30 days. Obviously hadn't done any of the steps or thought much about life as a sober person. So, he did what someone would do when asked to tell their story. He had a hell of a story, but it ended when he stopped drinking. He told of many years of drunken debacles. Only, he still sort of glorified them, as if it was great "fun." He had been to detox many, many times, and some expensive treatment centers too. He was only 25 years old. (He is now 26 years old and newly sober again.) Please don't get the idea I am somehow "blaming" him, because I am not. I think he did the best job he could at speaking at an AA meeting... I just don't think it was fair of the chairperson to ask him to speak.

He told of one of his drunken escapades. He had gotten drunk at a high school friend's house. He had fallen and injured himself. He had to be taken from the home in an ambulance.

After the meeting, one of my friends came over and asked me if he had ever told me about the time he came home from an evening out with his wife... he got home and the house was covered with blood. There was no one home and he had no idea what had happened. He later found out that his son had a party and someone fell and hurt himself and had to be taken from his home in an ambulance. He said the bill was quite extensive for the lad's medical care. And that his homeowner's insurance was canceled as a result.

I exclaimed "Oh, no! Does he have any idea that was your house he was in?" And my friend said "no."

Earlier this summer, I went to an AA event at my friend's house. I met his son, who is now sober. I saw the scene of this event. I thought about it. I don't know WHY this has planted itself so firmly in my mind.

Maybe it is because I have sat in meetings where the speaker talked about screwing someone over (to loud laughter and approval) when the someone screwed over was me. It was a horrible feeling of betrayal.

We alcoholics have a bad habit of hurting people. Sometimes we let this habit follow us into sobriety. Some of us seem to have no concept of the wreckage we have caused. The steps should show us this, but if we don't do them, or rationalize when we are doing them, we still won't know. We can't make amends for harm we don't even realize we have caused.

A person who is really doing the deal of Alcoholics Anonymous will never tell a story of hurting someone for laughs or for entertainment purposes. We do tell stories of hurting people, because most of us have really done some harm. But they are a lot easier to listen to when they are accompanied by remorse.

That's all I have right now. I still haven't quite made a point out of this story. I am just thinking about it. And now you can too if you want.


AnyEdge said...

Thanks Mary. I don't know if I would say that someone working a good program will never tell such a story for laughs. I certainly agree that the program teaches us to be congnizant of our harm, and that we should be circumspect about it and not revel in past malfeasances. But I think sometimes we laugh about the harm we've done, later, after we've done our best to repair it. Because I don't think it serves us or the newcomer to seem trapped in gloom about our misdeeds.

I know that you're not advocating that. I guess I'm just mildly wary of words like 'never'. We laugh, sometimes, even about the worst things we did. I think because we are so grateful to have been spared from it. The laughter isn't flippant or dismissive, in my experience. It's self-aware.

But I'm not telling you I disagree with your sentiment. You're absolutely right: we need to be aware of the harm, and not disrespectful of our victims.

Syd said...

It took me a long time to ever laugh in a meeting. Now I can, knowing that I don't have to be so serious. I don't mind hearing laughter in stories as long as it's not based on ego and smugness. But I don't much care for drunkalogs. Some is good, too much looks like boasting.

Annette said...

One thing that really makes me uncomfortable in meetings...AA, Alanon, or otherwise, is a pissing contest. Who has the worst story, Whose child is the worst off, who came closest to dying but didn't, and laughing at the damage done to another from our own poor behavior..yeah, yuk.

shadowlands said...

I can't find anything in the big book about newly sober people using humour when describing past drunk behaviours, it does mention there may be value for the person twelve stepping to include these if they think it appropriate.

BB p.91, Working With Others

"If his mood is light, tell him humorous stories of your escapades."

Ofcourse, humour in general is good for both alcoholics and their loved ones but perhaps it is the privelidge of the more recovered AA to introduce this humour in an appropriate manner. The newcomer should maybe be encouraged to identify more with this:

12&12 p.25, Step Two
The moment they read Step Two, most A.A. newcomers are confronted with a dilemma, sometimes a serious one.

Perhaps the Alcoholics family or friends when sensing possible relief from the hell might be more than entitled to use humour to heal too. As we say, we should try and be sensitive to others whom we have harmed or who our humour may hurt.

BB p.132, The Family Afterward

"So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness."

Lou said...

I think I understand. I feel I used to make light of some terrible and hurtful actions of the addict. Maybe it was my frame of mine then (laugh to keep from crying) but now I'm more inclined to think of the events as grotesque. And terribly, terribly sad.

I feel aware of the "lost" time also. The time spent in alcoholism and addiction is a complete waste.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mary, I get it. I never seem to get it when folks laugh or glorify themselves over such things in meetings though, and usually I am alone.
It has only been in the last year I have been able to share with others about my experience many years before I got sober, when I hit a man with my car. I have so far been unable to find this man, but I am willing, should God decide to put him in my path, to make ammends to him for the financial burden I caused him,and sincerely appologize for the physical harm I inflicted on him as well.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Thank you for sharing this experience. What an experience to meditate on.

Thank God for your friend, who was able to quietly share (as God's power helps us to do) outside of public viewing for a round of applause, the power and supply he was given to deal with the medical, cleaning and insurance bills of the young man who was incapable of doing so due to the disease, and continues to tell grandiose stories to try desperately to fit in with the crowd in the last house on the block ... God help him... for he knows NOT what he does. He's just trying desperately to fit in still... and again... with other sick people like us.

Anonymous said...

I get what you are saying. I think I feel the same way sometimes when people giggle about what they have done to others, without saying how terrible it was to hurt the other. I think the problem is he was newly sober and still hasn't learned to look at himself to see the problem, but some people in the program still think it's funny what they have done to hurt others and take no responsibility for what they have done. I feel sometimes I tend to tune those people out because they aren't working the steps the way I may have been taught and I just get upset that they can preach about things they do but they don't work the steps the way they are laid out. I don't mean to sound critical at all, but alcoholics are all kinds of people and some people aren't always going to be looking to right their wrongs, because that is to much work. I try to surround myself with the people in the program that know what they have done, made their amends, put the past where it needs to be, but it has been cleaned up as best as possible. This way they can move forward and be the person they really want to be.

Great Post, it made me think, thank you!!

Carverlane said...

If that young man is truly sober, he WILL hunt down your friend to make amends...or eventually drink.
I'm also wondering if your friend's son who had the party cares enough about his friend's sobriety to clear things up. He had a role, too.

Cathy | Treatment Talk said...

Hi Mary, That does seem a disconcerting to tell such a story and laugh. That doesn't seem like someone who really understands the pain they have caused other people.