A lot has already been written, documented, analyzed and vocalized about the dangers of alcohol, and alcoholism. About the only thing that I could add to this subject is perhaps illustrations from my own personal experiences and how alcohol had affected my life, and how it took control of all my senses. Drinking at any stage of the game does not get any better, it can only get worse. I should know that. I lived the life.
The effect of alcohol, at first, is pleasant, it makes you feel more relaxed, a lot friendlier, and it fills you with exhilarating power. It is this euphoric feeling that makes some people want to drink again. It will naturally seem that everything is so much better, and make life much easier to cope with while you are under it's influence. I was fourteen when i took that first drink. Back in the mid-fifties. Dad and our neighbours seldom ever made home-brew, but when they did, it was a very potent concoction, usually made from raisins, yeast and water. I only drank about half a cup, but it was enough to make me feel the effects of it. I was so “hypered” up that I started running around the neighbourhood in the pitch black late summer night, oblivious to the dangers that may have been out there. In other words, I could have encountered a vicious dog, or some other wild animal, including another human being. None of these things happened but the dangers were still there and i just ignored them because I had drunk enough home brew to free me from the fears of harm or death.
After that first ever “drink”, I did not pursue the pleasures of drinking. I was too busy with such activities as playing hockey, baseball, kick the can, and other games kids played at the time. I attended my classes faithfully. Instead of educating me in the use and abuse of alcohol, some of my teachers laughed and made jokes about alcoholics. I naturally laughed with them, never once dreaming that I would eventually become one.
The process was slow. It took at least ten years for me to develop into a full fledged alcoholic. Even then I thought myself to be a very sophisticated and moderate drinker. Everything was going so smooth then. I had a full-time job, and I was set for life. But I began to drink more often. I drank because drinking made things easier to get. Pleasure and money were no problem because I had friends who would supply me with one or the other. I used to feel sorry for people who didn't drink, and had fun like I did.
“I'm too smart to be an alcoholic...”, I would say, when a doctor told me that I had a drinking problem. He had treated me for a bad case of nerves, after one of my first serious bouts of drunkenness. It was one of those drunks where I drank myself into a stupor, I broke up with my best friend, I was only a matter of hours away from death when I finally dragged myself over to the emergency ward. Had I continued to drink and ignore my situation, I would not be here today to illustrate these incidents.
Getting into trouble was easy, Fun became secondary. Curing a hangover became serious business. I began to feel sorry for myself. I learned how to manipulate people and how to take advantage of my friends who were beginning to change. During my first ten years of alcoholism, money and pleasure came rather easily, but eventually they began to become increasingly harder to get.
In 1977, I finally admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic. I went into treatment, and was fully convinced that I would never drink again. During that lengthy five and a half months of abstinence, I found a job, made lots of money, and virtually did nothing to change my attitude and my negative lifestyle. I went headstrong into trying to convert other alcoholics into a life of sobriety, and into treatment. Ironically, two of my 'converts' have stayed sober since. I took the Alcoholic Anonymous message into the bar where I drank seven-up, and thought how great I was doing. Within a few days, without really thinking about it, I accidentally picked up a glass of beer instead of the seven-up and drank it down. When I realized I had done this, I said “the hell with it...” and got drunk. This is what A.A. Calls insanity. An alcoholic who takes that first drink can be compared to a person who does not know how to swim, but tries to swim across the river anyways, or someone who walks in the middle of a busy highway knowing full well that he may be run over. Such a person would be deemed incompetent or insane.
After taking that “first drink”, the worst ten years of my life began. I started doing things that I always said I would never do, and drinking substances, that I always said I would never even consider. What had been readily available during the first ten years as an alcoholic became increasingly harder to come by. I had no job! No money! No sex for long periods of time! The only friends I had were “down and outers” like me. I stayed away from my family. I had some suicidal tendencies, but was much too afraid to attempt anything that drastic. I stayed sober for long periods at a time and drank for only a few days, but suffered greatly for it. When I was well enough to enjoy sobriety, I screwed up by taking that next drink. I bummed and panhandled, I begged, borrowed and I stole, and I knew how to make people feel sorry for me. I had absolutely nothing to be proud of. I was at the lowest point in life. And the only direction to go was up. It was either that, or death or insanity, or whatever came first. The uphill struggle, I knew, would be extremely difficult.
On June 8, 1988, I thought of some of the young people I had known over the years who had simply given up, and had drank themselves to death. They just couldn't cope with life. Had they been given the education at an earlier age, they may not have died. Like in any addiction, people will do almost anything to support the habit. I should know. I've done it all. I've been on the merry go round , the roller-coaster ride, the ups and downs, the downs and outs, the lows and the highs. I've drank with just about every type of alcoholic, including a doctor, a lawyer, and with the very dregs of society of which I was a part. Young people should not be able to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. I went through the system a thousand times. I cannot say that I am completely free from alcohol, but I can say no to offers of a drink, and stay sober at the rate of one day at a time.
During the summer of 1989 I went through two treatment centres in Whitehorse and Edmonton, Alberta. I've picked up a lot of information that has been useful to me, and kept and open mind to all the other information that I could not use at the time. In the fall of the same year i entered Yukon College. I completed Level Three and started college prep early in 1990, and that is where I am at the present.
To say I would one day drink safely would be like saying that I would one day commit hari-kari on myself. As an alcoholic, I simply can't drink. If I did, I would be forfeiting my life to alcohol and a sure death. In other words; if I started drinking now, I would be right back where I left off twenty-one months ago. And that was in the very gutter of life. Things just don't get better when drinking; they can only get worse. That is why I am doing my best to improve my life, so that I don't ever have to drink again.
A personal essay By Sweeney Scurvey