More than Chicken Soup
What do you do when a friend gets sick, and there is nothing you can do to help him out? You watch from a distance as he struggles to deal with his illness, and you want to offer help, but it would take much more than chicken soup and one’s company to make a difference. For if the illness is alcoholism, the road to recovery has very little to do with what friends can offer, and everything to do with what is going on, inside the head of the sufferer.
Unfortunately, the conflict within the alcoholic’s mind, has little to do with the resulting external actions of his illness. Regardless of why he drinks, the outcome is predictable. He imbibes, he parties, either with others or alone, and he wakes up the next morning, hungover. Because he is feeling the effects of his illness, he is dealing from a stacked deck, one which includes a headache and a disrupted digestive system. He needs to eat but his stomach says no.
He is frustrated because he has to get up and go to work, and eight o’clock is so darned early in the morning, that he automatically appeals to change it to nine. If you say no, your friend is that much more annoyed; if you agree, then you are inconvenienced, and you feel put out, that his illness has overflowed into your work space. You either go along with his request, or you feel the ramifications of saying no, all day.
I worked in the trades with a man for several years, at one point in my life, and he was an alcoholic. His beverage of choice was beer, and he started drinking before morning break, and he never stopped. He was as charismatic an individual as you will ever meet, and I loved and respected him as I would a brother. So it pained me deeply to watch him spiral downward over the years, until he could no longer meet his responsibilities, as a reliable carpenter. If he said he would be there on Tuesday, he may just as well have said Thursday or Mayday, for all it mattered. If he said ten in the morning, it may just as well have been three in the afternoon.
Eventually, he lost it all, but not after a torturous road. He fought to gain control over his illness, while he was still in his early thirties. Something triggered his concept of his own self-worth, and he set out to throw off the yoke of alcohol. He explained the whole thing to me, early one morning, as he lit his Marlboro, his hands shaking so badly, that it gave me goosebumps, I felt so badly for him.
He acknowledged his shaking hands, telling me it was one of the main reasons why he was determined to kick the booze. I could see that he meant every word of it, and the fact that there were no Buds accompanying him, I was willing to give him all the credit in the world. Unfortunately, all the credit wasn’t worth a nickel, when he showed up one morning, almost a week later, with his usual twelve-pack, not saying a word about the beer.
It pains me to see young adults, seriously using alcohol on a daily basis, because they have no idea, how easy it is to take that slide. Once a person is on that slippery slope, sure footage is never a guarantee, no matter how many days one has under his belt of no drinking. I want to ask these young people about children. Do they think they can just turn the alcohol on and off? Are they saying that raising children under that cloud is no big deal, and does not leave an impact?
Think again. And again, and as many times as it takes to recognize that alcohol is just as debilitating as speed. Everyone has seen a tweaker or two, and it is a sad sight. Alcohol will leave a person just as impaired; it only takes a lot longer, and it is socially acceptable. Everyone has to determine his or her drug of choice, and the level of involvement. No manual will dictate the acceptable rate of indulgence because different substances have different impacts.
So it behooves each of us to choose wisely, because when we don’t, friends are helpless to do anything about it. Make all the chicken soup you want; what good does it do if your friend is too ill to drink it?