I am an alcoholic. If you read the Bad Lawyer, this is not surprise I've written about this many times since I launched this blawg last summer. Local websites and professional blawgs are full of funny, tragic, and disgusting stories of alcoholism and it's effects including domestic violence, injury, disgrace and death.
I've related many stories of lawyers and lives ruined by alcoholism. Alcoholism is a mental illness of which a symptom is drinking excessively and obsessively. Stop the drinking, and you are still and alcoholic. I still have the mental illness. I'm afraid despite 24 years of not drinking (with, let me acknowledge 3 brief ill-advised relapses), I have not recovered from alcoholism. My grandfather on my mother's side was a notorious alcoholic if I can trust my memory of my family history--and, my gandmother on my mother's side died an alcoholic.
According to the family history I recall hearing, my mother's father, who I have no recollection of but there is an old family photo of him holding either me or my brother--was a regional salesman for the Del Monte Company out Indianapolis in the 1940s-50s. According to family lore he was a charismatic man, but a doomed alcoholic. I've outlived him, he died of a heart attack changing a tire. My mother told me that he was "in and out of sanitariums" to dry out, "get the cure." The cure never stayed around.
story in the NYT this AM about the Charles B. Towns Hospital in NYC that opened in the early 19th century. This story is very cool, it actually talks about "the cure," which was thought to be a pharmacological mixture of belladonna (nightshade extract) and other chemicals. The pharmacology turned out not to effect an overall good outcome for patients. Except, perhaps, in the view of the article's author, Howard Markel, M.D. for one very special patient--the legendary Bill W.
Dr. Markel's remarkable account suggests that Bill Wilson, an east coast stockbroker who would later connect with Dr. Bob Smith in the gatehouse at the famous Seiberling mansion (Stan Hywet Hall) in Akron, Ohio--may have been in the throes of a belladonna hallucination when Wilson experienced the ecstatic calm, that Wilson and Smith later described in the "Big Book" as the spiritual experience that some alcoholics experience prior to or immediately after achievin sobriety.
Personally I don't buy Dr. Marke's speculation because my own personal experience and that of so many others that I met, not under the influence of the AA "kool aid" or legend is remarkably similar. I had this soul shaking moment, a genuine spiritual experience. I feel goose bumps as I write about even now. The challenge for most alcoholics is to remember this experience, to remember the way out of the morass of their own disorder. I admit that I have been lost again, too. I have been hiding for so long, like Adam in the Garden when he recognizes his nakedness before God.
Fortunately, I have an appointment with the OurState Lawyers' Assistance Program people for a mid-day meeting tomorrow. I'll keep you posted. I have a long road back, but what options do I have? Suicide is not an option if you are genuinely a parent--and, I genuinely love my children. Or as my friend the R-man says, suicide is the supreme act of selfishness. Let me visualize the death of the angel of death--that Angel (my ego) has been stalking me. Not today, dammit!