Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SOBRIETY ABUSE AT COLLEGE
A young man stood up, cleared his throat, and tentatively spoke. “Hi, my name is Dave…and I’m, I’m a soberholic.”
“Hi Dave,” everyone in the room replied. And with that, yet another college student joined a 12-step group, seeking help to fight the demons of addiction.
“I was able to stay drunk for six days,” Dave explained, “but then I couldn’t help myself. I had this overwhelming craving to be sober and I, I…well, I just gave in.”
Murmurs of understanding and encouragement rippled through the room. “That’s OK, Dave,” a pretty coed offered. “Everyone slips once in a while.”
“Yeah, but I was totally out of control,” Dave said. “I mean, I woke up early that morning, went to all my classes, and then I went to the library and worked on a term paper until midnight. And the whole time,” Dave said, lowering his voice in shame, “…I drank nothing but Dr. Pepper.”
Many in the group reflexively winced at this pitiful admission. An awkward silence filled the room as Dave sat down in his chair. Finally, another young man stood up and quickly muttered, “I’m Ralph and I’m a soberholic.” Before anyone could give the standard response, Ralph continued. “Look, Dave, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve got a disease, understand? Just like the rest of us in this room. We all have an unnatural attraction to sobriety. We were born this way. I know that makes us ‘freaks’ and ‘weirdoes’ to everyone else on campus, but that’s just the way it is.”
Dave raised his head, tears welling in his eyes, and looked toward Ralph, who smiled knowingly and said, “It’s really painful, isn’t it, kid?” Dave closed his eyes and nodded, causing tears to trickle down each cheek.
“And I bet that sensational story in the news a couple of weeks ago didn’t help any,” Ralph said. “A survey found that almost half of all college students admitted to binge drinking at least once every two weeks—and 7 out of 10 said they binge drink at least once a month. It’s not fair!” Ralph exclaimed. “Why do they have to draw attention to us? Don’t they understand that our desire to be sober and get good grades and live productive lives already makes us outcasts in the eyes of the rest of the student body? Don’t they know how much pain we’re in? Why do they want to make our struggles even more difficult?!”
Ralph took a deep breath, realizing he had gotten a little carried away. “Sorry about that,” he said. “It’s just very frustrating. Well, anyway, I know it’s painful, Dave, but it’s not hopeless. The key is the first of the 12 steps: admitting that you’re powerless over sobriety. When you finally acknowledge that you can’t do it on your own, that’s when you really begin the long journey to drunkenness and peer acceptance.”
“Do you really think I can make it?” Dave pleaded.
“Yes, I do,” Ralph answered sincerely. “I truly believe you have the potential to reap the rewards of following the crowd: sexually transmitted diseases, academic probation, and the joy of waking up on the floor covered in your own vomit. But it’s important to take it one day at a time. Don’t think in terms of going many, many years without sobriety. You’ll only get depressed. Just focus on today only. Just for today, you must stay drunk. Don’t even think about tomorrow. When you approach it this way, one day at a time, it’s much easier. And soon you’ll find that you’re fitting right in with the rest of your fellow classmates.”
For the first time since the meeting began, Dave smiled. And for the first time since he could remember, he began to have hope that he could beat his addiction. “What do I have to do now?” Dave asked.
“Well, I know this is going to be difficult,” Ralph said. “But I have a few cases of beer in the fridge. Now is the time when we usually adjourn the meeting and force ourselves to drink the beer. Come and join us, Dave. We want to help you.”
Once again tears welled up in Dave’s eyes. “Thanks so much,” he said. “It’s such a relief to know that somebody cares.”
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