It’s complicated: Putting down the bottle after the worst of COVID is behind us

The years I spent working as a substance abuse counselor taught me about the ‘love affair’ aspect of alcoholism. I can’t imagine the passion one feels for the only lover who is always available, especially during a pandemic, and who makes isolation a performance piece.  There is a lot of acting out with a cocktail or bottle of beer to relieve the pain.

Now that you’ve managed to live through the thick of the COVID era, are you planning on killing yourself with untreated alcoholism?

The statistics alone are enough to give you a hangover that even a bevy of bloody Marys with organic celery ribs could not relieve.

Gradually, while alcohol was killing more Americans than ever, Fentanyl became the scene stealer.  With its superhuman powers to take a life with one short snort, one little line or one silent shot, it became the most notorious and efficient murderer the opiate-hooked population has ever seen.  Meanwhile bars, liquor stores and supermarkets have been selling more spirits in greater quantities than ever.  Why aren’t we talking about that?

It might seem that overdose is a young man’s disease and cirrhosis or kidney failure is the property of our much-neglected seniors. Drugs are darkly sexy. An instant overdose does not have the slow sad burn of a liver cancer diagnosis.  To the young, ambulances, paramedics and cops on the scene of an overdose may seem somehow romantic. Yet while the disease of addiction progresses, if you survive long enough, the scene changes to nurses and doctors solemnly walking down hospital corridors to tell a family the tragic news of hopeless diagnosis.

During the pandemic, while working from home, the “two-martini lunch” could become the endless martini lunch.  And no one had to worry that those few beers after work with your phantom co-workers was going to earn you a DUI or involuntary manslaughter charges because there was no driving involved. The rationale became, why not ingest to your hearts content?

If you want to live, you know what you have to do. But therein lies the rub. One question is, why aren’t most people suffering from a raging case of alcoholism looking for help to help them quit? Maybe they don’t feel like they’re suffering. Or perhaps the thought of not having the drink actually gives them something to live for, is a more frightening thought, and is more painful than any hangover, broken marriage or night in jail.

One has to wonder if asking a person to consider quitting is like asking an eagle to never fly again, never to swoop down from the heavens and grab some innocent rodents to feast on.

The Buddhists say the odds of being born a human is the same as if there was a single round life preserver floating in the Pacific Ocean and every 100 years a porpoise popped his snout out of the ocean and happened to pierce the space in the life preserver. Those are the odds of being born a human on planet Earth.

If you were one of those lucky individuals who could reign in the excess when the masks came off and the world reopened, as it is written in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “our hats are off to you.”

But if you happen to have crossed that Maginot line, and the enemy, alcoholism, has breached your walls or just knocked down your front door then your life is in jeopardy.  There is a fool proof, 100 percent proof, solution.  QUIT.  There are many roads that lead to the city of Sobriety.  Don’t stop trying to find the path you can trudge to distance yourself from that next drink or a soft cushy coffin.  The choice is yours.

About Leonard Lee Buschel
Leonard Lee Buschel, author of “HIGH: Confessions of a Cannabis Addict,” is a California Certified Substance Abuse Counselor who recently celebrated 27 years clean and sober. He is the founder of Writers in Treatment as well as the director of the REEL Recovery Film Festival and Symposium, and he is the editor and publisher of the weekly Addiction/Recovery eBulletin.

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