Thursday, August 14, 2008

He's Canadian, I mean Alcoholic

I had a fairly long conversation with my mom this morning, which is unusual since we only talk on the phone every couple of months or so. Today we ended up on the subject of alcoholism. I promised myself in the past that I wouldn't talk about this with her because I end up feeling frustrated, but what can I say. I was hooked. And part of me really does enjoy talking about addiction and mental health issues with her. I absolutely respect her knowledge and experience in her profession. (She's a psychologist and play therapist.)

I think what bothers me about it is that, for her, alcoholism is so black and white. It also bothers me when she says, for instance, "He's alcoholic," as opposed to "He's an alcoholic." She does the same thing with the word "lesbian," which drives me--and my best friends (who happen to be gay)--even battier. There's something so, I don't know, reductive about it. (Is that what I mean?) I just think it feels confining and a bit pejorative. I realize that's not her intent, though.

My mom thinks that a lot of people are alcoholics. Both of her parents (including my beloved Nana), for instance. And she's probably right. But who cares if Nana is? She's 79, she lost her husband of 57 years last year, and she has cancer--she can drink all the wine she wants. My mom's brother is a raging drunk for sure, though. He's pretty textbook. I just don't think it's as clear cut as she does. I don't think people either are or they're not, at least not always. And I don't think it lessens them as a person if they are, or takes away their humanity in any way. (Duh.) Everyone has demons. I don't think I'm better or more enlightened than someone struggling with alcoholism. (Actually, in thinking about this, I believe I specifically mean highly functioning alcoholics who are somewhat self-aware. Hmmm. Maybe my mom is right and I should read On the Family by John Bradshaw.)

TJ hasn't had a beer in five and a half years, but he drinks wine--in frequencies and quantities of a normal person. He's not an alcoholic. But it sure seemed like he was at one point. (And of course you either are or you're not--forever.)

Several of our friends are undoubtedly alcoholics (and some of them still smoke--gasp!). And those friends are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met. Not sure what my point is. I'm feeling defensive and I shouldn't. It's kind of like when you're arguing with someone and you realize you're both saying the same thing in different ways.

All I know is that everyone's journey is different.

Speaking of which, do any of you watch INTERVENTION on A&E? That shit is brutal.

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