My volunteer work takes me to the front lines of the war on addiction. Yesterday I was quietly minding my own business, in a place known for alcoholism traffic, when a staggering drunk passed by. Ron was a happy drunk. He laughed when he told the obvious, “I’m pretty drunk”. Personally, I don’t believe anyone obviously intoxicated is a happy person; and neither do they speak the truth. That very issue soon surfaced with Ron.
Ron was mostly polite, if there is such a thing while toxic with alcohol. I invited him to sit a while – to have a free cup of coffee. He obliged. After a few sips of his coffee he said, “You want to know the truth about something?”
I was amiable but honest, “Ron, in your state of intoxication you are not able to discern truth”.
Riled, Ron said, “I was always told that drinking alcohol causes a person to speak the truth”.
“Ron,” I said, “That is just another myth about the virtues of alcohol. The truth, as you say, is that your reasoning and emotional state is drug affected”.
There once was a man, a Catholic Priest, who worked diligently with Alcoholics Anonymous in the battle against alcoholism. Father Martin gave wonderfully insightful and entertaining lectures on the ills of the disease. Father Martin came to prominence as a Priest of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Father Martin gave a lecture he called his ‘Chalk Talk”. Check out this video:
While most of his reasoning is anecdotal he provides a clear method of understanding the affects of alcohol on the human brain. The first element of the brain affected in the power of reason. An intoxicated person maintains reason – but it is drug affected reason. A person in the recovery room of a hospital is never asked to sign legal documents because they are ‘drug affected’. The second element identified by Father Martin is that of emotion. Again, one has emotions while intoxicated, but they are drug affected emotions. Examples I give are simple: Frustration becomes spiteful resentment. Mild irritations become the catalyst for self-pity.
The point is that intoxicated people are not reasonable or truthful.
I filled Ron’s coffee cup and invited him to sit and enjoy the day. I invited him to come back tomorrow, before he starts drinking, and have another cup of coffee and some honest discussion. Being kind is always good – being dishonest with kindness is never good. The point is simple enough. I am kind enough to give him a cup of coffee, but I do not feign kindness by enabling his drinking. I do not entertain intoxicated people.
If Ron comes back today I shall be kind. I shall be kind enough to be honest. I shall tell Ron the truth about how alcohol is hurting him personally and how alcohol is hurting his family. He already knows this truth – but suppresses the pain because it feels unbearable. In reality – facing the pain without the anesthetic of alcohol is the only means of healing.
Listen to Father Martin. He speaks the truth of metaphor.