Part 3 of 4: In which are observed new symptoms to the same regrettable behavior, a bottom is briefly reached, and alcohol is revealed to be the author of all my woes.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two installments in this exciting series, Don’t Forget To Hurt and So Much Love To Share. If you miss them, you’ll also miss out on your 72 black-eyed virgins in heaven, so there’s that to think about.
My second experience with counselling was no better than the first, but at least was under somewhat different circumstances–this time I really was on drugs.
Also, it was my idea. Sort of.
In a successful bid to be readmitted to college after my expulsion,¹ I undertook a series of actions to demonstrate that I had once and for all forsaken my libertine ways: I went to Alcoholics Anonymous a couple of times, where I gained a respect for the venerable organization, if not a desire to become a part of it; I placed an ongoing ad in my college’s paper advertising the school’s counselling service (a meaningless gesture which claimed the lives of a great many trees, but was nonetheless wholeheartedly applauded by the administration); and visited a substance abuse counselor–a very bad one as it turns out.
When I came to the counselor I had reached a point where I was the most receptive to substance abuse treatment I have been either before or since. Ironically, in our short time together, this earnest acceptance was about the only thing in me she managed to fix. I arrived a humble, chastened man, ready to open up to the therapist about my chemical intake so that I could get the help I was beginning to believe I so desperately needed. I told her the story of getting kicked out of school, and of the behaviors which had led to it. I was forthcoming about my increasingly heavy use of psychoactive drugs, and didn’t varnish the truth, even when it was uncomfortable.
When I was done, she surprised me by saying, “Well, I think it’s clear that you have a real problem with alcohol.”
Although it’s true that I consumed a copious amount of alcohol in my early college years, it had tailed off substantially, and hadn’t played a significant role in my problems with the administration nor contributed meaningfully to my expulsion. Helpfully, I said, “Well, yeah…But, you know–I really think I might have more of a problem with marijuana these days.”
Some of the air seemed to fly from the room. She regarded me as a few frozen seconds ticked by. “The underlying problem is your alcoholism,” she said, her words deliberate and painted with a fatalistic urgency, “And that’s what we have to address first.”
A little more cautiously, I said, “Well, it’s just that I don’t drink very much any more, and I smoke marijuana pretty much every day, so…”
“It’s alcohol,”² she said, making it clear that not only was the issue closed for discussion, but that I had made an enemy. I saw her once or twice more and talked about my alcoholism. As with my previous experience, it seemed like the best thing for everybody would be for me to just stop going.
However, writing this series has given me an opportunity to reexamine these events in my life beyond the degree to which I have already explored them. As such, I conducted a statistical analysis of my current alcohol and marijuana intake to see how the therapist’s theory plays out over the long run.
Over the past 30 days I’ve had 3 glasses of wine (2 at Killers Concert in Las Vegas 12.28.12, 1 on New Year’s Eve) at 5 ounces each for 15 ounces total, and 1.5 beers (1 beer on New Year’s Eve, split beer with brother-in-law on New Year’s Day) at 12 ounces each for 18 ounces total. Taken altogether, I’ve consumed 33 ounces of alcohol in the last month. Although I can’t peg my marijuana intake with that same accuracy, it can safely be claimed that I’ve consumed no more than 8 ounces of the reefer, less than a quarter of my alcohol consumption during that same period. Statistics don’t lie.
In the final installment, I’m sent to someone who does me a little good. Be sure to join us when we revisit DRUG SCHOOL!