Late last night, I watched “It’s All about George,” which is an episode from 7th Heaven‘s first season. It had a scene that really spoke to me.
Aunt Julie is Reverend Eric Camden’s sister, and she’s a recovering alcoholic. She had a lot of success as a school principal, but she lost her job and her friendships due to her drinking. My recovery was not exactly like hers, since I never had any withdrawal symptoms, whereas she practically had to be locked inside a room. And people wonder why I was reluctant to call myself an alcoholic! Maybe it’s because of the extreme way that they are portrayed on television. “I’m not like that,” I could say to myself.
But, getting back to our topic, both aunt Julie and Eric Camden were raised by two hard-core, intimidating parents: Colonel John Camden and his wife, Ruth. I love the episodes that have the Colonel, but I can see how he’d drive someone to drink! But the Colonel and Ruth have found some happiness lately, since they adopted 10 year old George, whom they adore.
Well, it turns out that George’s real father wants his son back, and the Colonel and Ruth don’t want him to go. The Colonel is also sad because he feels that his daughter, Julie, hates him. George runs away, and Ruth says something hurtful to Julie. In the next scene, Julie is in the Camden’s kitchen late at night, with a bottle of wine and a glass. Her father is alone outside, and he’s sad because George is leaving.
Right when Aunt Julie is about to take her fateful drink, we hear Matt Camden (the oldest Camden child) say, “I thought I’d find you here.” He must have been standing there all that time!
Julie tells him that she just can’t take it anymore. She can’t cope, especially not with her parents. Matt then points to the Colonel sitting outside, and he says, “What you want is in that glass. What you need is out there.”
What she wanted was obviously more attractive than what she needed. She wanted to feel good, and that could come easily: all she had to do was drink from her glass. But she needed to reach out to her father, and that was hard for her, since he could be intimidating. At the same time, what she wanted–alcohol–wouldn’t bear much good fruit for anyone–herself or others.
And so Julie goes outside and comforts her dad. The two reconcile, and they live happily ever after.
I know it’s only a story, since life doesn’t always have a happy ending. But what Matt said was powerful. When I drank, I wanted to feel better. That’s why I drank when I was by myself. When I was in a group, I drank to loosen up socially, or to get attention, or just to endure a situation that I considered intimidating (i.e., being in a group). But drinking was not exactly a cure, for it made me very passive. It dulled my mind, making it easier for me to withdraw more and more into myself. I was not reaching out to others. I was not boldly engaging tasks that intimidated me. On some level, I got what I wanted: the good feelings that came with drinking. But I was not getting what I needed: the fruitful activity that can accompany sobriety.
When I think back to my DePauw days, which were before I drank, I realize that I had many of the same problems back then that I have right now: shyness, introversion, timidity, etc. (Not that I’m drinking now. I’m not.) But, in those days, I at least talked when I went out with people. I didn’t do that as much in my drinking days. I turned to drinking to help me socially, but it was having the opposite effect.
I think that sobriety is good because it enables me to be active. My mind is not dulled when I am sober, so, when I find myself in situations that make me uncomfortable, I have to do SOMETHING. It’s fight or flight! My sobriety is my ally in all sorts of situations! Overall, doing something with a clear mind is productive. It can give me a sense of self-esteem, as well as hopefully help someone else.