Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.19.09

Awakened Living
A healthy option to alcohol’s walking stupor
by Mark Harris

The seeker of drunkeness will one day have enough. The seeker of knowledge will never have enough —Ethiopian proverb

I live with this certain knowledge: All problems with alcohol come from an intentional overdose of that drug, often sold in amounts which used as directed automatically cause one to exceed legally drunk. A single Long Island ice tea; a 40-ouncer of malt liquor, a six pack, or a case of beer for an individual. 

There is a certain irony of a blood alcohol level which nearly killed a middle school student, sending her to a local emergency room with a blood alcohol of .21 (shot of vodka and three beers). Juxtaposed with a college age man, with that same blood alcohol level who kills two adults, and two middle schoolers, putting another one in the hospital.

If one consumed an equivalent amount of aspirin, over half a bottle, we would clearly and accurately label that a suicide attempt. We accept binge drinking as normal behavior, though that practice consistently kills more than any terrorist. Legal drugs used as directed kill more people every day than died on 9/11; the alcohol part of that statistic only covers user death from disease stemming from their own use, not crashes.

An acceptance of death is a necessary part of my profession, both because of the substance’s ability to kill alcoholics and addicts, and the actions of alcoholics and addicts being fatal to themselves and others, mostly others, as it usually turns out. The seemingly random touch of Death, taking the young and the good, full of life and service to life, sparing the hungrigeists who wake from their insatiable walking stupor, in the hospital, to the harsh judgments of the bereaved and enraged. They and we have to live with the consequences. My stupider self indulges in a self-righteous anger, imagining inventive punishments for the surviving perpetrator whose drunken actions fatally ripple through the interwoven communities I participate in. 

I have expressed the opinion that the duly-convicted drunk driver, having killed, should be offered the choice of mandatory lifelong service to life, improving the lives of at least as many lives as those they took, or a death similar to what they caused.

Vengeful wishful thinking aside,  I know the reality for those who overindulge is sentencing to the soul destroying dehumanizing experience of prison. Where, if they don’t become MRSA or HIV infected, they seldom return corrected. While I can imagine worse hells, what Isho/Ieshua would have me do is help them heal themselves and possibly others.

It is we in addictions work who eventually get to come face to face, with those perpetrators, as I have and will again.  A driver who killed a former student came to one of our 12-step meetings held in my office conference room. Probably knowing that it was a roomful of people that knew the student. I or my colleagues will meet this one, to guide them to awakened living, not walking dead. 

Mark Harris is an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at LCC.