First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Decision point + 25

Keep them coming

I guzzle diet sodas. It irritates wait staff that the glass is empty by time they enter the food order.

The older guys working at an all-night diner where I am a regular have two glasses ready when I sit down.

This guzzling is a remaining behavior from a long-ago habit.

The Challenger shuttle disaster is an annual reminder of a personal crisis decision point.

White-knuckling an urge

Spent weeks attempting to reign in the uncontrollable … could never predict how much I would drink once I started.

When off-duty I often needed 3-4 drinks in order to go to sleep. Would follow the nightcap with a 20 oz sports drink/acetaminophen bolus.

I was trying to go more than two consecutive days without drinking. January 28, 1986, would have been day three. The first three-day dry spell in years. It did not happen.

The last close call

I thought I separated drinking from the job. Until an off-duty response to a greater alarm fire while hammered resulted in a terrifying realization that I could lose my job.

That started the unsuccessful effort to reign in the drinking … and then to visit the Employee Assistance Program to ask for help the day after the Challenger disaster.

I entered an outpatient rehabilitation program 25 years ago tonight. I was angry and uncertain.

Just cause you are sober does not make you “all right”

Up to 90% of alcoholics have at least one relapse in the first four years after treatment. It could be from a behavioral, cognitive or biochemical factor.

I have maintained sobriety for a quarter-century. Doing Job 1 every day.

That was the easy part.

Still have behaviors and thinking that are addictive and destructive. They remain resistant to lasting change.

So much for the “Anonymous” in AA

Alcoholics Anonymous
, is the 12-step spiritual self-help program that remains a force in treating a variety of addictive behaviors. Estimate about two million members.

I don’t think Bill Wilson or Dr. Bob Smith ever envisioned a society as tolerant and open about addiction as we are now. There was a lot of shame associated with alcoholics in 1935.

Rescue Me and alcohol

Alcoholism is a frequent topic in Denis Leary’s Rescue Me series.

Season 5 (2009) ended with this cliff-hanger:

Rescue Me’s creators, Denis Leary and Peter Tolan weren’t afraid to risk it. In the waning moments of the finale, Tommy Gavin (Leary) takes two bullets to the chest, courtesy of his grieving Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke), who seeks revenge for the recent alcohol-fueled death of his wife. Tolan says it was a natural progression of this season’s story arc, which saw Tommy fall off the wagon and drag the entire Gavin clan with him.

“We just really got into the whole idea of Tommy starting to drink again and being the merry piper leading everybody down that road. And what the consequences would be,” Tolan tells “We’ve already established over the seasons that Tommy’s curse — which is a direct reflection of 9/11 — is that he survives. When he should be dead, he survives, and there’s death all around him, which is what he is left to deal with.”

Leary says Teddy, who murdered the drunk driver who killed Tommy’s young son in an earlier season, was the obvious choice to shoot Tommy.

Leary says the show’s success at depicting alcoholism comes from a mixture of personal experience and letting the disease speak for itself. “Our investigation of [alcoholism] comes from a real place,” Leary says.

“I know firefighters who have drank, quit, started up again, quit, and finally said, “I can’t work unless I have alcohol. I need to have some fun.” So I think we’re portraying every part of it, and I don’t think we’re preachy about it. If Tommy keeps on drinking, I don’t think we will judge him. And if he quits drinking, I don’t know how we’ll judge the characters that continue to drink.”

Adam Bryant (Sept 1, 2009) Exclusive: Rescue Me’s Creators Dish on the Shocking Season Finale” TV Guide.

My brothers and sisters were supportive and ball-busting. I did not have to hide my recovery – that was a powerful benefit.


Mike “FossilMedic” Ward
February 4, 2011

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