Saturday, July 01, 2006

Is the president a "dry drunk"?

Years ago I worked for a company that had to seek Chapter Eleven protection because it was undercapitalized to make it through a recession. Very unhappy time in my memory, but I came away with a good many lessons that have served me well in my working life.

Before the curtain fell, the company went through a temporary interval of what looked like a recovery when a new CEO with access to more money came on board. He had very deep pockets and all of us who had been scrimping to save every dime were thrust into a wonderful new environment, flush with new-found wealth, able to take advantage of luxuries we had never dreamed about before. I was aghast when a paid decorator came to fit my office with new window treatments, but it wasn't my money so all I could do was say "Thank you."

It turned out that part of the wealth may have derived from a terrible tragedy that had happened to the man. He had lost his wife and two children in a plane crash, leaving him with his ambition and business gifts, but nothing to give them meaning. He put up a great front, driving an expensive car, comporting himself as the image of success, and throwing himself body and soul into new ventures...but there was something missing.

As he spent himself into oblivion, and our company into Chapter Eleven the only way I could make sense of his spending was that he wanted to commit suicide in some symbolic manner. At some level it made sense. He was sane enough to know that suicide was not an option for a rational person, but in his deeply-felt grief he didn't want to go on. It was in that context that the company crashed and burned and I had to move on to another job.

I don't think our CEO was an alcoholic, but he might have been. It was later, however, that I learned from personal experience what it means to deal with a true alcoholic. No need to go into the details here, but sufice it to say I know what I am talking about when I say that alcoholism is one of the most mysterious and powerful of all human behavior disorders. Readers who have had the misfortune to know what I am talking about will understand. Those who have not will have to use their imagination and trust what others tell them.

I came across this interesting take on George W. Bush this morning. I think it is a stretch, but I do understand, thanks to my own personal experiences, what the man is saying. I can't decide if I hope he is right or not. If he is, a lot of curious behaviors on the part of the president would make more sense, although I hold little hope that there will be an epiphany any time soon. It took a long time into the second term for Bush to admit that he may have made any mistakes at all during the first five or six years in office. He doesn't strike me as someone who can easily admit having made mistakes.

I do hope, for the sake of the president, that the writer is wrong. No matter what else he may have done wrong or why, no one should have to bear the burden of alcoholism, dry or not. Nevertheless, for what it's worth, here is another guy's take on George Bush's behavior.

We know that recovery from alcoholism has nothing to dowith the time span in between drinks. George Bush may not have taken a drink in decades but he is still an alcoholic. Booze and drugs are the medicines that allow alcoholics to live in the world. Deprived of that medicine, alcoholics who refuse self-examination and spiritual growth become the sorriest of creatures: the dry drunk, living without a buffer to face the grandiose lies and selfish arrogance that define their character. That state is truly torture.

I love George Bush as only one alcoholic can love another. Alcoholics share a special language. In our language, confrontation is love. In our language, pain becomes laughter. In the language of alcoholics, brutal truth telling is being of service.

Service is the way that alcoholics remain sober, rather than just dry, and the way that alcoholics can best be of service to one another is often with a good kick in the ass.

Recovering alcoholics and addicts seeks out ways to be of service in every situation because it alleviates some of the doubt that chatters constantly in our self-obsessed minds. How could my fellow alcoholic, George Bush, be of service to his country and live in the serenity that surely eludes him in his present state?

President Bush cannot be of service to his country until he looks inward and surrenders to the fact that he is an alcoholic, with all the challenges the disease of alcoholism carries with it. And the millions of citizens who are opposed to Bush's policies must also surrender to the fact that we have an alcoholic president. How else to make sense of his administration without condemning him personally?

H/T Sullivan

Checking further, Patrick Moore is the source of this abstruse conjecture. The preceding four parts of his thesis can be found here.
Patrick Moore is a cultural critic, television writer, journalist, and author of non-fiction books. Throughout his myriad projects, Moore's overarching agenda has been to honestly examine both the pitfalls and glories of contemporary American culture. Moore's work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times and Newsday. In non-fiction, Moore has examined such hot-button issues as the crystal meth crisis and the aftermath of the 70s sexual revolution. Of Moore's book on the 70s, Publishers Weekly said, "As a detailed examination of the ways in which rage gives depth to art, Moore's book has no peer in recent memory." Moore's latest book examines how the principles of the recovery movement (honesty, responsibility, surrender, humility, forgiveness) can be adapted to everyday problems.

At a glance his insights derive from long work with AA's now legendary twelve-step program. When I first became aware of it I was not impressed. There was little there appealing to my inner scientist or philosopher. And the spiritual aspects of the program seem to trivialize its potential strengths to the level of media pop-psychology and other bromides.

I later learned that even in today's environment of both scientific and alternative medical practices, a standard aftercare regimen for alcoholism is to attend AA meetings, with "Thirty meetings in thirty days" a norm.

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