In her book, The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, Leslie Jamison writes: “From the night of my first buzz, I didn’t understand why everyone in the world wasn’t getting drunk every night.…. Scientists describe addiction as a dysregulation of the neurotransmitter functions of the mesolimbic dopamine system. This basically means your reward pathways get F’d up. It’s a ‘pathological usurpation’ of survival impulses. The impulsion to use overrides normal survival behaviors like seeking food, shelter, and mating. It’s the narrowing again; this, only this.”

Many years ago, a Roman Catholic archbishop of Louisville, called a press conference to let it be known he was putting himself into treatment for addiction to alcohol. What happened? He never had a drinking problem in his life. He did, however, have a car accident which left him in the hospital for some time during which he was prescribed some heavy-duty pain meds. As he later told it: “When I was taking the pain meds I happily floated from room to room and visited every person in the hospital.” However, he was medically taken off the meds and discharged. When he had no medicine, the amount of alcohol increased in order to give him “that same good feeling.” Every few years he had all the clergy, including himself, evaluated for addiction/dependency and from this, he was informed he needed treatment which he accepted, called a press conference and went to treatment. He was one of the fortunate ones.

“From the night of my first buzz, I didn’t understand why everyone in the world wasn’t getting drunk every night…” Many people in recovery can, to some extent identify with that statement. The individual may not drink every night, but, when he or she does drink, the end result is in toxification and perhaps a blackout. What happens, mentally, is that they begin to believe and/or say: “everyone drinks like this,” “Everyone does…”

I clearly remember the night I took my first drink. Within a two-hour period, I had poured myself a drink from every type of liquor bottle on the table. I could not get enough of it. After that, I did not drink every night- thank God. However, when I did drink, I drank alcoholically. More often than not I drank on the weekend and, as an RC priest, I had one Mass (or two) on Saturday evening, and a couple on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I emptied the chalice as I could not have a layperson drinking that much wine, nor would be good to have the sacristan pour it out. So, four pretty full chalices of wine along with whatever else I drank that night. Keep in mind, it takes one hour for one ounce of alcohol to leave one’s system. I may not have been drunk for long but I was under the influence for pretty much the rest of the week. Of course, in Louisiana and California, visiting a family I was not offered coffee as much as I was offered “a” drink.

“The impulsion to use overrides normal survival behaviors like seeking food, shelter, and mating…..” It was not my intention to have any more than “a” drink, and yet, once I tasted that drink, I, unconsciously, was “driven” to have another. This “was normal”…” everybody drinks like I do.” “I’m not as bad as ….he passes out…he gets angry…she goes crazy……” And so, as long as I can convince myself I am not like the person whom I judge to be “an alcoholic” then I am not one. There are those who tell their stories in which they recall “as long as I did not do anything that reminded me of my dad (mom) then I knew I wasn’t an alcoholic.”

Think about it. Has anyone commented to you about your use of alcohol? Are either of your parents/grand-parents alcoholics (who do, or, who no longer drink.)? Have you decided to “give up alcohol for Lent’ and then had a drink on a Sunday? Have you ever had “one too many” and stopped drinking for a while? Are you concerned that if you take a drink you might be like one of your parents who does (did) drink and you don’t want to be like that parent? That could mean you might be a dry-drunk. Has anyone ever said to you or about you, that you’d be more relaxed if you took a drink?

Alcoholics Anonymous has lots of open meetings, which means that anyone can attend. The Twelve Steps of AA are being used by many individuals as a spiritual