I am so c-c-c-c-c-cold! Okay, so it’s fall. The leaves are changing from chlorophyll green to their natural shades. The ocean temperature has dropped from the mid-seventies to the low sixties. The beaches aren’t as crowded as they were a couple of weeks ago…a couple of weeks ago? Are you kidding me? No, seriously, it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was on the beach, soaking up rays and loving the temperature of the water. What the heck is going on?

This summer was so hot and so dry that I swear I just wasn’t ready for this abrupt a change. Take this morning for instance…yeah, take it and…well, anyway. I left for the gym about 4:30. The outside temperature – I kid thee not – was 28 degrees. Okay, so in Celsius it would be minus two, but 28 degrees? Come-on, that’s just too darned cold. This afternoon, I lay in my recliner on the patio, in the sunshine, and the temp was in the high sixties…a guy could get the bends or something!

I kid about the temperature in New England and its crazy ups and downs – in 1954, the temperature on this date hit 90 – but its New England. I mean, how would you like to live somewhere like San Diego or in another sunny clime where the temperature’s the same darn near year round…bore-ring! New England weather is just another example of how “Man plans; God laughs.” In addition, we get to change wardrobes on a quarterly basis. How ‘bout that for another advantage of living here…$$$! We have the option of gas, oil, or electric heat…ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!

So it’s time to put away the Under Armor, sweat wicking T-shirts and break out the heavy cotton ‘Ts’ that are winter wear for the gym. Wash the anklet socks and put ‘em away for another year. Get out the high-boys and the long sweats, and microwave the Gatorade and the power bar as you prepare for your workout. This is New England, Charlie, so suck it up and get prepared! For the fact that in a month or so your fingertips will be cracked and bleeding, better stock up on the Gold Bond lotion or whatever else it is you use. So what if your lips are chapped and your eyelashes break when you touch them. I repeat…suck it up; you’re a New Englander…you fool!

Perhaps we’re not as foolish as others may think. Who, in the name of the Almighty, would want to build their house on a hillside in California where, if the wild fires don’t getcha, then the earthquakes will. And while we rarely get a direct hit from a hurricane, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina appear highly susceptible to taking them head on.

So yes, I am c-c-c-c-c-cold and I will get c-c-c-c-colder before I get warm again, thus disproving that old adage that “Life’s a beach, and then you die.” Wait a minute…that is what they say, isn’t it?

Do your job

C’mon now. You didn’t honestly believe that I could resist writing about the Presidential…scratch that…the debates on television between two people who want to lead America. You didn’t really believe that, did you? No, of course not. The second debate between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump proved, beyond any doubts whatsoever, that neither is qualified to do much of anything other than complain about the tactics of the other.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not going to advocate for another candidate. There is not a qualified candidate running for President of the United States who is qualified to be its leader. My third party candidate has made mistake after mistake and is quite obviously uninformed about any number of the issues. Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump, however, have driven politics to new lows.

There was a time when I believed there to be humor in the candidacy of the Republican and Democratic nominees. Both were under investigation for this, that, and the other thing. Both were behaving as those this election was (a) a foregone conclusion, (b) the other would fall and wind up indicted by some federal agency, or (c) this was just a lark without any consequences. What neither appeared to realize is that this is serious business.

Join me for a moment and think about the issues facing America today:
• A megalomaniac in North Korea who is bound and determined to develop a rocket that can carry a nuclear warhead to the West Coast of the United States;
• A Russian president who is determined to lead Europe back into Communism with all of its attendant horrors and slaughters;
• A war in Afghanistan which shows no end in sight and which is killing American armed forces men and women on a daily basis;
• A war in Syria in which both Russia and the United States are on opposite sides and which could flare into a world conflict on any given day;
• A climate change, created by man, and in which man shows no great interest in doing a damned thing about;
• An immigration problem worldwide that threatens to bring about greater civil unrest that we have heretofore known through bombings and terrorist attacks to disrupt normal behavior; and
• An economic system that has created distinct classes of citizens which will eventually lead to some type of rebellion on the part of the lower classes.

There are a ton of problems of which I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever. You can probably create your own list, and it might be far different from mine. Yet, both lists, all of our lists, have to end with one question, “Are either of the people running for President of our country qualified to solve these problems?” My personal opinion is that neither candidate is qualified.

What, then, is the solution? Most of the solutions I can think of are either illegal, immoral, or unethical, ergo, there does not appear to be a solution. Of course, it is possible that the ‘puppet masters’ already have plans in place for whoever gets elected. My question becomes, “When are the adults going to step into the room and say, “Okay children, you’ve had your fun, now go back to bed?” Can you imagine how America must look to the eyes of citizens of other countries? If ever there was a time for the average American citizen to feel shame, it is now.

The election will go on. At some point, one or the other will assume power. Media will criticize the decisions made. Congress will continue its gridlock. People like me will continue to complain…and America will continue its descent into the history books that will be written by whoever conquers us. Democracy will be decried as a decadent form of government, and, eventually, some madman will push the button that will send earth into nuclear oblivion. Sound fatalistic? Then get your butt in gear and go out and find some true American leaders. I’m too old to do so. I’m leaving soon. It’s your job, so get out and do it!

Quotes and Liars

This particular electoral season has been fraught with controversy, From Donald Trump’s federal income taxes to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and from Gary Johnson’s Aleppo gaffes to “Is Jill just a Stein or is she really an ugly mug?” Ooh, that last one was really bad.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about who is telling what lies about which candidate, and that, believe it or not, got me to thinking quotations and…oh, boy, is this getting convoluted or what…that got me thinking about a quote attributed to Mark Twain. It goes like this, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” However, the quote is attributed to Twain in 1913. That being the case, he must have said it from his grave, particularly since he died in 1910…hmm, nice trick if you can do it.

Not to bore you too much, but there is an earlier reference to the quotation that makes it doubtful Twain was being original…particularly if he said it in 1913…and who the hell was listening at his graveside to hear him say it anyway? “Carroll D. Wright, a prominent statistician employed by the U.S. government, used the expression in 1889 while addressing the Convention of Commissioners of Bureaus of Statistics of Labor. But Wright did not claim that he coined the expression when he noted, “The old saying is that ‘figures will not lie,’ but a new saying is ‘liars will figure.’ It is our duty, as practical statisticians, to prevent the liar from figuring; in other words, to prevent him from perverting the truth, in the interest of some theory he wishes to establish.” How, you may ask, do I possess the wisdom to know these things? I dig deeply into the truth of such perplexities – yeah, that means I go to the web site, Quote Investigator, and take what they say as gospel. So, maybe it’s not the intrinsic truth but, it sure sounds good!

The truth is…aw, heck, who knows what the real truth is about Trump and Clinton. If you listen to FOX, Hillary is the devil incarnate; if you read the Washington Post, Trump makes Adolph Hitler look like an Eagle Scout with a chest full of badges. Who, then, is telling the truth? That reminded me of the story of Socrates and gossip. [In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to plagiarizing this from a Socrates web site…so don’t shoot me.] One day, a student came up to the great philosopher. “Socrates, I have just heard some news about one of your friends.” He exclaimed with unabashed enthusiasm.

“Before you tell me this news, we need to make sure that it passes the triple filter test,” responded Socrates.

“What’s the triple filter test?” the man asked.

“The first test is that of truth. Tell me, do you know that what you’re going to tell me is absolutely true?” Asked Socrates.

After thinking for a moment, the man said, “I heard this news from someone else, so I’m not 100% sure if it’s true.”

“The second test is that of goodness,” Socrates continued, “Is what you’re about to tell me something good?”

“No, actually it’s the opposite…”

Socrates interrupted the man, “So what you’re going to tell me is neither true, nor good?”

The man was slightly embarrassed and shrugged his shoulders.

Socrates continued, “There is one final test which is usefulness. Is what you’re about to tell me going to be useful?”

“Probably not,” the man replied.

“Well, if you’re going to tell me something that’s not true, good or useful, then why tell me at all?” responded the philosopher.

We’ve all had this experience or something very similar. Why this happens more during election cycles than at any other time is very easy to see. It does not, however, make it any easier to swallow. The way I look at our political system is simply this. “If we knew all that we could know about politics in the District of Columbia or in any state capitol building in the United States of America, we would become so nauseated that we run and hide in the hills of West Virginia, the mountains of Colorado, or some secluded island just east-west-north-or-south of Madagascar!” I still remember some of the gossip from high school, college, and various jobs. Shoot, in some cases, I believed it and spread it around, only to find out later just how dumb I’d been. Hopefully, I now apply Socrates’ triple filter test to things when I hear them.

Oh, yeah, there was another item on Quote Investigator. It was from the Bible, Proverbs 26:20, “Without wood a fire goes out, without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

It’s sort of a nice way to end this piece, don’t you think?

I like life

I like life. I like living. I really do. The sights, the sounds, the smells…even the aches and pains of growing old make living a very interesting thing to do.

I don’t know what death brings. I don’t know if there is life after death. I’m uncertain about whether or not there is such a thing as reincarnation. I have to admit that I don’t much care. My concerns are centered more on life and living and all that entails.

Those of us who live in New England are very fortunate. We live through four actual seasons in a single year. Yes, yes, I know, there are times when it seems that we go from winter right into summer with no or hardly any spring at all, and I’ve heard all of the complaints about not having a spring…it just goes from winter to summer heat. Of course, by and large, that’s just a bunch of malarkey. We’re about to enter one of my favorite times of the year, fall. Fall in New England really makes life something to which we should cling with all of our might. As the leaves change back to their real colors of gold and orange, rust and brilliant red, the world around us takes on new smells and sounds. The oaks are dropping their acorns, and leaving the driveway this morning, it sounded as if the car was running over a bowl of giant rice krispies. It’s no longer the sound of cicadas in the evening. It sounds now more like the birds are packing up for the flight south, and letting every other bird and human know of their plans. Yep, fall is one beautiful time of year, particularly in New England, and it’s a great time to cherish life.

There was a time when I liked the winter. It was sort of a Currier & Ives setting where the white blanket would cover the ground, a time when sledding down hills and throwing snowballs and even building bigger and bigger snowmen was a lot of fun. Those days are gone now. I look on winter as being a season to pass through as quickly as possible. Not even mulled cider nor Christmas gifts can make winter a season I can enjoy. Let’s just say, “It’s tolerated until spring comes along,” but then again, that’s life.

I don’t wish to die during the winter months. Heck, if it comes to that, I’m not sure I wish to die during any of the seasons. Then again, the world is beginning to spin just a little too fast for me to keep up. I’d like to Twitter but I don’t know how, and I understand that e-mail is now out of vogue and that Snap-Chat has taken its place. My lady friend has a laptop, but that’s now out of step with tablets and other electronics. I’m afraid to go into Best Buy or Radio Shack for fear I’ll find myself so far behind, I would be better off crawling into a hole in the ground and pulling some dirt over me for warmth and comfort! Not really, but you get my drift.

Nope, I like life a little bit too much to be doing some damn fool thing that will get me to leave it behind before I wish. My speedometer rarely goes over 70 now and then it’s just to keep up with the traffic in the right hand lane, generally on roads that are posted with a speed limit of 55. I don’t understand that. If the sign says 55 and traffic is moving along at 80, 85, or even 90, why don’t the police install overhead cameras and just send out speeding tickets based on what one was doing and when they were doing it. I don’t know the cost of those “speeding cameras,” but I’ll bet the cost of them could be amortized in no time at all with the money collected from the fines. Ah, well, not my problem, and I don’t travel on those highways all that often anymore…they’re scary.

There are several things about life that we all seem to take too much for granted. Chief among them for me are sunrises and sunsets. If you’ve ever been in a boat as the dawn turns into a new day, and you’ve watched the sun come up out of the ocean, you know exactly what I mean. First you see this tiny reddish-orange stripe. Then it begins to grow into a bigger and bigger half circle, and even though you may be watching it closely, it just sort of pops up above the horizon and there’s the sun. At that hour, it’s still enough of an orange ball that you can look straight at it, and it seems like hours before you have to look away because of its brilliance. Then, at the end of the day, it almost reverses the entire process. I say almost because, well, as the sun is going down, it changes from that yellow to orange to orange-reddish and then, ‘pop,’ it’s gone again…but it’s not the same as when it pops up in the morning. It’s a different kind of beauty. I think you have to experience both to truly understand the phenomenon.

Yeah, I like life. I like living. I really do. The sights, the sounds, the smells…even the aches and pains of growing old make living a very interesting thing to do. I guess, unless God has other plans, I’m just gonna keep on doing it for a while.

The older man II

“I met Him once, you know,” he said to me one day.

A delivery had just been made to the store. It was over 250 pieces, cases really, of this, that, and the other thing. Our job was to price mark the contents. Huh, this was a long time before bar codes and scanners and the stuff they have now. We had to mark the price on everything with stamps and purple ink. You had to cut the cases just so, and if it was soft goods inside, you had to be careful not to cut too deep and all that. I remember one time I was cutting a case of Mueller’s macaroni. It came in cardboard boxes. I was trying to be so darned careful, and my box cutter slipped. Opened my wrist up about an inch and a half. Doggone, those cutters were really sharp. I bled like a stuck pig. Doctor said I just missed the radial artery. Guess that woulda been really bad.

“Met who?” I asked him.

He was pricing the load and I was cutting the cases. It worked well cuz he had the book with all the prices and the price changes. He was really fast, and I had to be just a bit faster to stay ahead of him. We’d talk about all sorts of things while we were working. Wasn’t anyone else around, just the two of us down in the basement. The load came down on a belt and then onto those like roller tables, and one piece would just push the piece ahead of it onto the rollers. Just kept on going. With a big load, sometimes we’d have to put some cases under the roller thing. A 250-piece load meant we had to take some of the pieces off, but that wasn’t too bad.

“Met The Lord,” he answered.

Well, that stopped me…and right in the middle of opening a big case of toilet paper. You cut too deep on one of those and you can ruin a whole lot of paper. Good for me that it was the last cut. I didn’t think I heard him correctly the first time he answered, so I asked again.

“You met who…The Lord…is that what you said?” I repeated.

“Yup…just once though,” he added. “My friend took me.”

Now, I liked this older man – doggoned if I can remember his name though – I liked him because he taught me, a young kid, all about the store business, the retail business if you will. Taught me about how to stock and block shelves. Blocking’s when you bring goods from the back of the shelves to the front so the shelves look well stocked even when they’re not. Taught me how to run a register and how to spot people who were tryin’ to walk out with stuff without paying. Heck, I was sixteen; what’d I know about grownups who stole things. He taught me how to fill out order sheets on certain days and how to tell when something wasn’t going to sell and why it wouldn’t. He really knew the business.

“You care to tell me about that?” I asked him.

“Not certain you’ll believe me,” he said.

“Well, I believe about your friend,” I told him. “And I believe what you said about your ‘friend’ coming to rest on the other side of the bed after you say the Twenty-third Psalm,” I went on. “Why wouldn’t I believe you met The Lord?”

“Probably, because I’m not sure I believed it myself,” he grinned. “I mean, I know it happened because it happened to me, but you might just think I’m crazy when you hear it. By the way, I’m not crazy. My late wife used to say she was gonna have me tested, but we always had a good laugh about that. Come to think of it, I know she woulda wanted to have me tested after that happened…but – and he dragged that word out – she’d been gone for a while when it happened.”

I’d never asked how his wife had died. I knew that it was some kind of accident, but I thought it wouldn’t be very nice of me to bring it up. Might just stir up some memories he didn’t want to remember.

I put my box cutter on top of the toilet paper box, went over and sat down on a couple of cases of green beans and said, “I’m taking a short break, and I want to hear your story. I’ll tell ya afterwards if I believe it or not. C’mon and pull up a case of peaches or something and tell me.”

He looked at me for a minute. Then he closed up the price book, walked a few steps over and sat down. I don’t remember whether it was on a case of peaches or not but he sat and looked right at me.

“Yeah. Okay. You believe me about my friend, so maybe what I’m gonna tell you…maybe you won’t think I’m so crazy after all.”

I just sat there.

“It was about three years after Sarah had passed,” he began. “It was hot for May, more like a day in late August. I’d just finished my prayin’ and saying the Psalm out loud…to no one in particular, just to me…and my friend came to rest. I told you, didn’t I that I said, ‘If you’re from God…”

I quickly nodded my head to indicate that I remembered.

“Well, anyway, this night was a bit different. My ‘friend’ seemed as though my ‘friend’ couldn’t quite get settled. Then I felt a hand reaching and grabbing my own hand…it was weird. Wasn’t like when you shake hands, ya know. It was something different, almost tingly, if you can understand that….”

And again I nodded, this time leaning a little closer.

“Well, anyway, this hand took mine and we sorta started to float right up outta that bed. I was scared stiff, I don’t mind telling ya, but the hand squeezed mine as if to say that things were gonna be fine. I looked back down at the bed and I saw me…I was layin’ there, and it looked like I was sound asleep. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, hell, I’ve died and this must be my soul being taken somewhere.’ I didn’t feel dead. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack or anything like that. Fact of the matter is, it felt kind of peaceful, having my hand in that of something else. We kept floating and floating, going up and up. I don’t remember going through the ceiling or the roof of the house…I just remember the floating and seeing this light of so many colors, I couldn’t even describe them. They were just…well…it was like they were surrounding us…like we were in a bubble of really nice colors. I guess you’d say they were beautiful.”

He had me. I just sat there, absolutely entranced by what he was describing.

He went on. “The colors seemed to get brighter and brighter and the bubble seemed to get bigger and bigger, and then there He was. There was The Lord. I knew it was Him. He looked exactly like I thought He would. He smiled at me for a second, and then He got this funny look on His face. ‘Why are you here?’ He asked me, and I didn’t have an answer, so I just shrugged. ‘You’re not due to be here for some time,’ He said. I felt a squeeze of my hand, and thought that I was in real trouble. The Lord went on, “she must care for you very much to bring you here now.’ That woke me up a bit and asked, ‘Lord, may I ask who she is?’

‘Yes, you may ask,’ He said, ‘but I’m afraid that if she hasn’t told you who she is, it’s not my place to interfere. Let’s just say that she’s part of the overall plan.’

‘Plan?’ I queried.

‘Yes,’ He responded. ‘All things are part of the plan, a plan I’ve created to keep the universe moving.’

‘Am I part of this plan?’ I asked.

‘Most assuredly,’ He smiled.

‘What’s my part in the plan?’ I asked.

He smiled again and said, ‘Now if I told you that, you’d go back and begin trying to live your life in a way that you believe would conform, but that’s not how the plan works. You’ll know when you’ve completed your part in the plan for that’s when I will call on you to come home. This is your home, you know. She made a small error in judgment bringing you here, but she’s young and as I said, she must care for you very deeply. I believe, however,’ and he turned to the being who was holding my hand, ‘that it is time for her to take you back…please.’

“With that, the colors went really bright again. The Lord seemed to fade away, and I felt a slight tug on my hand. We floated. The bubble colors began to fade. I felt myself going down until I saw me sleeping. I could feel me going back into sleeping me. It wasn’t painful or anything like that. I just, well, I just sort of went back into me. I didn’t wake up or anything. I did feel one last gentle squeeze of my hand, and then, then I, I guess I slept through the night. But…I know what happened. I know it just as much as I know you’re sitting there on a couple cases of green beans. I met The Lord. I talked with Him. He said I’m part of a plan, which I guess means that all of us, you, the other people in the store, the customers, everyone is part of His plan. We just don’t know what the plan is, but we know it keeps the universe moving. I tell ya, kid, it was something. Now you got to promise that you won’t tell anyone. I know you well enough, but I’d really like you to promise.”

I promised. Now that I guess he’s gone, I guess his part in the plan is gone too. I mean, I guess he did whatever he was supposed to do for the plan, but it does make me wonder, “What’s my role in this plan?”

Yup, seems strange to me, too.

The older man

He prayed every night.

He would tell you, “I’m not a religious person, but I am a believer in a higher power.” He’d talk about organized religion and say that he couldn’t accept some guy standing up in a pulpit and telling him what he should or shouldn’t do. He’d say that he thought too many of them were, in his words, “…a bunch of damned hypocrites.”

He really was deeply spiritual, although he could curse like a drunken sailor, drink like a fish, and for all I know, ran around like the biggest whoremonger in town…the only thing I can say for certain is that he sure could curse, because I never did see him drunk or with any woman other than his “bride,” as he always called her.

We talked a lot, me and this older man. I was just a kid. We worked together on the job. I’m not gonna talk about the job because the older man is my main subject here…and he was something.

He told me that he prayed every night.

He told me that he prayed for the souls of those who had died. He said he also prayed for the souls of the living when he thought it was called for. Took him over an hour to pray each evening, he said, but he added that he always felt better for having prayed so hard. “I don’t know who hears me,” he said, “but I’m damn sure someone or something does, and if only one soul gets the blessing I’ve prayed for, it’s been a pretty good evening…truth is, I think all my prayers get answered in some way, shape, or form.”

He let me know that when he prayed, it was to ‘The Lord.’ He said that he believed in the Blessed Trinity, but he still had a few questions about the Holy Ghost. Didn’t go into detail about that, and I never really felt it was my place to question him. After all, I guess I’m entitled to believe what I want just the way he can believe what he wants. We never did talk about what I felt or believed. He was just so interesting once he got started that I hated like the devil to interrupt him.

Though he was something of a strange duck, I never felt any danger about him. He was just ‘the older man;’ heck, I’ve even forgotten his name now. I lost track of him once I left my home town. The store closed when the big box store came into town, and I don’t have a clue as to what happened to the older man or anyone else.

He used to talk about his prayers a lot. He never did it in a way that would say, “I’m gonna impress this youngster,” but he just talked. Told me that when he finished his prayers and lay down to sleep, he’d always recite the Twenty-third Psalm to himself…”and then my friend would arrive,” he told me once.

“What friend?” I asked him the first time.

“Why, my friend from The Lord,” he told me.

“Now this is just a little bit weird,” I thought to myself, but what I actually asked was, “Who do you mean?”

He went on to explain that after he’d finished his prayers and said the Twenty-third Psalm, there was always a movement on the other side of his bed, like someone or something was settling in beside him. “Felt it just as much, and felt just as real as if a live person was layin’ down right next to me,” he told me. As strange as this was, I do have to say that it was also fascinating. “I’d say to whatever it was,” he’d go on, “If you’re from The Lord, then you can stay. If you’re not from “The Lord, then go away.” He said that whatever it was, it just settled in a little bit more. Told me he didn’t dare open his eyes to look because he was afraid of what he might see…or not see.

That was a lot of years ago. I can’t even tell you what brought back the memory of that older man. He wasn’t old. He was just older. Maybe it was the way he talked about prayer or maybe, just maybe it was because I now feel that same presence in my bed at night…just after I recite the Twenty-third Psalm, and just before I go to sleep.

Sure, seems strange to me, too.

Let’s talk drinking

When I asked about one of my high school classmates recently, I was told, “Aw, he drank himself to death some time ago.” I thought to myself, “Well, that makes two from our class that I know of.” It’s not a pretty picture. How many others, I wonder, abused alcohol? We had less than 80 people in our senior class, and while two out of eighty might not sound so bad, you go ahead and do the math as it may concern the teenage and adult population in the United States. Let me save you some trouble…there are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States.

Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing. As the cliché goes, it’s 20/20. Looking back to my days at Northeastern and at Babson, I can now recall people I knew who always had alcohol on their breath and who would act confused at times. Naïve little me, I guess. Today, I can honestly say that I was really too damned dumb to notice erratic behavior. Perhaps that’s because there were more than a few mornings when I was nursing a hangover. Thankfully, Joan and I came to our senses before things went too far.

Looking at the statistics on alcoholism, I find that three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics. That’s really a staggering number – no pun intended – of people who abuse alcohol. Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol…and that’s not even counting moonshine. In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes. Perhaps this explains why, even on my early morning drive to the gym or whenever Juli and I are out in the car, my eyes are always shifting to what’s going on in the oncoming lane. Sure, I’m going to die, but I’m not eager to have it be at the hands of some drunk I don’t even know! Two other facts that were somewhat surprising…people with a higher education are more likely to drink, and the same is true for people who are considered to be wealthy. I’m not certain what the correlation is, but it seems that if you’re well educated and rich, you’re more likely to be a drunk…for some reason, that just doesn’t compute, but it’s out there.

A friend of mine recently went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told me that he’d finally had enough and that it wanted to quit drinking. His feeling was that he couldn’t do so without help. He indicated that he was shocked when he went to his first meeting because he knew every other person in the room. As I’ve learned over the years, alcoholics are very well versed in how to hide the disease from others. Yes, alcoholism is a disease. It’s not a choice that most people make. It consumes the mind and body of the alcoholic, but it also affects those around him or her. While there are 12 million alcoholics as I’ve said, there are another 50 – 60 million friends and family members who are affected by this debilitating disease.

At this point, time has elapsed since the last paragraph was written. I became angry while writing it, and that’s when objectivity leaves, ergo I’m better off walking away and coming back when I’ve cooled down. My anger stemmed from the fact that I can remember, during my drinking days, of how my family was affected by my drinking. I didn’t like who I was or what I did, but thankfully, those days are long past and there don’t appear to be any residual effects.

Just because you or I may live in a ‘dry’ town doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t easily accessible. There seem to be more “Town Line” liquor stores abutting the dry town lines than there are restaurants or any other type of establishment. No, liquor is a very easy thing to get one’s hands on. Drinking is one of society’s more widespread and accepted forms of addiction, so how do we spot the alcoholic? ‘We’ don’t have to spot someone with an alcohol dependency. Alcoholics know who they are. It’s one of the few self-diagnosable diseases there are. Asking one’s self a few simple questions can provide answers. Do you drink to relax or feel better? Do you hide your drinking or bottles of liquor? Do you drink to the point of blacking out? How often do you drink to this point? Are you unable to stop once you start drinking? Do you drink in dangerous situations, e.g., when you may have to get behind the wheel of your car? Is your tolerance to alcohol increasing? Do you find that you are neglecting things at home, work, or school? Have you tried to quit but find that you are unable to do so? These are just a few of the signs or symptoms that alcohol is no longer your friend but has become your master. I had a boss who, when we went out to lunch, had to have at least two drinks to get him through the afternoon. In addition, he would become upset if I didn’t drink with him. It made for a few awkward situations.

Why am I writing about all of this…again? It’s been done to death, and no one needs to be reminded about the dangers of alcohol. Well, maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we all need to be reminded of it. God only knows we see enough of the results of it on television…cars wrapped around trees or driving the wrong way and killing others just trying to get home. Yeah, we do need to be reminded of it…and on a fairly regular basis. Alcohol dependency is one of those things that for which we do have treatment centers and programs. Let’s make it personal…I used to drink to the point where I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. I used to drink and drive, but I got away with it. I no longer drink and I’m better off because of it. Every so often one friend or another will tell me that they are going to meetings or that they’ve been sober for so many days, weeks, or months. I understand that. I will always understand that. And I will always help anyone who seeks my help to quit. None of us wish to become one of the 100,000 who die each year from alcohol-related accidents.