My dad was a brilliant, hardworking attorney with a great sense of humor and loads of charisma. My dad was also an alcoholic. In many ways, I followed his footsteps. I was 13 when I started working in his law office, and I went to college and pursued a career as an attorney. I worked hard, and I drank hard, just like my dad. It never occurred to me that I might be an alcoholic – not until I had to come to terms with my dad’s illness, and I ended up coming face to face with my own.
In the legal community of Athens, Ga., my dad was a celebrity of sorts. He was a powerhouse with a wealth of knowledge. He was cunning and knew how to play the game to win. But he shouldered a lot of pressure to earn a handsome living for his wife and four children. Keeping up with the Joneses was another game he played to win. Possibly to weather the pressure, he also loved his booze. When he started to unravel, it was impossible not to notice. He ramped up his day drinking and became increasingly irrational. Clients started leaving. They could smell the alcohol on his breath. So could I. This provided inspiration for the plot of my novel, Rascal on the Run.
It’s a hard thing for an adult son to watch his father’s downward spiral. My dad became bloated and ill. He pushed everyone who loved him away. I saw what his addiction was doing to his marriage, friends, and family. I felt a deep sense of abandonment.
I decided the best way to help my dad was to learn about alcoholism.
My Name Is Howard, And I Didn’t Know I Was An Alcoholic
To understand what was going on with my dad, I found a support group for family members of alcoholics and educated myself about the disease. It was a good place to do some self-examination, too. An AA session met across the hall, and one day I ventured over. Hearing everyone’s stories, it occurred to me that by somebody’s definition, I was probably an alcoholic, too. All signs were flashing: I would start drinking right after work, would power through drink after drink, and sometimes, would have a few “social drinks” during the workday.
I had some thinking to do. Like any good lawyer, I decide to cross-examine myself. “Stop for 30 days, Howard,” I told myself. “Take stock of how you feel. Reconvene in one month.”
30 Days Sober: It’s The Little Things
I was true to the promise I had made myself. I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for one month, and
It was a revelation. For starters, the basic and most practical parts of my life vastly improved. I was thinking more clearly and felt overwhelmingly positive, thanks to the serotonin boost of abstaining from alcohol. My judgment was razor-sharp. My energy level spiked, which led to an incredibly productive jag at work. I made more money! I checked back in with my body, too. I just felt better. Not drinking gave me the time and motivation to start working out again. I started hiking and going on walks. I found a trainer. I found myself.
Other things started happening in those 30 dry days, too. I was happier. I noticed things. For the first time in my adult life, I felt what it was like to discover, to be amazed. I looked at art, and I started reading books again. I felt joy in these everyday, mundane things that you don’t even notice when you drink all the time. I loved how I felt, and I wanted more. “Six more months,” I told myself. And that’s what I did. Half a year later, I wondered why I had ever picked up a drink in the first place.
Functioning Alcoholic? Not So Much
Look, there’s no way to be truly “functioning” if alcohol takes center stage in your life. Your health, career, and relationships all pay the price if your drinking habits are out of control. Alcohol can mess with your sleep, cause serious digestive issues, increase anxiety, and wreak havoc on your memory. As the son of an alcoholic, I can tell you the disease does its best to tear apart families.
How do you know when you should stop drinking? Quitting is a personal thing. For me, watching my dad struggle with addiction was the catalyst to acknowledging my own problem. If you are reading this and wondering if you drink too much, then my guess is you already know the answer. Take some time to understand yourself and your drinking. Sit with it for a while. Start with a plan, check back in with things that make you happy. Don’t give up!
Want to read Rascal on the Run? Check out the link above!
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About the Author: After thirty years of practicing law in Georgia, Howard T. Scott pivoted from the courtroom to writing fiction inspired by anecdotes from the southern storytelling tradition he’s immersed in. He’s one of the founding partners of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise—the world’s only fully chartered blues cruise—and a lover of live music, fitness, nature, historic preservation, and travel. Scott splits his time between the dry land of Athens, Georgia, and the high seas of the Atlantic and the Caribbean aboard Capricho. Rascal on the Run is his first novel.
Mental Health Month 2021
Access for All
May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.
It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.
www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.
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