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Alcoholism and Life

I grew up with an alcoholic father. Some might debate this but he drank a fair amount, did terrible things to us and grew violent. It was not pretty and it marred us with scars we bear to this day. My mother went back to school at one point and worked as an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor so she knew the signs well. It’s interesting, before she moved into that line of work, the men she dated were all alcoholics.

I also had a friend who became my best friend and lived across the alley from me. We got into various types of trouble together, went to parties, and drank underage, as most of our friends did. I cannot tell her tale as to what pushed her too far. It could be an easy statement of physiology though easy is not the way it was. By sixteen she was an alcoholic with a host of embarrassing events under her belt, making difficult for her friends to be around her. I asked my mother what to do (and I have to say my mother was very good about not berating us for drinking underage) so she gave me some pamphlets to pass on to my friend. One was a checklist of behaviors that could indicate you’re an alcoholic. Some of the statements were: do you not remember what you’ve done while drinking, do you pass out after drinking, do you feel the need to drink every day–things like that.

Of course, giving a teenager such pamphlets didn’t go over that well and as high school grew towards its end and my friend also became pregnant (facilitating a quick marriage), we also started to grow apart. I couldn’t help her and she was going to need to help herself. I don’t know if she was embarrassed by her alcoholism or felt that I judged her (and I confess that I did at that time) but we eventually lost contact. It was only many many years later that she made the effort to contact me, having been dry for a long time, with grown and growing children. I then had to get past the wall that I had left behind from that time.

In high school I had also started dating a guy who I went with for a year and a half. He was two years older than me so he was finished while I was in grade 11. And he worked at a pub. I looked old for my age and could get into the bars without being ID’d. (Oddly enough, after I turned legal age, I was ID’d often.) He too became an alcoholic, drinking too much and too often. I don’t remember if that’s what broke up the relationship but it was a contributing factor.

I’d seen enough alcoholism by my mid-twenties, including an Irish couple in Vancouver who were on a self-destructive path through their drinking.  We also stopped being friends. And there are others, those with the red splotchy faces, the abusive tongues, the rude behavior that had driven friend and family away. I would often talk to these people, if they were friends, expressing concern but when they continued along their way I felt I didn’t need to be in the path of their abuse either.

I was arrogant enough to think I’d never be an alcoholic because I didn’t like alcohol that much and I was aware of it. That may have been the case but I wasn’t aware of the abyss in my soul and where it was sucking me to. I was unhappy and single, while all my friends were in couples. I hated myself, my eating disorder was out of control. On top of it, I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t love me and inadvertently probably rubbed the fact in my face with his patronizing way.

Before I knew it I was drinking to drown the pain and perceived loneliness. I stood in the back of a poetry performance night one evening, crying (from my broken heart), then going out to my car to drink a cider, then coming in and crying, and repeating in progressively drunken way. I went to a camping event and proceeded to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I did. In essence, I had a blackout. Then on New Year’s eve I went to Blaine to some friends’ party. Bored and feeling the loneliness around all the couples there, I decided to drive back to Vancouver to another party.

Lucky for me, some friends braved my wrath and took my keys away. I later passed out and left the next day. Shortly after that night I was thinking of my life and realized I teetered on the edge of becoming a full fledged alcoholic. The brink was close and I was sliding over it. Also lucky for me, with that realization, I started to reassert control over my life.

And two friends at that time, drew straws to see who would approach me and say I had a drinking problem. The loser got to come up to me, probably expecting me to tear into her. But when she said, we think you have a drinking problem, I said, Thank you for being such good friends to tell me. You have the right, if you see me out of control at any time, please tell me.

And after that, I did try to control it, and not drink to cover my problems. Alcoholism, though, can strike for a number of reasons. Some people are physiologically more susceptible. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Others use to flood the hollow spots. It is the duty of anyone who is friend or family to say to the drinker, You have a problem and you need help. But as always, it is up to the person to change and hopefully have the support of friends when they take that path. I learned some valuable lessons about drinking and about me. I wouldn’t want to go that road again.

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BC Politics: Faux Pas and Scandals

Here we go again with the dirt, and dragging each candidate through the mud. Ray Lam is the latest victim of the scourge that happens before every campaign. And since BC is gearing up to the provincial election on May 12, and because Campbell’s Conservatives in Liberal clothing have a race for their money, they’re digging deep. Of course, this goes for any side; mudslinging is becoming far too common.

So Ray Lam is the latest victim, who somehow had Facebook photos that he thought were on privacy settings that no one could really see. The media is calling them “racy” photos and I suppose these are to a degree though no actual flesh is seen. Lam has his hand on one woman’s breast and in another a man and a woman have their fingers hooked in his underwear and are peeking in or pulling them down a bit.

When I run for office I will proudly admit to and display all my naughty photos off the bat. I don’t think there are any but one person’s naughty is another person’s tame. What I hate the most is the hypocritical prudery. Many people will claim to be open-minded (heck, what does Liberal stand for in the Liberal party) but will get all bent out of shape over some innocent antic. So some people were partying and went skinny dipping, or flashed the camera, or mooned a car,  or streaked through a field, or wore a giant penis costume for Hallowe’en.

And my opinion: so what? It’s obviously consensual on all people’s parts. There is no violence. There are no underage people. Some people get together and pull some pranks. It’s hardly out of the realm of human behaviour and pretty harmless. Whose morality runs the show?

What bugs me most is that people profess to be open-minded as long as it serves them (just what does liberal stand for in the Liberal party?) yet become indignant about supposed misdemeanours as long as the spotlight isn’t on them. Did I hear correctly that the Liberal member who outed this guy’s photos was asking for an apology? It should be the other way around and the Liberal member should be apologizing to Ray Lam for the untoward attention and a pretty banal thing. In fact, it matters not which party outs the other. If it’s just photos like this, who really cares?

Trudeau once said, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” This goes for the parties and extracurricular activities as well. As long as a candidate or a politician is not stomping animals, playing with minors, beating people, shooting opponents, stealing, taking kickbacks and bribes, lying or otherwise breaking the law, then there shouldn’t be a problem in their personal life, which should stay personal. Yes a public figure like a politician should be held to high moral standards, but only in the aspect of the law. Oh, but I forgot, one must look innocent and angelic while running for office.

Once you get in you can break the law and stay in office. Like Port Coquitlam mayor Scott Young who was convicted of two accounts of assault and breaching conditions. He stayed in office against protests of his constituents. Or let’s see, Ralph Klein, ex premier of Alberta who swore at homeless people and threw money at them. Well, not exactly against the law because homeless people have no rights and never charged him. Or, oh yeah, Gordon Campbell, convicted of a drunk driving offence in Hawaii but too arrogant to step down or barely apologize.

So, other people must step down from political careers on allegations often later found to be false and unsubstantiated, and candidates have to step down for some silly photos. If the public cares, and I’m not sure we do, then it’s a sad state when we get our knickers in a twist over the minor and harmless infractions, yet offenders of the big ones get rewarded with longer time in office. If we look at honesty, then Lam is more honest for not denying this than Campbell was when he tore up hospital worker contracts.

I wish the media and the politicians would stick to the business of politics and not stick their noses in everyone’s personal business. No one is perfect and people do silly things. We should not all be punished for it and if it’s not against the law, then don’t expect godlike behaviour from mere mortals.

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Politicians, Pot and Prohibition

In the last week two NDP candidates have had to step down because there were pictures/videos of them smoking pot. And another candidate once upon a time skinny dipped in front of teenagers. There were never any charges laid, none of the teenagers or parents ever complained, and RCMP cleared him of wrongdoing. Yet he’s had to resign from running. Something that people need to understand about the West Coast and the island communities is that it’s not abnormal for people to be free an easy. To get your knickers in a twist over someone skinny-dipping is a little over the top. The politicians are really desperate if that’s all they can find. I certainly would rather have someone dipping into the drink nude than have them scam the country of a few million or outright lying.

But that’s the lesser issue. There is the oh so horrible aspects of marijuana. Granted it was pretty stupid letting yourself ever be filmed if you have aspirations in politics but smoking pot is pretty much so minor that it doesn’t amount to even a crime. Being filmed driving under the influence of anything is a little more serious.

But let’s look at this. Pothead politicians. Hmm. When a person is high on pot, they tend to sit around, maybe eat, maybe sleep. People on pot are never seen as being zippy and really, how much crime is contributed to just potheads? I’m not talking grow ops or dealing but just plain ole smoking. Compare it to drinking. Drinking alcohol and buying/distributing it is legal. A person drunk can cause way more damage, possibly get in fights, and then drive cars. Our premier Gordon Campbell was caught and fined for drunken driving in Hawaii and he certainly thumbed his nose at everyone and didn’t step down. So why should someone who smokes pot, or swims naked do so when they’re not even in the government yet?

This comes down to the decriminalization of marijuana. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is… Why? I wish I really knew. There are illegal grow ops everywhere, the Hell’s Angels and other criminal organizations are involved in it and make millions every year. If it was decriminalized and regulated like alcohol was, then the government would actually make money on it, like it does on alcohol. When prohibition was in effect, more in the US than Canada, criminals raked in the money and not only that, became better established. We all have images of Bonnie and Clyde times (though they were bank robbers) and moonshine.

In Vancouver, with all the crime we have (home & car break-ins) you never hear that some crazy pothead was doing it or that potheads are living on the street. No, it’s crack and crystal meth and heroin that puts people on the street, and leads them to prostitution and burglary. Legalizing marijuana would actually make it far more controllable. I’m not even sure who is against it, some conservatives obviously that feel that it’s what, the devil’s tool, undermining our youth? I just don’t know but the harms of pot are far less than alcohol and people aren’t killed in car accidents by multitudes of pot smokers. Sure there may be some accidents but the majority are alcohol induced. Better the devil you know.

As far as I can see it, some guy running in politics who confesses to having smoked pot seems such a minor misdemeanour compared to a drunk driving premier. (But then Campbell was in good company with the equally drunken Klein–actually Klein was much more an expert at drinking and only cursed beggars and threw money at them.) It would be better for our resources if police could concentrate on serious crimes and just think, the proceeds of selling marijuana could go to fighting other drug crimes.

I think we have a very skewed society where true perpetrators of crimes and politicians who break promises and rip up emplyment contracts (Campbell) can stay in power (including the mayor of PoCo charged with violence and yet won’t step down) and some skinny dipper has to give up running. It makes me even more dubious that anything can ever change in this country because the old crusty suits still run the show in outmoded ways. Do I find a broken campaign promise worse than a guy smoking pot? Yes. I certainly wouldn’t care if he did smoke pot. And like past US president Clinton, these guys should have said that they didn’t inhale.

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