THE ROAD TO FORT WORTH
And other works by Michael Jackson Smith

 

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Free - Chapter 8: Danville


The Difficulty In Diagnosing Early Stage Alcoholism

Alcoholism was recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association in the 1950s. Prior to that time, many people viewed alcoholics as having a weak moral character. The AMA's classification has helped to ease the social stigma attached to the disease and opened the door to the evolution of therapeutic techniques and facilities to treat the disease.

In its early stages, the diagnosis of alcoholism is problematic because it does not present clearly observable physical pathology. Therefore, it is not measurable, quantitative, although, it is highly observable from a behavioral perspective.

Unlike the victim of other diseases, the alcoholic, in general, does not seek or want treatment. The usual model of early detection, early cure does not apply. In fact, there isn't a cure for alcoholism, only remission through abstinence.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can be best seen as lying on a continuum from teetotaler, to user, to abuser, to problem drinker, to functional alcoholic, to all but hopeless alcoholic. There are individuals who abuse alcohol that moderate their drinking or abstain completely and do not become alcoholics. Once someone has crossed the line into alcoholism, there is no reversal of the disease.

One characteristic that sets alcoholics apart from casual users is that the alcoholic invests an immense degree of importance to alcohol once they've started drinking. For some, alcohol is more important than family or a job, and they protect their supply to be able to continue drinking. Denial of their problem leads to more drinking, and it's unlikely for many that they would ever stop unless something got in their way.

Intervention is one method of helping the alcoholic. It is a meeting of the people who are most important to him or her and is designed to confront the alcoholic's denial of his disease. The goal of intervention is to convince the alcoholic to enter treatment. Often, someone skilled in intervention techniques will lead the group because confronting a person's denial system is difficult to do without training. A failed attempt could further alienate the alcoholic. Sometimes the intervention is in the form of a court order to enter treatment after a DUI or other crime has been brought before the judge.

Father Joseph Martin, a pioneer in treatment, defined alcoholism simply when he said, "Whatever causes problems is a problem." This ended the debate in some circles over the definition of alcoholism. If a drinker has problems as a result of his drinking, whether it's his health, relationships, his job or criminal problems, then the solution is to find help. In his lifetime, Father Martin helped thousands of alcoholics with his pragmatic philosophy, a message carried in part by his film "Chalk Talk," a thorough discussion of the disease centered around his illustrations on a green chalkboard. He realized that some people require treatment to begin their recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous, the program that works the best for the most, as he put it.

It has been said that AA is a simple program for complicated people. AA's founders, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, discovered that they could stay sober a day at a time by sharing their stories with each other, and by helping other alcoholics who still suffered. I have found the 12 steps to be flawless in concept. Millions of people have now been able to stay sober for one day by not picking up the first drink. How many people with other diseases would trade places with the recovering alcoholic if they could do so with the simple, but often difficult treatment of not picking up a drink for one day?

Copyright ©2012 Michael Jackson Smith


Overview of The Road To Fort Worth

Jack Wendell's rite of passage into adulthood began three hours before midnight on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. On his stroll across campus, he watched one foot follow the other in a rhythmic pattern and thought about time. As he stepped from the past into the future, he was stunned by the realization that the present moment was so fleeting that it couldn't exist. His breathing became shallow and feelings of horror flushed through his body in spasms, like waves crashing on the shoreline, retreating, then returning in another blow. He was convinced that he had entered a portal into hell, and he endured the agony of the next three hours. When the clock struck midnight, he entered a bar, ordered a glass of whiskey, and the elixir washed away his panic with three magic bends of his elbow.

This was only the beginning of Wendell's long love affair with booze, his only relief from the anxiety attacks that haunted him in an era when little was known about the disorder. He couldn't function with the anxiety that possessed him and drank in an attempt to control his horrifying feelings, but couldn't work in a perpetual state of intoxication. On his journey, he encountered a host of unlikely companions and circumstances, including rehabs, institutions, therapists and a horde of dysfunctional people who would harbor him for a time, yet, sooner or later, he was forced onto the street again in search of another haven, where he could drink to his heart's content.

The Road To Fort Worth is a long overdue novel about a man suffering from panic disorder and alcoholism. It could be seen as a continuation of Charles R. Jackson's classic novel, The Lost Weekend. It's the story of a life on the rocks with a twist of lemon. It's the story of how one man learned to untie the inextricable knot binding two debilitating disorders that so many people have been unable to unravel. -Michael Jackson Smith

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."


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