It’s amazing how one episode can affect you, sometimes for years, sometimes for a lifetime.
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I remember once, when I was 8 or 9 years old, that I saw a relative of mine drunk. He was crawling across a lawn to his apartment in the Richmond Housing Projects.
A small crowd started to gather to watch him try to crawl up the stairs to his apartment. They laughed every time he stumbled on the stairs, landing on his face. As I watched, I felt embarrassed and furious at my relative and the crowd. Looking back, I hated him for those few awful moments.
The next day I was told he went drinking with some friends, and they dropped him off at the curb next to his front yard. I now realize that the episode still affects me. It’s like I couldn’t forgive him for the only mistake he ever made.
It took some growing up and talks with my other relatives for me to realize he wasn’t perfect on that one afternoon. Of course, I forgave him and continued to love and respect him until the day he died.
• I don’t visit bars anymore, and I drink an occasional non-alcoholic beer at home, usually after playing tennis. Maybe I don’t want to drink because I never want anyone to see me crawling up the stairs.
• It’s funny how that one 20-minue episode probably still affects me. I don’t want to be around drunk people anymore. They bore me and annoy me. I’ve never learned a positive life lesson from them. Perhaps, watching them and seeing others laughing at them, brings that episode back.
• Trying to decide if you want to drink or not may be one of the most difficult decisions around. If you ask your drinking friends, they will say things like, “No, you hold your booze pretty good” or “I like you better when you have had a few.” In reality, if they say you should give it up, they probably should, too. After all, they are with you when you’re drinking!
• A good friend, a real friend, will tell you, “It’s something worth thinking about.” Your very best friends will approach you and tell you it’s a destructive habit, and it’s time to give it up — forthwith.
• Eastern philosophy and Cherokee life lessons teach that outside sources should not determine your inner peace and happiness. Booze and drugs are outside sources. Do not allow outside sources to be the shot caller of your life.
• Learning to “let go” is a very important life lesson for us. Letting go of old anger, resentment and mistakes is good medicine. When you don’t let go of old, negative hatred and habits, you remain a prisoner in a jail you created. Not letting go means the past still controls you, and the present doesn’t have a chance to move forward.
• When you allow a horrific or traumatic event to trigger drug addiction or alcoholism, you have never let go; and you need to let go and live in the “right now.” It happened, and you can’t change the past; but you can change the present, and you can become the real shot caller in your life.
• Do what it takes to deal with the horrific past … so you can finally jump into the present and quit wasting your life.
• I guess we can all say, “Well, it runs in our family,” no matter what the problem is, be it temper, booze, drugs, etc. I don’t buy the “it runs in our family” alibi. You control your present life. If you are being stupid in your current life, you need to get real and quit making stupid decisions. Being stupid is not cute … it’s crazy.
Bob Billingsley is a columnist at the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.