Across the kitchen counter from me stood my wife, Margaret, and our two children. If I didn’t get sober, they were gone. I started to say something, but something in all three of those faces shut me up.
by Frank South
So there I am in 1998, a mental breakdown putting me in the safe hands of the medical profession who are testing me six ways from Sunday to find out what’s wrong so we can change whatever that is and I can be all better.
Truth was, though, I didn’t want to change, figure out coping strategies, make a plan, or you know, do any actual work to get better. I wanted to hang out and trade psych jokes with some cool interns and trippy patients -- Middle Aged Man, Interrupted without the Angelina sad part.
But I did seem to listen, I read the materials, and I did show up for appointments, and I did take all my meds. And I got back to gin as soon as possible. I didn’t need a story to build that room in my head where everybody agreed with me because there was just me in there. I just needed gin. The more gin, the stronger the walls. When a doc said it wasn’t a good idea, I found another doc.
So, after what for anyone else would have been a sobering diagnosis of multiple mental disorders and with no job prospects and a wife and two children to support, my primary objective was to make sure I had a justification to drink. Not very admirable, I know.
But hey, I’m a drunk.
I’m also no lightweight. There was no reason to panic. I knew what I was doing. I got a new agent again, sold a pilot; someone was looking at me for a series. Everybody just sit down, shut up and leave me alone. This is my classic mantra from inside my room in my head with its one little window on the world. You probably have two windows, but as I’m functionally blind in my left eye, I’ve only got the one. But that’s fine with me -- less openings to defend.
And that brings us to what for me what all this is really about for me -- excuses. That one-eyed thing is true but so what? I’ve always built self-pity escape hatches wherever I go.
The statistical facts are out there. “At least 25 percent of patients receiving treatment for AODD (alcohol and other drug use disorders) have ADHD, and 20 to 50 percent of adults diagnosed with ADHD meet criteria for AODD.” -- Smith, Molina, and Pelham Jr. - Alcohol Research & Health
There’s absolutely no doubt that if you’re ADHD you might be susceptible to substance abuse. But that was not and is not the problem as it relates to me. I am not susceptible to substance abuse. I am substance abuse. I don’t need an excuse to party. AODD, you bet. Done them all and would love to keep doing them all forever, but I cannot, because I’ll keep doing them forever everyday all day and all night long until I run out and go over to your place and do all of yours and then borrow your car to go get some more. I mean, c’mon -- otherwise what’s the point?
What I said to myself for the three years between diagnoses and sobriety was that the only reason I abused alcohol before was because I was self-medicating my ADHD and hypomania. But now that I was in treatment I could drink because I was all better, see?
I kept propping up this pathetically empty lie until finally one morning in April of 2001; I stood in my kitchen in Honolulu. Across the kitchen counter from me stood my wife, Margaret, and our two children. They were through asking. If I didn’t get sober, they were gone. I started to say something, but something in all three of those faces shut me right up. I just nodded my head and started to live one day at a time. That’s when I finally squeezed out of that room in my head and stepped out into the world. I dropped all the excuses and lies, and free of that, I put my arms around my family and held on tight.
Again this is only how it is for me. But I will tell you this: I am one very lucky one-eyed, ADHD, hypomanic, alcoholic.