Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Because drunk dialing is uncool at any age

Dear Alcoholic Andrea:

I am truly sorry you're fighting the demons of addiction. I grew up in a household where I was exposed to it every day, so I know how miserable you must be and how much pain you've caused your family. I was even more sorry when our department watched you add painkillers to the mix and nearly kill yourself. When you finally realized you had a problem in the middle of last term and checked yourself into rehab, I hoped this would help you get your life and your career back on track.

Sadly, that has not proved to be the case. I understand that while you were in rehab, you missed some important changes that took place at work that affected your online courses. The solution to that problem was to visit our tech center and get help from the people whose job it is to do this. Going on a bender, waiting until two days before your classes were due to start, and then calling our Luddite department chair to complain loudly was not a good solution, namely because her solution was to pawn you off on me. I have my own tech issues to deal with and my own courses to teach. You, however, seem to think that your courses should be my priority.

I just checked my caller ID. You called me 13 times over five days. Of those 13 times, you were intoxicated during at least eight conversations. Did you start to notice some recurring themes, namely that after I'd answered the same question more than twice and noticed your speech was slurred, I referred you to the tech center and that I stopped picking up the phone when I saw your number appear? Did you not hear the anger in my voice when, as I struggled through reloading my calendar for the fifth time and had been cooped up in my house for nearly eight hours, you called me during one of your sober moments to tell me what a great colleague I am and how my advice gave you time to go for a run and then to play golf with your son later that day?

When I ran into you in the hall yesterday, you told me again how wonderful I am, and I told you that while I appreciated the compliment, you should take a refresher course with the tech center. That is my nice way of telling you to STOP CALLING ME, particularly when you're drunk. You helped me a lot early in my career, so I feel a certain sense of obligation to you, but it stops at the point where your obligation to yourself begins. Get to AA, go back to rehab if you need to, but do something. Your family, your colleagues, and your students will all be much happier.


  1. The problem with drunks - okay, one problem with drunks - is that we remember vividly how they behaved when drunk, but they don't remember at all. So they have no idea why we're angry.

  2. The problem with many colleges is that they don't serve alcohol on campus. I've noticed that there seems to be less of an alcoholism problem on campuses that serve alcohol.

  3. There are any given number of reasons why colleagues can be a pain in the ass. Being a drunk is one, but hardly the only one. I have colleagues who do all of the things described above, and none of them are doing it drunk.

  4. I'm sorry, but AA doesn't work; if you want to get this person sober they have to go to SOS, SMART, or any of the other recovery groups that eschew the twelve-step system. Alcoholics Anonymous has a five percent sucess rate, which is the same for addicts who quit cold turkey and will themselves out of addiction. And no, I'm not an ex-addict, nor the child of an addict.

    Consult for more information.

  5. @Kimmy - wow, you've had colleagues phone you 13 times over 5 days, 8 of them in some condition that made them very difficult to understand, and very hard for them to understand you or remember, later, that they had talked to you at all? If that condition wasn't "acute intoxication", they have a serious medical condition and I certainly hope you called 911 immediately after you got off the phone with them.

    @Strelnikov - it's very hard to get accurate statistics on the success rate of AA, partly because the estimate of the success rates is based on continued attendance at meetings, but there are many people (I know more than one) who went to the meetings until they no longer needed them, and then stopped, but are not using to this day, many years later. AA probably (though again, there are no reliable statistics) works better for those who already have some religious background. But of course it's a good idea to try to fit the recovery method to the person.

  6. The numbers on AA are difficult to pinpoint for lots of reasons. Anecdotal evidence is hard to generalize, too. I know 4 people from my life who have spent considerable time in 12 step programs. All have been successful. I don't have firsthand experience with 12 step recovery, but my own anecdotal evidence tells me that it works for people.

  7. Maybe I haven't had the EXACT experience of 13 phone calls, but I've had at least that many occasions where a colleague HAD to tell me how wonderful being a father is, and won't I look at a picture of his egg-headed dope of a son, or did I know that Timmy won a prize, or that he made a poopie, or that I'd have to run the committee meeting because of PTA meeting, soccer game, etc.

    I'll take a drunk call over some heavily zoned out colleague telling me what I'm missing by not being a parent.


  8. Sure, the drunk calling is a problem. But, shitfire, my colleagues have TONS of things that they do that annoy me more than someone who's drunk! Are you kidding me?

    Stealing my research? Poaching my committees? Badmouthing me to the Dean?

    I'll take a drunk call (or 13) over someone who actively tries to elevate him or herself by diminishing me.

  9. Strelnikov:
    I've been sober for 29 years and 2 months in AA. At what point can I accept your assertion that AA doesn't work?

  10. Why am I left wondering that some of the people who talk on this website about how much they drink are actually alcoholics-in-denial?

    So much for hyperbole.

    Merely Academic, you have my sympathy. And, miserable adjunct, congratulations; I wish you continued sobriety.

  11. Alcoholism is a huge problem in the academy. It would be interesting to know why. It may have to do with research, because it is a problem in other creative occupations, as well. The drunk author has become a cliche, for instance.

  12. I can't even figure out the alcoholism in the academy thing. My dad was an academic drunk. I find that with a 60-odd workweek, I need to be stone cold sober most of the time just to get the busywork done. I know it's a disease and all, but I feel like I see less of it in my generation than in the ones above.

    But miserable adjunct, good on you. My dad kicked with AA and just celebrated his 30th sobriety anniversary. For those for whom AA works, it works.

  13. On the 5% number: AA published triannual studies of their membership from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, which they did not release for public consumption. The 1989 triannual was dug up and in it AA admits that only 5% of members remain after 12 months. A year is usually the point that a cold turkey abstainer "spontaneously remits" and quits drinking. Also, the 1989 study points to steep drops in attendence by newcomers in the first four months, which then slows to a steady trickle from that point on. For more info the anonymous "A. Orange" discusses this at: The paper is addressed midway down the page.

    @ miserable adjunct: AA may not work, but you wanted to quit and you made it work despite the humiliating way AA treats recovering alcoholics. That said, now you are stuck going to meetings once a month for the rest of your life because nobody graduates from AA - they go to their graves in the program, or they quit.

  14. AA may not recognize you as a graduate, but you can stop going anytime and continue to not drink; my dad hardly ever goes anymore. Come on, Strelnikov. It's up to the person who stops drinking to decide what was and what wasn't humiliating about the process of doing so. Unless you're a nondrinking alcoholic, STFU and stop patronizing miserable adjunct.

  15. @Strelnikov - As has already been pointed out, "no longer coming to meetings" is not an accurate gauge of "no longer using", because there is no way to know how many people who aren't going to meetings anymore have started using again, and how many have simply realised that they no longer need the meetings. I know more than one person who kicked the habit using AA, doesn't go to meetings anymore, doesn't drink anymore either, and hasn't for years.

    I have been sober for 18 years, 3 months, and 4 days. I haven't been to a meeting in years, but I certainly credit AA for my sobriety.

    Not all methods work for all people. AA works very well for some of us. Nor does everyone find AA's treatment of recovering addicts "humiliating"; I certainly met with nothing but kindness and selfless assistance there. AA gave me my life back.

    And congratulations, miserable adjunct!

  16. Strelnikov said:
    "AA may not work, but you wanted to quit and you made it work despite the humiliating way AA treats recovering alcoholics. That said, now you are stuck going to meetings once a month for the rest of your life because nobody graduates from AA - they go to their graves in the program, or they quit."

    -AA, SMART, SOS, Rational Recovery or white-knuckle cold turkey: not a damn one of them works without the afflicted deciding that just maybe NOT drinking could be preferable to what's left in their wake from drinking (or whatever addiction you'd like to replace ETOH with).

    -Don't know how you obtained your impression that AA is based on "humiliation". I've been in regular attendance over the years at AA meetings in six states and five countries. I've been exposed to a wide variety of venues and cultural contexts in AA, and I was never humiliated. Besides, what could be more humiliating than pissing in somebody's guest room closet, or ending up in the ER with alcohol poisoning or having your antics during a blackout recapped for you the next morning. Please. When I got to AA, I looked around at people who had things going in in their life that were missing from mine and asked them how they did it. And not one of those folks forced me into an act of humiliation to share their path.

    -"stuck going to meetings once a month for the rest of your life". How often anybody goes is a matter of pure personal choice. How often I go depends on how much exposure I have to stressors that might fool me into thinking a drink could take the edge of. With nearly 30 years to practice, I can gauge pretty accurately how much I need. I'm done drinking and probably could stay so without AA...but I'm not testing the theory. "Stuck"...too funny. Since the I quit drinking and started going to AA: no blackouts, no hangovers, no vomiting, no contact with police. I'll take that kind of stuck.

    -"...nobody graduates from AA - they go to their graves in the program, or they quit." Quit what? quit going to AA and relapse, or quit drinking? One thing is true: you can't turn a pickle back into a cucumber.

    -No time now to read the study, but I wonder if it addresses the number of people attending with "a nudge from the judge"...often a requirement in the aftermath of drunk driving, and --at least where I live-- usually for 60-90 days. Once their slip is signed, they go away. The ones that don't come back often weren't interested in anything other than demonstrating that the met the terms of the court.

    Your willingness to make conclusions about what AA is (or is not) is puzzling. I don't know much about many things...but I know that NO program works if the person choosing it forgets to NOT DRINK.

  17. @ Marcia Brady

    I was not patronizing miserable adjunct, only answering his question. I've found it very interesting in this thread that (I think) people somehow believe I am against treatment at all - I am only opposed to the 12 step method, and there are alternatives to that system (Rational Recovery, SOS...there are a load of alternatives to AA, NA and their spinoffs; and no, I am not a recruiter/salesman for these other groups.) I am glad that miserable adjunct and the others are no longer drinking.

    Why I am opposed to the 12 step system is simple: it uses religion to cure people and yet it isn't considered some form of church. The government breaks the Establishment Clause by sending drunk drivers and the like to AA, but nobody calls them on it either due to apathy or ignorance.

  18. Strelnikov, I never thought you were against treatment. But I think it is patronizing to call a method that someone claims works for them "humiliating."

    As an undergrad, I wrote a snippy little piece for a paper I shall leave unnamed about AA and its churchiness, and I cringe to read it now. AA is not above critique, but it does not require a denominational adherence; your "Higher Power" can be your parakeet if you want it to be. That's hardly the governmental establishment of a religion.

    And if you are so worried about the government breaking the Establishment Clause, why don't you start with its bullshit upholding of monogamous opposite-sex marriage (i.e., the Protestant sexual code) as the moral standard for the country? Dude, we live in a theocracy in so many ways; our treatment of drunk drivers is hardly the issue.

  19. It seems to me that Strelnikov has a problem with AA. Maybe he could work that issue out on his own instead of wacking away at folks who - it seems - have had success with the program.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Last comment for Strelnikov:

    I'm not sure how much direct exposure you've had to AA. But in the context of AA, never assume that "spirituality" = "religion".

    Some groups I've gone to tell those with papers from the judge that they are welcome to stay, but that we didn't sign proofs of attendance. Not as a constitutional law issue, but as a matter of straight out principal. Some folks get it...some get huffy. We were nice enough to announce it at the beginning though.

    Yeah, you should be glad I'm done drinking...especially if I had ever spent a night in your guest room.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.