I have a passing acquaintance who has spent a lifetime smoking and drinking and, I think although I don’t know for sure, doing drugs. Years ago, I told him flat out I thought he was an idiot for doing any of it and I suspect that, more than anything else, stopped us from being actual friends, I have no respect for anyone who has to inject, ingest, snort or smoke any substance in order to feel better about themselves, as I have said before.
However, I recently got an e-mail from him, explaining that a close family member has been diagnosed with terminal alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver and an aunt made him promise to give up drinking as a result, they were afraid he’s going to be the next one in the family to drop dead. He’s decided to go one step further though and also give up smoking “and everything else”, as he said in his e-mail. He’s already joined AA, got a sponsor and the whole rigamarole and just wanted to let me know that I was right all along. He’s spent many years of his life, wasting his time on things that ultimately brought nothing positive to his life. Between all the money he’s wasted on alcohol and tobacco and “other things”, all he has to show for it are a couple DUI convictions, some smashed fenders and lots of good people he’s driven away by being drunk.
Yet I do wonder how committed someone can be when they are only taking an action at the behest of someone else. In this case, I think he’s sat down and thought about it enough that he’s adopted the desire internally, but for others who don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing, they’re just trying to stop because someone asked them to, I question their commitment to the cause. True change really has to come from within, people have to be convinced that a change is needed, that they’re the ones in the wrong and they’re the only ones that can bring about that change. In fact, if these people were rational to begin with, if they were committed to sitting down and thinking about everything that they do, why they do it and if they should be doing it in the first place, then I feel certain that most people wouldn’t be drinking or smoking or doing “other things” in the first place. I’ve never had a good reason why someone should want to drink excessively or smoke or do drugs that aren’t entirely emotionally-based, there is no rational reason to do any of these things, thus rational people ought not do them.
This individual has never been terribly religious, but he has joined AA because it was the only game he knew about in town. One of the things he asked me is how to deal with all of the religious nonsense inherent in AA. I sent him some secular alcoholic links in hopes that he might find something he can use, but so far, he says he likes his sponsor so who knows what he will decide to do. In any case, I wish him the best, he said he’ll keep in contact and let me know how things are going. He’s just started, but he says that he’s been clean and sober for 3 days now, as of this writing, and while it’s hard, he’s going to make it no matter what. That, at least, gains him my respect and hopefully, he can better respect himself now. He’s making his life better and hopefully can mend fences with all those around him.