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"Men are from earth, women are from earth--just deal with it."
-Aunt Meg

Dear Aunt Meg,

I recently watched the movie, Leaving Las Vegas, and found it to be an incredibly painful experience. A quick story line for the movie is: Man with serious drinking problem moves to Las Vegas with the intention of killing himself with alcohol and succeeds (sorry if I spoiled it for anyone). There were many times during the film when I wished I could just walk out, but the story was just too riveting to leave.

You see, my father died of alcoholism several years ago. Though his death was not the same as the "hero" of the movie, I found that the film brought disturbing feelings back to the surface. These feelings were crystallized in the final scene of the movie when the "hero" lay dying, the woman who loved him at his bedside. He looked from her and then away, his last glance not for love but for the bottle of booze on the bedstand.

That tore me apart, to see that "turning away" from life and love, even at the very last, even in a movie. I really don't have a question, except to wonder if you have any thoughts about what can make a bottle of vodka more appealing and more deserving than a loving person or people.
Thank You,
Staying in Life

Dear "Staying in Life",

First let me thank you for such a deep and eloquent letter concerning the very troubling issue of alcoholism. I too have had to deal with people close to me caught up in alcohol and I have come to understand a basic drive that seems to unite all of these is the need and the drive to "avoid" life in general (and people in particular). The alcoholic seems to turn to the drink, and away from the love and care of those around him/her, because they know how the drink is going to treat them. Heavy drinkers know what they're going to get from alcohol doesn't argue with them, doesn't chide them for letting themselves fall into a state of disrepair.........drink will spend a day, a night or a week with them and never complain, they can wake up with it and go to sleep with it and, like the "true" friend that it is, it provides them with a socially acceptable excuse like "Gee, I can't remember a thing I did last night, I was so drunk".

Even though alcoholism has been labeled as a "disease" it is, in the final summation, a choice. Unfortunately, a lot of people get caught in the trap of trusting a bottle of vodka more than they trust their family and friends and, when asked to make the choice, they mysteriously choose the bottle over the people. When someone dies of alcoholism and its complications we all tend to feel responsible in some way. In order to get through the loss we have to know within ourselves that we did what we could for the person but that he or she could not (or would not) accept our help. To die of alcoholism is a slow form of suicide and we all feel guilty when we cannot prevent a suicide (even if it's someone we don't know who is suffering).

You gave all the love that you could in this situation and you must consider that a success even though you still lost a loved one in the process. Perhaps you can carry a part of your father, the part of himself that he was unable to bring forth, to let stand in the blinding light of reality. Breath a little for a little in his spirit and his life will not have been wasted.

Perhaps the triumph in all of this is that you will be a better man for having witnessed the relentless struggle that man has with himself. In the movie, as in your father's life, the bottle seems to have won out. Don't let it make you a victim too.

Aunt Meg
Agony Aunt
Aunt Meg is no longer taking letters but you may read the ones she has answered.

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