Reading about alcoholism bores almost as much as writing about it so I’ll make this brief. I caught the recent Family Guy episode where Peter and Brian are sentenced to 30 days of AA meetings. Hi-jinks ensue as Peter turns the meetings into booze filled parties. Seth MacFarlane shares my interest in classic musicals, so there was a fun piece called “Mr. Booze” where alcohol is made a scapegoat for everyone’s moral failures. Peter ends up drunk driving and killing himself whereupon the Grim Reaper shows him what his life would be if he continues down the path of alcoholism (not sure how the path continues after dying in a car accident…), and another path in which Peter never touches alcohol in his life. Peter asks whether there isn’t a third way between being an alcoholic asshole and a dry douche – and the Reaper informs him about moderation.
Seth MacFarlane is a raging liberal and Family Guy is spotty, but I have followed it since its beginning and overall like the show. But moderation being the key to alcoholism is just another simple solution for a complex problem that liberals like MacFarlane preach, along with the fiction that Israel’s returning to its 1967 borders will end the Arab-Israeli Conflict, showing terrorists how we respect Islam in America will make them change their minds about killing us, and spending more money on education will make American kids smarter.
Moderation… why didn’t I think of that when my wife was threatening to leave me before I got sober over 10 years ago? Moderation. How many drunks in church basements have failed to turn around their lives with one word? Moderation. If only Jack Kerouac had known about that maybe he wouldn’t have bled to death after decades of pickling his liver.
Or maybe it’s because for most alcoholics moderation doesn’t work. Does MacFarlane seriously think that the answer is that easy? How much time has he spent around drunks? Has he met people who literally cannot stop drinking? I know of an alcoholic on hospice who was dying of liver failure caused by her alcohol consumption, but couldn’t stop. She was relieved to learn that she didn’t qualify for a liver transplant because she didn’t have to stop drinking, and the nurses on hospice actually poured her drinks for her. She only stopped drinking when she died. In my experience my life revolved around my next drink, and moderation wasn’t possible. I had tried it several times from the time I started drinking in high school until the time I began my current ride over 10 years ago. One beer inevitably turned into two which inevitably turned into six which inevitably turned into so much alcohol that it forced me to switch to the metric system so that I could calculate my consumption in liters because the Imperial system was too complex when I was drunk.
The stories I gleaned in church basements were always the same as mine. Moderation simply wasn’t possible for those of us who ended up there.
Moderation? MacFarlane’s knowledge of alcoholism is as shallow as his most of his non-sequitur humor and this episode proved it. In the episode Brian stated something along the lines that all people did was turn their alcohol addiction to an AA addiction. Something tells me that MacFarlane’s knowledge about AA only extends to rehab where the people attending have only days or even hours of sobriety under their belts. They tend to be giddy about their sobriety and in desperation almost as high on it as they were on alcohol. But I’ve been to meetings where the average sobriety was measured in years, and sometimes in decades. The long-timers at those meetings hadn’t substituted one addiction for another: they had achieved a level of calmness that drunks only glimpse in the oblivion they so crave. Every meeting is different, and some have terrible chemistry and are a waste of time. The bottom line remains that when it comes to addiction, AA is the only game in town. While I have not been to a meeting in years and remain sober, I know it is there and carry a number in my pocket – a lifeline that I haven’t had to use but know is there. I’m glad AA is exists.
MacFarlane is a comedian; his cartoons won’t change the world honestly and shouldn’t. But when he preaches as he did in this episode, I’m going to call him out on it – and it’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand what the hell he is talking about.
UPDATE: The Mr. Booze piece isn’t a MacFarlane original: it’s from the Rat Pack classic Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Here’s a link to the original.