Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Feel Too Comfortable Around "Stinkin’ Thinkin’"

Jim Thorpe Monument in Jim Thorpe, PA

(I once had a picture of myself standing here; however, Alex decided to shred it)

Back on August 19th, while expressing my concern that the insurance company to whom I have contracted to be an independent agent did not have a presence at the Kentucky State Fair, I wrote: I have been analyzing my feelings in regard to working for this company and have decided that it is like living with an alcoholic family.

With the dynamics of how addictions impact not only the addict but literally hundreds of other people connected, directly or indirectly, to the addict in mind, I was still astonished when I read the following story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that:

DUI defendant drunk in court

JIM THORPE, Pa. - A man who came to court drunk to be sentenced for drunken driving told the judge he routinely drinks 12 beers a day - "and then some."

Carbon County President Judge Roger N. Nanovic on Tuesday sentenced Joshua J. Beury, 25, to 30 days to six months in prison for contempt of court and the underlying second-offense DUI charge.

The sentences matched the one Beury received a day earlier for charges related to a Nov. 6 crash in Nesquehoning, when his blood-alcohol level registered 0.17, about twice the legal limit. In court Tuesday it was 0.20.

I was first drawn to the story by its location: Jim Thorpe, PA. I have visited that little town, renamed in the 1950s for Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, several times in the past few years.

Jim Thorpe is a picturesque village that straddles the Lehigh River. It has a colorful history, including 19th Century involvement with the Molly Maguires. According to my friends who live in Jim Thorpe, the community also has a severe problems: alcoholism and drug addiction. In other words, the village of Jim Thorpe is like a large alcoholic family, in which everyone is affected by the alcoholic games being played, whether or not they are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Here’s my point: Joshua J. Beury being drunk when he appeared in court on a drunken driving case sounds absurd and crazy to my logical mind. Yet a part of me attempts to rationalize his actions! I tell myself alcoholism is a disease and it isn’t his fault or some other such excuse. Likewise, I feel comfortable and at home in the town of Jim Thorpe; being with the people I know there, even though 75% of them are either alcoholics or addicted to some drug, legal or illegal, seems comfy and normal. Again I rationalize: They are good folks who simply have a problem.

Of course my logical, educated, adult self replies: Don’t make their problems your problems. Don’t get hooked into taking care of them or rescuing them. Don't rationalize that their words and actions are "normal." Don't get caught up in their 'stinkin' thinkin''. Get away before you do!

You see—and I hope you shema (a Hebrew word that can be translated as hear or listen but that is often used to express the concept of hearing with understanding or even listen and obey, as in the great Shema Prayer in Deuteronomy 6)—that I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA) and my mixed up and confused feelings and thoughts can block my logical, educated, adult self.

So I feel comfortable and at home around addicts and even try to make logical sense out of their stinkin’ thinkin’. Since the same dynamics are present with the insurance company for whom I am an agent, I feel as comfortable there as I do visiting Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

I need to shema my logical, educated, adult self! Visiting may be OK, but I certainly don’t need to live there.


  1. Well put, Nick. I, too, am an ACOA. I'm willing to visit my family but I never again want to live with them. I hear what you are saying about your insurance company.

  2. It's possible to have sympathy and compassion for people with horrible problems, but that doesn't release them from their responsibility to find a solution.

    I'm sorry that Joshua Beury is a drunk and a dumbass- but it is up to him to do something about it. Frankly, I think he got off easy.

  3. Thank you for the article and the links. They were most informative

  4. I really understand what you mean about visiting but not 'living there'! Oh, how I understand! I grew up in an alcoholic home. I later drank away several IQ points of my own, so I totally 'get' feeling tempted to feel sorry and rationalize. I don't knuckle under to the temptation either. We all have to do the best we can to step up and take responsibility for our own behavior. I'm so glad I was able to move past that mess!

  5. I was so fortunate that no drugs, including alcohol, were abused in my family. The more stories I hear the more I realize how fortunate my childhood was.

    Still, alcoholic or not, people make a choice when they get behind the wheel of a car. Too many people have been maimed and killed by drunk drivers. That list includes my favorite high school teacher, her husband, and children.

    So, while I can feel sorry for people who abuse substances, I can't forgive their making the stupid mistake of drinking and driving.

  6. Nick, I just reread the comment I posted above and it gave me a chuckle. How blind we can all be from time to time, eh? I have alot of sobriety under my belt and I have moved past the mess of my own addiction, but you've already read about how I "moved past the mess" of my family. I guess our 'inner neighborhoods' need constant care, just like physical neighborhoods. I understand how you're feeling, Nick and you have my sincere respect for your honesty.

  7. DAISYDUKE: Years ago I saw a standup comedian in Tennessee. He was talking about having just returned from a family reunion that lasted the weekend. Then he said: “You know the reason family reunions usually never last more than 48 hours? After the first twenty-four hours you remember why you left home.”

    THOMAS: I agree. People are always responsible for the own acts—their own karma. Unfortunately, we who are ACOAs have this terrible drive to fix things—to fix our drunken parent so things can be “normal.” Logic rejects the reality of that drive; however, it somehow remains with us even when we are aware of it… until, of course, our adult selves click in and we scream, “Oh, shit! I did it again.”

    RED: Thank you. And thanks for visiting Nick’s Bytes. I found the link on the symptoms of being an ACOA extremely helpful.

    LYNN: I’m glad, too, that you were able to move past the mess. It can be quite a mess. For example, I sometimes think I can make sense out of stinkin’ thinkin’. Of course, I can’t but the little kid in me thinks that I can. I need to be on guard against doing that, but sometimes I slip up. Then I may find I have been supporting a drug addict so she can keep her habit. As I said to Thomas above, that’s when I scream, “Oh, shit! I did it again.”

    SQUIRL: Yes, you were most fortunate. A therapist I had as a teacher once told me that she believes that 95% of American families are dysfunctional. Of course, there are varying levels of dysfunction, with (I believe) alcoholic and drug addicted parents being some of the most unable to function emotionally.

    I also agree with you about drinking and driving. If one is going to drink and then travel, that person had best make alternative plans to driving before they begin drinking. After the first drink, their brain begins to shut down and it is too late to plan for a designated driver or to have a taxi pick them up.

    LYNN: I agree: our ‘inner neighborhoods’ do need constant care. I remember a story about a man who had been in therapy for three years and had begun to break free of the stinkin’ thinkin’ of his family of origin. The Christmas holidays came and he decided to visit his parents for the first time in five years. When he returned to his therapy group, it seemed like he had digressed so far it was as if he had not progressed any at all.

    “What happened to you” one of the group members asked him.

    “I went home and they were singing all of the old songs.”


    “I began singing them, too.”


    “Well, I knew them all by heart.”

    I believe the old songs and scripting of our childhood remain imbedded in us and can easily break forth before we are aware what’s happening. When we become aware, all can do is scream, “Oh, shit! I did it again.” and get ourselves back on track.

  8. Nick, I usually find your comments as interesting as your blogs. Tonight is no exception. Thanks for being who you are.

  9. Hi Nick ~~ Good story about Jim Thorpe, the town and the athlete.
    I am so pleased to hear that your medical tests were good. Thanks for
    your comment, glad you enjoy.
    Take care, Cheers, Merle.

  10. Nick, I have never been to Jim Thorpe, but I did spend some time in Cannelton, which was definitely an alcoholic and abusive town. I never understood how you could stomach pastoring there for eleven years. You did many good things for those folks; I wonder if any survived you leaving?

    For those of us who grew up with alcoholic (you) and drug addicted (me) parents, it is so easy to join in singing the old songs again, as you wrote to Lynn (above). We do carry them in our hearts. Or in the video tapes that are our memories.