For the last year, I’ve been working with a young person whose blood alcohol level has been above .5 on multiple occasions. If you look at the chart on Wikipedia about blood alcohol content (“BAC”), you’ll see that human beings with a BAC between .4 and .5 may experience, “severe central nervous system depression, coma, or death.” Above a BAC of .5, Wikipedia provides a single entry of, ” the possibility of death.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content)
I’ve called the paramedics on numerous occasions when I’ve found her unconscious in her upscale apartment, with a half-dozen empty 1.75 l bottles Absolut vodka; some in plain sight, others hidden in the oven, the closet, or floating in the tank of the toilet.
My client, who I’ll call Jane, is physically beautiful, educated, entrepreneurial, goes to high society parties, and socializes with wealthy and powerful men.
As I enter Jane’s apartment, the stench is repulsive. I find her unconscious, on the couch completely naked, her Jonathan Adler bed with Egyptian cotton bed sheets soaked in urine, with half-eaten takeout orders from Sugarfish, Ant, and other marvelous restaurants around downtown Los Angeles.
Jane comes from an affluent and educated family. Both of Jane’s parents graduated from Ivy League schools with advanced degrees. On the outside, Jane’s family looks impressive. Both parents work for Fortune 100 companies, drive late model European cars, travel extensively, and speak a minimum of two languages.
Over the last year, Jane told me many stories of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse as a child. According to Jane, as a 12-year-old her father punished her by locking her in her bedroom and despite her pleas to use the bathroom her dad would not open the door. Jane would end up having to pee in her room. Then her father would rebuke Jane for urinating in her bedroom. At 13, Jane said she became anorexic. At 15, Jane lost her virginity to one of her father’s drinking buddies. Jane’s father found out and started calling her a whore and other derogatory names in front of her friends. Jane began to drink. It seemed like the only time she found relief from the anguish of her existence.
Jane is intellectually gifted. She escaped her home by getting accepted to an Ivy League school. College gave her an opportunity to reinvent herself. Her first year she didn’t drink and ended the year with excellent grades. During the summer of her Freshman year, her parents got a divorce.
In her second year, Jane started hanging out with the “cool kids.” She was introduced to cocaine and loved it. She found that doing coke took away her fears. She felt competent, capable, and attractive. Jane learned that when she was on “enough” cocaine her terror, fear, and helplessness went away. Giving or selling cocaine gave her power over men.
Jane had a vindictive side. One classmate, who was addicted to coke, used to call or text Jane at all hours of the day and night to get cocaine. Jane told him to stop it, but he didn’t. Jane decided to teach him a lesson; she mixed china white heroin into the cocaine. The kid was thinking it was coke, did a couple of lines of the mixture of heroin and cocaine and stopped breathing. Jane, fearing that she would get in trouble, called 911 then left the kid unconscious. Luckily for the student, the paramedics got to him in time to revive him with Narcan.
As the years passed, Jane stopped doing cocaine and only drank alcohol. She thought cocaine was the problem. Jane rationalized that alcohol was legal and socially acceptable. She was entering adulthood by giving up coke.
Somehow, Jane graduated her Ivy League school and got accepted to med school. Jane wanted to be a doctor. She made it through her first two years of Medical School and then her drinking progressed to the point that the administration expelled her. Her mom and friends suggested she go to rehab and then continue her path to becoming a plastic surgeon.
Jane’s journey into alcoholism may be familiar or curious to the reader. Currently, Jane is one of 23 million Americans addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most family or friends of addicts and alcoholics ask them why they continue to drink or use when it is a problem.
I’ve heard addicted people say:
That their substance of choice was their medicine, which made them feel better. They enjoy it and would never want to give it up. And that it is not a problem they wish everyone would stop bothering them about their drinking or substance use.