When I first met Jonathan, I had just presented information about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse to the group of eight to eleven year-olds. Now that the presentation was over, everyone in the room was visiting, and enjoying the refreshments.
A middle-aged instructor, with years of experience working with elementary-school-aged children, approached me with her concerns about Jonathan. "I have a child in my class that I am worried about. Over the last months, he has increasingly become withdrawn, misses school often, has a ‘messy’ appearance, and he sometimes smells of alcohol. Often in class he seems distant and not paying attention." I asked to meet him, not at all surprised that an eight year old could become dependent on alcohol.
My name is Robb. I am a recovered alcoholic and addict. Before achieving sobriety, I was a hopeless, chronic alcoholic, and had lost millions of dollars, my business, my home, wife, and family. Once recovered, it became my life mission to assist other hopeless, chronic alcoholics and addicts and educate all I could on the dangers and warning signs of alcohol and addiction.
On my road to recovery, meeting those who began drinking at the age of eight or nine years old was common. These individuals began by drinking the bits of alcohol left by adults at home, liking it and the effects. Later they began seeking out these leftover drinks, and then progressed to taking drinks directly from the parents' store of liquor. Later, usually by the age of eleven or twelve, when peer pressure began to increase, they would dare to steal from stores or others' houses to get their alcohol. When teenaged, they would obtain false identifications, and continue through high school, college, and adulthood, so used to drinking now that it was part of their routine allowing them to cope with daily living.
Jonathan was no different from this pattern except that an observant adult had noticed and intervened. The teacher shared with me that the single parent mother often smelled of alcohol, and was often late bringing or picking Jonathan up from school. Parent/teacher meetings were continuously rescheduled or simply unattended, and Jonathan seemed to have more and more difficulties with schoolwork and relating to his classmates.
While everyone was mingling, I worked my way around to Jonathan. His school uniform shirt and sweater was dirty and creased. He was wearing mismatched socks and no school tie. Jonathan looked to be an ordinary schoolboy, slight of build and freckle-faced. His brown hair stood up on his head, with a few uneven comb strokes through it.
I admired his sweater, and asked who helped him get ready for school that morning. He proudly announced he dressed all by himself, since mommy was not feeling well again. He had a good appetite for the cookies and juice, so I asked how he could eat all that on top of his breakfast. He of course answered he had had nothing to eat that morning, explaining that he couldn't reach the milk or cereal. He went on to tell me that he had drank mommy's drink for breakfast, because it made his tummy warm and felt good afterwards. The smell of alcohol was heavy on him, not from his clothes but on his breath, and seeping through his skin. I asked if he often drank mommy's drinks after she went to sleep, if they tasted good. He replied that since he had been little he tried to find mommy's drinks, because he liked the warm feeling, and it made him feel nice.
Seeking out and craving alcohol first thing after waking is one of the major indicators of alcohol dependency. Other indicators include desiring the effects of the alcohol, prioritizing alcohol drinking over other activities, and requiring alcohol to feel "normal" and like yourself. Jonathan definitely met all these criteria, even though he was a child and didn't know it. In fact, most adults don't realize they are affected, as well.
Social services were contacted regarding Jonathan and his single mother. Being an ex-policeman as well as an interventionist and alcohol educator, I briefed the officials who came and fetched him. My input was noted, and I was assured that he would be treated and assisted, and his mother would be contacted and hopefully helped as well.
Jonathan has always remained in my mind, as I present alcohol and addiction education to audiences, from school-aged to college students to working adults. He was perhaps the most immediately impacted of those I have presented to, but by no means is he the only one that I have encountered. Statistics indicate that alcohol abuse, as well as drug abuse, is still a major problem in society. Possibly millions of injuries result from alcohol abuse, since the alcohol factor often goes undetected or unreported. Alcoholism is one of the most secret of diseases, usually undiagnosed and untreated by physicians, who may be focused on other, resultant issues and diseases.
The saddest thing about alcoholism is that it not only affects the alcoholics, but those who care about them – breaking up families, causing loss of income and interrupting home life, school work, and relationships.
If I can provide more information or details about alcoholism or addiction, please visit www.robbkelly.com.