A Toast to My Alcoholic Father

“You would never know if I relapsed,” he said to me. “I was very good at being an addict.”

No, honey, you weren’t. None of us are. We think we are cleverly hiding it. We think we have it under control. We think we are getting benefit from it. We think we are the exception to the rule. We think we will be able to prevent it from consuming us.

A Facebook Status Post

I have taken out the garbage in my home (eldest son always gets that job, ditto with husbands)  for my entire life. Consequently I know what people throw away in the house. I know who recycles and who doesn’t. I know who is doing what based on what garbage appears in their waste cans. It is extraordinarily hard to disguise behaviors that create garbage, behaviors that leave behind evidence which must be destroyed if you want that behavior to be secret.

My dad went through an astronomical amount of Canadian Club, Black Velvet, etc. At least a fifth every, single, day, without fail. I must have hauled several tons of discarded glassware to the ashcan over the course of the years I lived at home with my parents. We kids knew the drill. Ice (this much) bourbon (that much) water (a much smaller amount) He always drank, all the time. It wasn’t until the drunk driving laws started appearing that he knew he was heading for trouble, because he couldn’t be without his glass of bourbon and a cigarette (Pall Mall‘s) at any point in any day. Couldn’t do without it (them) until the cancer started.

When the cancer started it became imperative that he stop smoking and drinking, and he still couldn’t do it. He just didn’t know how to stop. He switched to low-tar cigarettes first. No more filterless Pall Mall’s, it was Carlton‘s or whatever else he was trying that week. He insisted the low-tars were filled with cabbage leaves, but he had to have a smoke. The bourbon took longer for him to give up. He switched to cheap beer when it finally became clear he was going to have to stop his addictions, not understanding that he was going to have to actually stop the behaviors entirely. He smoked and drank until they stopped allowing him to eat because of throat cancer. In the end the addictions killed him by causing the cancer, and that is what I remind myself of mentally every time someone offers me a cigar or I pour myself a drink.

I stopped smoking cigarettes ages ago because I could feel the drag they were putting on my lung capacity, and that process took years. One of my sisters now runs a cigar shop and I have to decline offers of cigars every time she comes to town or we meet with relatives who have seen her recently. I can feel the itch of a lifetime nicotine addiction in the corner of my mind just thinking about picking up a coffin nail. The air in the Steele household was blue with tobacco smoke for my entire childhood. Nicotine was in the air I breathed every day until I left home and had to infuse the drug by smoking it myself. Kicking that habit was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it took years of mentally associating the desire to smoke with the smell of a the bars I worked in as a young adult, reminding myself of the stale smell of smoke, sweat, alcohol and vomit that permeates the air of a bar before all the people show up and renew the smells with life.

My dad loved to tell a story about me when I would drink with him. One thing my dad was really good at was spinning yarns, and he could talk all day and night if you let him. He was a certified master of bullshit and I could sit and listen to him talk for as long as anyone would let him talk. I was fascinated by his ability to just make stuff up on the fly. The bare bones of the story went like this; The first time my parents took me along for a fine dining experience, one that included courses of meals and an after-dinner drink, I cried for the glass of cognac they sat in front of my father. My father, being the indulgent person that he really was, wanted to see what I would think of the cognac. Would I hate it? Would I reject it because of the alcohol taste? He didn’t know. So he handed me the snifter and as he told it “You drank it right down. Sat there for a few seconds. Then you cried for more!” It always got a laugh and I laughed right along with him.

I am reminded of that story every time I crack open a new bottle of brandy or cognac, which is about the only thing I will drink these days; and I will drink a quiet toast to my father on those days. It is because of him that I am not an alcoholic, and that is probably the best lesson I learned from him. I have often wondered what he would have made of the efforts to end addiction these days? Would any of them have helped him? Would he have wanted help?

Radiolab – The Fix – December 18, 2015

Violence on Screen or that Crying Baby Behind You?

At the Movies 8 Theater, children under 6 years old aren’t let into R-rated movies after 6 p.m.


The talking heads on the morning show brought this story up today. I didn’t hear it because I’ve gotten in the habit of not listening to the local AM talk station in the morning (well, until after 2, actually) The talking heads (local and syndicated) have become increasingly disconnected from reality.

I’m reasonably certain (knowing the on air personalities involved) that the facts of the story got left in the dust fairly early on, and the on-air conversation probably revolved around teens and the R rated movies that they “Shouldn’t be allowed to watch.”

The fact remains that the theater in question excluded a young couple from bringing a baby into the movie and does routinely exclude all children under the age of 6 from R rated films at night. I’m certain that the majority of the clientele thanks them for this, too. They thank them, but not because of their concern for the children as these poor misguided souls are:

Yay!! Wish they would do that all over, especially here! IMO no children should be permitted admittance to any rated R movie period! I am sick and tired of going to an R rated movie and dealing with kids of all ages. Forget the yip yap, giggling and the up and down, it is just disgusting and pathetic that their are “parents” that would expose their children to certain movies. And people wonder why kids are now so desensitized and screwed up.

All of which amounts to junk science and unsupported theory, and not much else. They’ve never proved positive linkage between viewing violence on screen and exhibiting violence as a person. My children both played first person shooter games while sitting on my knee in front of the computer. Neither of them shows any inclination towards taking a gun out and shooting people.

Parenting is the missing link. Most people, Sgt. Sam most prominently, don’t know anything about parenting. (Ask Sam’s wife if you don’t believe me. I doubt he ever changed a diaper. Typical mother/father relationship of his generation? Mother says “Wait till your father gets home!” as a last ditch effort to maintain control) It hasn’t got anything to do with control, and everything to do with setting limits, interpreting experience (what education really should mean) and guiding the child to the right behavior. If you have a teenager that doesn’t already know the basics (like, “it’s not OK to shoot people”) it’s already too late.

If I want to take my children to an R rated film, that would be my business. I’m sure that the other theaters in the area are glad of the business turned away from Movies 8.

OTOH, if I want to enjoy a film without distractions, it’s good to know a theater that enforces rules concerning them, whether the problem is talking teenagers or crying babies. Too many theaters won’t do anything about it. Alamo Drafthouse and the Galaxy are both pretty good about it.

You children must have gotten a lot of love. Unfortunately, many children do not get the emotional reinforcement they need.
As far as the “positive” linkage goes, the TRUTH is that science doesn’t yet understand consciousness, therefore, to say that there is no definitive linkage between violent media content and violent behavior is incorrect.
I do agree with a movie theater policy that bans young children after a certain time. I wish more people realized that media saturation is not a positive force on a child’s psychological development.

Which backs up the “junk science and unsupported theory” statement that I made previously. I put very little credit into current thought on addiction as well. People will say “I’m addicted to X” just to absolve themselves of responsibility for X behavior. Granted brainwave patterns change, I’ll point right back to your statement concerning consciousness. The linkage is based on theory and junk science.

There is more proof that evolution exists than there is for violence in media having the broad detrimental effects that it’s being blamed for. Or that addiction is the bane that it’s being portrayed as. It’s rejected there and supported here. I just love unsupported emotional arguments.

OTOH, theaters are free to conduct business however they wish, or they should be. The unattended children will just go somewhere else, do something else, if the theaters are closed to them. Is that really where ya’ll want this to go?

When I talk about addiction, I’m talking about the chemical “habits” that establish cognitive circuits. Ever wonder why people can be addicted to gambling, or sex, video games or consumer spending while no “drug” is being used? What we casually call “addiction” is actually a process by which our neurons form behavior circuits. In other words, addiction helps the brain form behavior habits. This is why so much in our society can be “addictive”. Our brains supply “reward” chemicals to correlate chemical experiences. Its these chemicals and how they define consciousness that science doesn’t understand. Science does know more about consciousness than you average conscious or semi-conscious American. Let’s face it, people are just chemical robots anyway…

What you are talking about isn’t addiction. The junk science types have lumped it in with addiction because it gets more play there.

Try working for a few years on creating a several pack a day cigarette habit and then try and quit and you’ll see what a real chemical addiction is like. For that matter, try eliminating caffeine from your diet for a few days (even more dramatic and doesn’t require forming new habits) when the lethargy kicks in and the headaches start remember what it was like to do without that console game for a few days. Pales in comparison, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s not really a chemical addiction.

And let’s correlate this properly. You’re argument proposes that people can become habituated to doing violence themselves because they watch it on TV. I’ve watched Looney Tunes all my life and I’ve never once been even tempted to drop an anvil on someone’s head. The argument is fallacious. It’s only because it’s for the children that the argument continues to get airplay.

I submit that for the children we should open theaters to teenagers who are wandering the streets bored looking for trouble. Play whatever movies that will keep their butts in seats and let them watch all night for free (I can hear theater owners heads exploding as I type this) At least they aren’t out experimenting with drugs or joining gangs or whatever else they could be out doing while we are protecting them from the violence on the screen.

None of this is what the original article was about anyway. The children that the theater is excluding are under 6. They are trying to cut down on crying baby issues not protect the children from becoming habituated to violence. Yeesh.

It’s so nice to be right every now and then.

Upon introducing FEPA in December, Clinton and her co-sponsors claimed “parents are struggling to keep up with being informed about content.” Yet all they have to do is look at the box or check titles at the website of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Newer game systems even allow automatic blocking of titles with parent-specified ratings.

Thierer argues the threat of fines or criminal charges for failing to keep M-rated games away from minors could lead game developers to stop rating their products, in which case Congress would respond by establishing a mandatory government-run labeling system. Such content regulation would go even further than state laws restricting video games, all of which have been overturned on First Amendment grounds, largely because courts rejected Clinton’s assertion of “a clear … connection” between video games and antisocial behavior.

The Video Game ‘Epidemic’?


As with sex and violence on television, which the mandatory but rarely used “V chip” was supposed to block, Clinton’s real complaint is not that parents don’t have the power they need. It’s that they’re not using it the way she thinks they should.

The Video Game ‘Epidemic’?

90 people out of a hundred can plainly declare that there is no link between media viewing and anti-social behavior. They’re all mising the point.

Is it really that hard to imagine that the brain of a media viewer is resonantly locked on the program content, and that repeated exposure to such content can lead to media-conditioned cognitive habits?

Maybe’s its just easier to think that the things that interact with our brains don’t actually influence our minds.

People with an axe to grind usually find a whetstone suited to the task. It is not the 90 percent who are missing the point; in fact, the relevant point has yet to be assembled from unrelated pieces of data creating the whetstone that you proceed to grind your axe on.

Is it really that hard to imagine someone reading a book or a webpage, and having the reader so resonantly locked on the content that they can actually see the words form pictures in their minds? That this exposure might lead to a variation in behavior in the future? To a “reading conditioned cognitive habit?”

The difference here is I’m not going to contest that reading is bad for you. I’ve heard the “screens are bad” argument so many times I think I can recite it by rote. That I still don’t believe it is prove positive that I’m not addicted to it. But I do believe that you are; nor are you the first one I’ve met.

Rev. 02/09/2022