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What A Price We Pay....
What Every Person Should Know About Alcohol
by Jim Beal


April 21, 2004

As everyone knows, alcohol has been around since time beginning. Over the many years we have learned many thing about alcohol, yet few of us really don't know enough. How could this be? Well, when I was in the fourth grade a team came to school and put on a program in our auditorium for the whole school. They showed us the ill effects of smoking. They injected a mouse with a little nicotine and turned him loose on the stage. The mouse only made it about ten feet and died on the spot. Yes, nicotine is a powerful poison. A guy lit up a cigarette and took one big puff. Then blew it out through a clean white handkerchief? What do you think a whole pack could do to it? They followed this by showing us how the lungs work and where the smoke goes when you inhale. Yes, this was very impressive. Fifty years later, I watched a man with a crippled hand run for the President of the United States stand up and say in his campaign speech, they have no real proof that cigarettes harm your health. Fifty years later they were still presenting the truth to the public. Don't think for one moment they are going to stand up and say the truth about alcohol. No sir-ee.

What are some of the things out there that we should know? Well, let's start off with the fact that alcohol is the single largest cause of mental retardation in the United States. How does this happen? Alcohol does this in several, many, a lot of ways.

1. The body's nervous system is covered with a protective sheath of fat and so are the brain cells. Thus the jokes, we all are really fat heads. Unfortunately, fat acts like a sponge to alcohol. Once the alcohol enters the body, fat cells soak it up. Now why do you suppose they swab your arm with alcohol before medical personnel give you a shot? Why do you suppose they store tissue and specimens in alcohol? That's right, because it kills living things, sterilizes. Does the idea of having alcohol that is soaked up in your protective lining of your brain cells and nervous system cells sound good to you?

2. Fetal alcohol syndrome really can do the job. We know that if a mother goes on a binge once during her nine months of pregnancy there is something like a forty percent chance of serious damage to her fetus and if she goes on a binge twice there is over and eighty percent chance. Often the worse damage is done in the first trimester, which is the time so many mothers-to-be, have no idea they are even pregnant. Without having a clue they go out and have a good-time permanently damaging their child to be. Yes, permanently, forever, non-fixable! It's kind of like losing a leg. You can't fix it, only deal with the problem. These kids are much easier to spot than those that are only slightly affected. I worked with kids for thirty years in my classrooms and I always maintained that there were those who were also affected by alcohol. But they were not necessarily brain damaged. I always said you could drop a pin and those kids would immediately look up and be distracted. As you may well know, alcohol makes a great cleaner for removing grease. What do you think it does to the mylan sheath, the fatty protective covering of our nerve cells? No wonder these kids are so easily bothered by sounds, movement, color, light and emotions. Today they call many of these kids Attention Deficit Kids. (A.D.D.). They have hard time learning because so many things distract them and they often only get bits and pieces of what they are learning. What a handicap they will carry around with them for the rest of their life because the mother chose to drink alcohol.

3. Trauma. They discovered that very little kids that experience trauma may have a very important chemical that is needed for our brain to work properly, to not be produced. The real trouble is that this chemical is only produced when we are small and if we miss this, we spend the rest of our lives suffering the consequences. Trauma, a mom and dad getting drunk and: getting into a terrible fight, getting into an automobile accident, watching one threaten or actually shoot or stab the other, being passed out naked on the floor, having sex parties and the list goes on. I have never forgotten when dad never came home till after dark and some guys pulled up in the alley behind the house. They packed my dad's limp body through the back yard and into the house. I thought he was dead! I also never forgot when the folks came home from a party; Dad ran in the house and jokingly locked the door on my mom, who was still coming in. She got mad and put her hand right through the window glass and blood was going everywhere. These kinds of things have been proven to have stopped the chemical growth of little kids less than three and causing permanent brain damage.

4. Malnutrition. Serious drinkers have often put drinking first and if there is money left over they and their family eat. I was really surprised when I learned that not eating right actually caused more damage than the alcohol. When I was in grade school, they found out that in the poor south where people often did not eat right; the children were often below normal in brain growth. If kids don't eat right, their brains just don't grow right. Once again, when the damage is done, you can't fix the problem.

5. Accidents. It takes a clear headed, full time, thinking parent to stay ahead of kids to prevent their kids from having accidents. All too often kids are damaged in drinking adult accidents also.

6. Emotional damage. There has been more than one drunk in my life that has tried my patients to no end. Can you imagine what it's like for a child to live in an alcoholic home? All too often there is physical abuse, emotional abuse that can leave scars that will last a life time. These scars too can cause mental retardation.

People have drunk since time beginning and they are still saying, I can drink responsibly. Yet we learn that fifty-five percent of all auto fatalities are alcohol related. When we are told that more people have died in auto accidents than have died in all the wars we have ever had in the United States since its beginning. Wow, that is a lot of dead bodies! That is not even counting the crippled and injured. We learn that one third of home fires are alcohol related. Oh, I remember when Uncle Joe got drunk and passed out sleeping in his bed. His cigarette burned his room and almost the whole apartment building burned down. For weeks they grafted skin off his legs onto some of the burned part of his body. After weeks, he died. What a horrible needless death because of alcohol. One third of all industrial accidents are due to alcohol. You don't have to be just drunk to have this happen. Fuzzy headed the next day after drinking can do the job just fine for you at the right time and the wrong place. Having a clear mind and being able to react quickly protect us from accidents. Ninety percent of all suicides are alcohol related. I have a hard time for some reason making it clear to people that alcohol is a depressant. I have sat through a thousand crying jags when my mother was drunk. I understand it! Others may not be so obvious, like the person who wants to fight the world at the drop of the hat or the one who becomes sullen and sulks and wades in their life's miseries.

If all these people are drinking responsibly, how do all these millions and millions of accidents and needless deaths happen?

For a lot of years now we have known that if we take one hundred drinkers at random from across the United States and watch those, ten percent of them will become alcoholic. Of course we also know that many of the above accidents are caused by people you just drink once in a while and are certainly not alcoholic. What we find is that it only takes one, to be under the influence at the wrong time at the right place and it happens. What we need to come to grips with, is though as terrible all the accidents are, they are not the greatest tragedies of alcohol. No sir, the greatest tragedy is what it does to families. I have asked this question in many different communities. How many police calls are related to alcohol? Almost always, the answer comes back, ninety percent. A man stabbing his wife, a kid getting seriously beaten, a child being beaten on the hood of a car outside, a cut hand, teeth being knocked out in a fight, an auto death, a gun being fired, a house fire, a falling accident, and the list goes on forever, all because of alcohol. Divorces, loss of jobs, needless fights, torn and abused and ruined families are the greatest damage of alcohol. How can people be so blind that they cannot see this? They don't have to be the ten percent that become alcoholic, for it only takes one to have an auto accident, to get in a fight, to have an on the job accident, of to abuse a loved one.

Once a fellow told me he had taken his new girlfriend home after they were out drinking. Just before he had reached her place the car had swapped ends and he realized he was now going the wrong way. It only takes once, right? That could have been his time. He was lucky. A few months later, after drinking he was on his way to Olympia, Washington driving down the freeway. His car jumped the middle divider and he hit a car head on. He killed two people in the oncoming car and his girlfriend next to him. He somehow survived the crash, though he was crippled the rest of his life. You don't have to be alcoholic for this to happen, just let alcohol take control once and you can turn the world upside down for yourself and others.

As I said in the beginning, alcohol in the blood affects the brain and the nervous system. Higher level thinking is impaired. Have you ever tried to argue with a drunk? Without higher lever level thinking you get people who don't think straight and they certainly don't hear straight. You get the male who says he can beat up five guys at the bar and gives it a try. You get the male who says he can jump the ditch and falls and breaks his arm. You get the person who says they can drive just fine and then end up in a crash. Besides stupid decisions, there are problems. The muscles react slower and thus a person can't move quickly enough to avoid danger. They also can't judge important things, like time and distance. They can't judge how far the next car is in front of them or how long it will take to stop and thus end up in a crash. Not being able to think clearly also causes serious problems. Females go to parties and let themselves get into dangerous situations. Time and again some female gets raped because she was drunk and not thinking clearly. Time and again some male, not thinking clearly, rapes or abuses some female because he was drunk. At least two of my students much later in their life have told me that while their dad was drunk, he had tried to sexually molest them. Higher level thinking is very important to our lives in helping us make wise decisions, figure out problems, and help us to choose to do the right things and not misbehave. It just takes once for us to make a stupid decision, because of being impaired with alcohol, to ruin our lives or someone else's.

Alcohol affects other parts of our body too. It affects our heart, big time. If you have heart problems the doctor is going to tell you fight off, QUIT DRINKING! One of the things alcohol does is get your entire little gate keepers drunk. They are little circular muscles that control the flow of the blood to the outer body. They open to give off the body's heat when you get too hot and close when the core temperature is too cold. Affected by alcohol, you can see the person's face become flushed; the red nose and often they start to sweat. Never give a person who is suffering from extreme cold a drink of alcohol. If their body radiates too much cold, they can die. The alcohol makes you feel warm since it allows the warm blood to come to the surface of the body, at the expense of your core temperature with is essential or you can die. One of the body parts that pays a high price to alcohol is the liver. Most of the alcohol you drink ends up in the liver. The body identifies it as a poison and sends it to the liver to be burned off. After years of drinking the liver can be destroyed. Liver cancer is a common cause of death of long time drinkers. Everything inside of you gets a dose of alcohol when you drink and these things get drunk just as you do. Your immune system is affected this way. Thus drinkers are much more subject to colds and everything else that attacks their bodies. It was published one year, statistics figured that fifty-five percent of all people who were in hospitals that year, were directly or indirectly there because of alcohol.

We have a terrible problem in our community. A large number of young people have committed suicide. The community got a crisis team to come here and see what they could do to help. I remember clearly when one speaker got up and talked to the kids. He said, Do you know why alcohol is so addictive to some people and maybe not to others? Well, we had a brilliant scientist out in the mid-west, who decided that she was really going to find out why alcohol is so addictive to some people. She asked the local sheriff if he could provide her with some dead bodies of people that had been alcoholics. She said she would slice them and dice them and find out what really had made them an alcoholic. For two years she searched body after body from head to toe with the microscope and any other tool she could find to figure out exactly why some people became alcoholic. One day she caught the sheriff on the street and she bluntly asked him, "Why are you only giving me bodies of alcoholics that were heroin addicts?" The sheriff s mouth dropped and then he said, "Hey, lady, you are crazy. Those people could hardly afford a bottle of musquetell and certainly not the price of heroin." The scientist was puzzled by this. She knew what she had found, but the sheriff had just told her, no way. She got an idea. She went to a good chemist friend of hers. She asked him, "Is there any way alcohol can be changed into heroin chemically?" It did not take him long to show her how close the two substances are related and how little change had to be made to turn alcohol into heroin. Ta Da, she had found out the real reason why some people become addicted to alcohol and find it so hard to quit. The true alcoholic's body synthesizes alcohol into a synthetic form of heroin that sits on their brain until the day they die. Their body does not get rid of it.

Strangely, this answered one of the ling time mysteries that Alcoholics Anonymous had discovered many years before. The twelve steps they developed help them measure the degree of severity of the problem in the people they work with. First, you start out just drinking occasionally and then maybe you get worse and reach a point where you start drinking alone and maybe you get worse and you have black-outs where you don't remember what you did. Of course, when you reach the last step, you're dead. Now, the mystery came that when they had someone who was, say, down at step seven had quit drinking. They may have not touched a drink for years and then something happened in their life and they started again. Now the observers had hoped that over the many years of not drinking the person had gone back up the scale to say step three or even back to one. But, NO! In fact, they were not even on step seven where they had left off years before when they had quit. They were now worse, as thought they had never quit drinking. Well, now, you and I know why. The mystery is solved. The synthetic heroin was sitting on their brain doing its damage. We could not see the damage until the person started drinking again and then we had a tool to measure the damage, the twelve steps of alcoholism.

Even if you find out that you are alcoholic and quit, you still will have damage continuing till the day you die.

The Jews use to brag that they teach their kids to drink responsibly. Indeed, only one out of one hundred Jews became an alcoholic. Remember one out of ten of a random selection of people become alcoholics. Then they started looking at why the North American Indians and Eskimos had such a problem with alcohol. Eighty out of one hundred that drank became alcoholic. Was it that they had no self control that their parents just didn t teach them self discipline? They discovered that the Jewish people inherited a body that was less affected by alcohol and their body can get rid of it faster? On the other hand, the North American Native People inherited a body that really reacted to alcohol. One drink was like several to them and once it was in their body, they had a much harder time getting rid of it. So many more of them synthesized the alcohol into heroin and they became addicted. We call these addicted people today, alcoholics.

What should we learn from all of this? We really can't see inside ourselves what the alcohol is really doing to us, but we know that it can do some really terrible things. We know that if we become an alcoholic, it is tough to quit and the damage does not end there. We know, that some people are much more subject to become an alcoholic than others just because of their ancestry. Researchers have also learned that if just one parent has a drinking problem, forty percent of their children are likely to have a problem with drinking. But if both parents have the problem, more that eighty percent of their children are likely to be alcoholic.

Conclusion: Most people who drink will have problems with alcohol. Some will become an alcoholic and it may well ruin their lives. Others may only have a few problems with alcohol. I can't help but remind you, it only takes once and some people have ruined their lives or someone else's. For those who can drink and do not have a problem with it, Alcoholic Anonymous says that is just fine. Well, I question that. I submit to you that they give a license to those who have a problem with drinking and leave room for them to say, I can drink and handle it too. For most there are times when they cannot handle alcohol, the alcohol is in control and handles them.

Another way to say this is this: My close, long time friend was once one of the most successful bartenders in Ketchikan. One day he just up and quit. Over the years he had seen so many of his friends die from the very alcohol he was serving them. He said he did not want to be a part of their dying anymore. He quit. It takes a special person to give that much up for the benefit of others. Would you be willing to give up drinking for the benefit of the thousands and millions of others that have a problem with it?


To my dad who died of hypertension and the use of alcohol.

To a young sixth grade girl whose parents had a terrible drinking problem. When they chased one another about the house with a butcher's knife, she'd run next door for help and the principal would call the police and the police would come to the rescue. Just like the statistics tell us, she married a drunk and she drank. I saw her walk by the school one day with a black eye and swollen face where he had beaten her. A short time later he ran his car off the road on top of the hill killing this girl.

To the five men who decided to come home from Ketchikan after drinking. The weather was rough and they all perished at China Town where their boat went down.

To the person who was drinking and someone put drugs in his drink and died from this.

To the person who fell overboard when they were coming home from picking kelp. He fell off the packer as it came from Cape Chacon to Metlakatla.

To the man who left around midnight and ran a ground across the bay. While walking the beach he fell and hit his head, killing himself.

To the two girls that went out to drink with their friends while their parents were in a bar in Ketchikan. Their car went off the road at the top of the hill and they both died.

To the boy that stood up to take a wiz at Race Point and he and his friend fell overboard. Only one made it to shore.

To the young man who was drinking with his friends and somehow the gun went off and he died.

To an airplane full of people, who after hearing in the bar that one of our boats was aground on the backside of the Island went out in a plane to see. Only one lady survived the crash.

To the boat operator, who called me on the radio asking for help. I could not tell who he was or find out where he was at. Later I found out that he was on a rock just south of the Coast Guard Base. He and his boat had run a ground more than once.

To the boat full of people who called me for help on a dark snowy night in an open herring skiff. I almost lost my boat that night in the search. Fortunately we found them.

To the three or four people who were overturned in their boat after they hit the buoy right out in front of town. When I saw the boat overturned, I was sure someone had died. Though they had been in water for quite awhile, they survived. I can still see the skipper stomping up the dock on his way home, all soaking wet and refusing a ride from a very concerned lady.

To the carver who not once, but twice, overturned out front in the bay here and has live to tell about it.

To the young man, who fell off the ladder climbing down to his boat and hit his head.

To the man who made three drunken circles in his boat from Ronnie's dock to the Sand Bar before he crashed into the rocks there knocking himself unconscious. Fortunately, he survived.

To the boat, that hit the rocks at Dahl Head and rolled over. The two on board by a strike of luck were found even thought they had only been able to give a very short call for help on the radio.

To the young man that came roaring down the road by Yellow Hill doing close to eighty miles per hour. In horror, I watched as he ran off the road into the bushes. Had he run off into the lake he would have perished for sure.

To my uncle, who jumped off the eleventh street bridge and to all those here who have committed suicide, including my own stepson.


Jim Beal
Metlakatla, AK - USA



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