1. Introduction: Alcohol, Alcoholism, Acceptance, and Me
I sometimes think that everything I know we learned from booze.
It started when I entered Alcoholics Anonymous (AA.) in 1969, in the basement of a Lutheran church that sat across the street from the Library of Congress’s Shakespeare Library and just a block or so away from the U.S. Supreme Court. The meeting held approximately 10 to 15 persons who met twice a week. I had just a week earlier enrolled in graduate school in Baltimore, and rode the Philly train to school four or five days a week, returning in the evening.
My wife Carole and I lived in the Methodist Building located right next door to the U.S. Supreme Court, a building, as I learned some years later was constructed to house members of Congress who voted for Prohibition and who were pledged to keep it.
This discovery was somewhat startling since my dissertation research on the political consequences of the disease concept of alcoholism, and it was not so long that I found out I had much to learn about alcoholism, alcohol problems and even Prohibition. As it has turned out, alcohol, alcoholism, and alcohol problems play a huge part of the American story, and in my life as well.
I grew up in Texas without much experience with drinking. I didn’t drink in high school, and just barely at the University of Texas my first year, just one night in our residence hall (an ex-Army barracks) where I lived for a few months. Drinking was not permitted until 21 in Texas, and I didn’t make much effort to see what booze was all about. My family didn’t drink and I didn’t even wonder why. Even in the Army, I didn’t drink very much until Korea, and things changed fast. In Korea, at Camp Red Cloud, the nightly entertainment was going to the Enlisted Club and drinking. A bottle of Heineken’s was .25 cents. American beer was .15. A fifth of Tanqueray’s Gin cost $1. Everyone drank Heineken's.