People read The Onion to laugh; it is not the first place you’d expect to find serious insight into addiction. Nonetheless, a recent article at the satirical newspaper contains a huge grain of truth.

The headline: “Man Going To Take Edge Off With Decades-Long Slide Into Alcoholism.”

The piece includes “quotes” from a fictional drinker named Patrick Wandel:

“I busted my ass today, and now I just want to take a load off and kick back with a slow, crippling 30-year descent into alcohol addiction,” Wandel said as he sank comfortably into his sofa and the beginnings of a struggle that will one day culminate in a diagnosis of early-onset liver disease.

Of course, very few people purposefully set out to develop a drinking problem. Instead, an alcoholic will sit down with their first drink of the night utterly convinced of their intention to “take a load off.” The next drink, too, could be chalked up to relaxation—even the third and the fourth. Hours later, hopelessly drunk, such people are often earnestly confused about how it all happened.

Drink after drink, night after night, drunkenness and self-destruction accumulate under the guise of stress relief, “social lubrication,” and any number of other innocuous-seeming excuses for the first drink. For the alcoholic, rationalization like this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Similarly, they observe friends and family who are satisfied after one or two beers, inspiring another attempt to imitate them. Here, too, the alcoholic’s perception is working against him.

In this way, the disease of addiction takes over peoples lives, one small action at a time. Happily, once an alcoholic accepts her condition and reaches out for help, recovery is within her grasp—and much like her drinking, her healing process will proceed one small action at a time. Safely ensconced in a community of recovering alcoholics, the problem drinker begins to perceive that, for them, “taking a load off” is a deadly lie. By not taking that first drink, sobriety becomes a reality.

The Onion has addressed addiction before. Another headline: “Man’s Alcoholism Getting A Little Out Of Hand.” The article describes a person who “has started drinking himself to death at home instead of coming out to drink himself to death with friends.” With dark humor, this captures another lie alcoholics tell themselves: I’m just a social drinker.

Once the recovery process begins, these lies lose their power. And instead of continuing to kill himself with delusional reasoning, the sober alcoholic can instead laugh at his old ridiculous excuses, and enjoy his new joyful life.

By: Alex Howe

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