PITTSFIELD -- The Eagle ran a story in Thursday's paper advancing an event that was held on Thursday night at the Noel Field Athletic Complex in North Adams. This event resonated with me, and I'm sure, virtually anyone who reads this column.
It's called the Candlelight Vigil of Healing and Remembrance. It is a vigil to honor and respect the memories of those who die from alcohol and drug abuse.
I'll admit it; as a young man, I had a problem with alcohol. I didn't think I did. It was the old "I can stop any time I want" mantra.
Looking back? I'm not so sure.
I remember working summers at the former Arnold (later Adams) Print Works and literally counting the hours and minutes until I got out of work to visit one of many local bars in the area.
I remember very distinctly, after I moved to Great Barrington, driving by myself to a bar in New York State because those places stayed open until 4 a.m.
And, as I was driving home, drunk, on several occasions saying, "God, I love this! I love drinking! I'll never stop!"
I know I'm not alone. I'm aware of how private people are in Adams, but in the last year and a half, four people I've known have died of complications from alcohol and drug issues.
This is not to say they overdosed, or were alcoholics lying in a gutter somewhere. Unfortunately, they drank and indulged in drugs to the point where they began to have health problems. Which, in at least two cases of which I'm aware, they ignored.
And they died.
Part of all this, at least in my opinion, is growing up in a small milltown, like Adams. When I was a kid, before I was eligible to drink, the running joke or gag in Adams was that the work week was pretty stressful, and we all needed to relax with a drink.
That made sense to me as I grew into young adulthood. Hey, man, life is no bed of roses. I deserve a drink. And maybe I did, in those days.
I know this sounds preachy, and I apologize. I'm not trying to scold anyone. This is still America. You can drink your way to the Hereafter. And I'm well aware there's not much anyone can do to stop it, let alone a preachy columnist.
But what struck me as I heard of these unfortunate events was this: All my friends had spouses. Three of them had children. They all certainly had friends. And in some cases, parents who were still alive.
I realize that no one lives forever. I understand that sometimes, even when one is trying to live a healthy lifestyle, things happen and lives end.
And in fact, I also understand that sometimes, when one is in the throes of these addictions, it is very, very hard to stop. And that only death can shut the switch off.
Heck, I know all about that. I was killing myself three years ago, and ignoring my doctors and friends. I have no interest in reliving those crazy days when I was admitted to the Emergency Room at Berkshire Medical Center in the early afternoon and operated on in the early evening.
I should be dead. I'm not. That's the bottom line.
But the one thing I learned was that if I have a chance to ask people about their choices, I do. Or remind them how much they mean to me and to their other friends, I do.
It probably won't help much. The other thing I learned following my little adventure was that the will to change has to come from within. If anyone told me I'd be eating salads for lunch almost daily, and giving up Mallomars, ice cream and Hershey bars with almonds, not to mention booze, I would have thought them a little off their rockers.
But I have. And I don't miss ‘em. And I'm glad to be around to talk about it. So the joke's on me.
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