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Huguely case shows how difficult it is to combat alcohol abuse

After reading all the coverage of George Huguely's murder trial, I feel compelled to write. All the focus on this horrible event has shown just how ignorant society is about alcoholism and its effects on the drinker and the family and friends who surround that person.

Alcoholism is a disease. Expecting a parent or worse yet a group of 20-somethings to handle another person's alcoholism is like expecting them to provide a cure for a friend with cancer. It can't be done. Jean Marbella wrote on Sunday that "Huguely wasn't drinking in a celebratory fashion." Of course not! The only type of person who can drink that much alcohol and still be standing is an alcoholic. Once the drug takes over his body, the alcoholic has no physical, spiritual, or mental capacity to overcome it. The disease always wins.

Certain studies say that one alcoholic directly affects 14 people. These 14 people usually worry about the alcoholic, pour drinks out for the alcoholic, wait up at night for the alcoholic, take car keys, make excuses for the drinker and find other ways to enable him. All of which are not only fruitless over this cunning, baffling and powerful disease but also enable him to keep drinking.

What can be done? The drinker must face the consequences for his actions, whatever they may be. This way, and only this way, will the person realize how out of control his life has become. He must be held responsible, even if he doesn't remember doing what he is found guilty of doing. Jail is full of people who committed crimes in an alcoholic blackout and have no recollection of the incident.

Perhaps what we really should be focusing on with this case is how we can reach college and high school kids before their drinking becomes out of control. Most alcoholics claim they started drinking at the "magical" age of 12. As much as society hates to think about it, perhaps educating kids in middle school is the best way to get the message out about this horrible, chronic and progressive disease.

And for all the friends, family members, coaches, and teachers: We need to educate them. We need to teach them to let the alcoholic fall on his own. We need to teach them to let him fall even from an early age. Even if it means not making the lacrosse team, losing a license, losing a summer job or not getting in to a prestigious Ivy League school. Perhaps suffering those consequences could keep another horrible incident like this from happening again.

Mayree Connie, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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