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COLUMN: A Dickens of a problem

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COMMENTARY BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE

“We will be bold to say there is scarcely a man in the constant habit of walking, day after day, through any of the crowded thoroughfares of town, who cannot recollect, among the people whom he knows by sight, some being of abject and wretched appearance, lingering about the pavement, from whom everyone turns coldly away.”
This commentary appeared in 1837 in “Sketches by Boz” by a journalist who had a keen eye and sympathy for the seedier side of life in London. Boz reverted to his real name in later years when he established himself as the novelist, Charles Dickens. Some 176 years later and in most cities around the world, “The Drunkard’s Death,” when read in its entirety, has a painful familiarity about it. A man who slips through society, falls dependent on alcohol as his only umbilical to the world he inhabits. Life has turned its back on him and fails to notice his decline, as he becomes simply an obstacle for the hurrying pedestrian to negotiate on their way to their important destination.
Alcoholism is a dreadful disease and I know — and have known — many who have succumbed to its embraces. One thoroughly obnoxious fellow “cleaned himself up,” diligently learned a profession and became a significant force on Wall Street, and now lives with his wife and children, in retirement in a house the size of New Jersey. Another man I know has been “on the wagon” for 20 years and continues to run a very successful wine company. He selects wines by smell rather than taste — a rare and unique talent. Both people had the love and commitment of somebody close to them to “pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.” Alas, some could be a lost cause. For example, some could be totally dependent on the bottle to a pathetic and deplorable degree, and attempts to help could be met with failure.
Wine itself is not the seductress, as the self-righteous among us would have us believe. If one is predisposed to an addiction and is weak enough to succumb to its allure and fall victim to that weakness, then, whatever happens along will ultimately become their poison. As a veteran member of the wine community, I am sensitive to our particular battlefield, and to those who have fallen on the front line. There are plenty of organizations and groups, and indeed, individuals, who can help those in our community who are dependent on alcohol. But the addict must recognize his or her own problem and take the first step, with our guidance. Those of us who care enough to offer help can indeed be a crutch, but the individual afflicted with the disease must first stand up in order to lean on us. And therein lies the rub. It’s a Dickens of a dilemma, to be sure.

Phillip Silverstone is shown with singer Sheryl Crow. She is Phillís guest on his Dec. 20 TuneIn Radio show. She has written the music for "Diner," now being staged at Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington.  Photo provided by Phillip Silverstone.

Phillip Silverstone is shown with singer Sheryl Crow. She is Phillís guest on his Dec. 20 TuneIn Radio show. She has written the music for “Diner,” now being staged at Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington.
Photo provided by Phillip Silverstone.

Phillip Silverstone’s column appears each week in Ticket. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly podcast heard on TuneIn Radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4 “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining

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