Archive for January 27th, 2012

Shameless Alcoholism

by lizard

So I was watching the latest episode of the Showtime series Shameless the other night when I witnessed something profound.

*spoiler alert*

The drunken patriarch of the family, Frank Gallagher (played brilliantly by William H. Macy), had been laying the groundwork for a long-con on a woman who is dying. Slowly he ingratiates himself with little favors, exploiting her loneliness and fear. It becomes apparent his target is her city pension, not just to the viewer but too his mark as well. When she calls him on it, he lays out a justification for why she should do it. It’s a convincing pitch; he wins her over by pledging to keep her memory alive after she dies, that she’ll be remembered; he’ll even go once a week to church to light a candle for her. I think what Frank digs deep to touch is a more profound fear than just death; it’s a fear of the total obliteration of self, of having no trace left behind of your life on earth.

But it’s all a con, and the awful turn in this agreement between an alcoholic and a dying woman comes when a beeper goes off while the woman is in the shower. You see, she’s waiting for a heart to become available, because she needs a transplant, which Frank knows, which is why he calls the hospital and tells whoever on the other end of line that the needy organ recipient had already died.

It gets even worse, but I don’t want to ruin the whole episode. Needless to say, the show earns its title, with every episode.

I am actually going somewhere by mentioning all this. Shameless is an important narrative being told about the ravages of alcoholism, a narrative newspapers can report on, but can’t fully contextualize. Editors can certainly push certain aspects of the symptoms, like featuring three separate stories related to alcohol abuse in the Montana section of the Missoulian a few days ago, or focusing on “Transients” without getting in depth about why our culture turns so callously against drunks who have drunk themselves into the misery of perpetual intoxication on the streets, but it shouldn’t be their responsibility alone to tell us why these things are happening under our collective noses.

A comment here at 4&20, posted this morning by “Opal”, reminds us again of what continues to happen here and all over the country:

Apparently another homeless person has died on the sidewalk in Missoula. The death is being reported on Keci and Kpax, but not in the Missoulian this morning. The Irony of the death on the same day as the project homeless connect event, and during the city’s homeless awareness week. Sad.

As the city slowly develops its 10 year plan to end homelessness, I hope the role alcohol plays in destroying people’s lives is fully considered.

While that happens, there will continue to be those on the margins of our society who slowly drink themselves to death. They all have their stories and their reasons, and those stories, I would argue, are really important for us as a society to listen to, to understand, because there have to be better ways for communities to respond to chronic issues, like alcoholism.

A problem, it should be noted, that may only get worse as economic conditions decline.

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