Monday, November 12, 2012

Not Just A River In Egypt

She's a little old lady with grey hair in a bun. Think Miss Marples.

Very much the stereotype of an elderly spinster - pillar of the local community, lynchpin of her church and with decades of faithful service to the poor and needy.

The thing is, she's in my court and she's lying to me.

She took an oath on the Bible, which is a big deal for a devout Christian, but there is no mistaking the fact that she is lying. She's really not very good at it and her account would require the suspension of a couple of physical laws even if it were logically consistent (which it isn't).

So what's going on her mind ? Has she found a way to convince herself that the lies she's telling aren't really lies? Or has she just stopped caring ?

Her problem, it seems to me, is that in short order her mother died, she was forced to retire from her job and her husband went off with another woman. Into that void came alcohol and now she's just like every alcoholic - deep in denial.

Denial means that alcoholics lie. They lie to themselves and to others about the extent of their problem. Telling the truth in court ("I was staggering around drunk and then drove home after necking a bottle of vodka") would have meant admitting to themselves and to their community that they have an alcohol problem. So she would prefer to lie ("My heels were too high and I drank the vodka after I came home from the driving").

I knew that alcoholics lied, but this was a powerful demonstration of the sheer power of alcohol over  even the strongest among us. 

As they say in the First of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous :-

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable."
I had never fully appreciated the full impact of that phrase "powerless over alcohol" before this trial.

It has been a several months since this woman came into my court and it has been a rare week that I haven't wondered whether her conviction was the "bottom" she needed to hit in order to get better, or whether it hastened her decline.

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