Posts Tagged ‘substance abuse’


Flight (2012)

April 7, 2013

Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away)

Quick Thoughts: Flight hit home for me a bit. Being an alcoholic myself–one that has been sober for nearly three years now–I couldn’t help but relate to the path of self-destruction that Denzel Washington’s character Whip Whitaker had created for himself: the complete lack of self-control, the walls his family has put up, the delusion, the denial. Of course, the decision to make this character the pilot of a major airline makes his story worthy of a film. Watching the movie, I was wondering how much of it was based in reality. Was it a true story? The answer is… not really. While Whip’s decision to invert the plane during the incredible flight and crash sequence was inspired by true events, the character of Whip Whitaker himself is a figment of screenwriter John Gatins’ imagination–or more likely, a loose translation of someone the writer actually knows.

This is one of those films where the hero is quite the opposite. There’s no protagonist in this movie. I can’t imagine too many people rooting for Whip Whitaker. He’s despicable. Aside from his alcoholism, he also abuses drugs, womanizes, and is generally crude and overbearingly filthy in his diction. Perhaps we want to see him sink so low that he finally sees and admits the errors of his ways, but that’s it. About 90 minutes into the movie, I turned to my girlfriend and said: “This movie can’t possibly have a happy ending.” There is no light at the end of the tunnel for this person.

While I found Flight to be entertaining–seriously, the flight sequence is jaw-dropping–and the best depiction of alcoholism since Leaving Las Vegas, I did walk away with some serious questions. Whip’s flight crew is all too familiar with his antics. He’s sleeping and partying with one of his flight attendants (a fellow substance abuser) and it appears this is no secret to the rest of the crew, particularly a devoutly religious woman that has known Whip for years. My question is, knowing who this man is, why on earth would these people get on a plane that he’s flying? I understand enabling and co-dependent relationships–believe me–but I can’t understand constantly putting your own life and lives of passengers in immediate danger. This man is piloting planes drunk while reeking of vodka (as his co-pilot later points out). Who in their right mind is letting that happen? Also curious, Whip’s toxicology report comes back with a .24 BAC after landing the plane, getting extracted from the wreckage, and possibly transported to a hospital. In other words, during the crash, Whip was probably sporting a BAC over .3, which is well into black out territory. Of course, this is the portrait of a “functioning” alcoholic, but come on. And… my comments on the ending I will post below*.

Despite these concerns, I was still pleased with Flight and thought it tackled alcoholism quite well. The crash sequence is legendary and Denzel Washington gives another great performance.

Replay Value: Worth watching again for sure.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Denzel received an acting nomination and Gatins a writing nomination. Surprisingly, the visual effects team was snubbed.
Nudity: Quite a bit during the opening sequence.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 79% Audience: 76%
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

Recommendation: Highly recommended, especially to those who have dealt with alcoholism in their lives.


I felt like this movie couldn’t possibly have a happy ending and while I suppose I was satisfied with the way things wrapped up, I didn’t really buy it either. Whip Whitaker ultimately breaks down and admits the truth of his alcoholism–a scene that brought tears to my eyes–right on the brink of lying his way to freedom during his testimony. All he has to do is tell one more lie and he can go right on living his destructive life. So what sparked his change of heart? He has the perfect alibi: the woman he spent the night with before the crash has passed away, she’s a known alcoholic, and he can say that she drank the two bottles of vodka that had been found in the wreckage. But instead, he admits that he drank those bottles and suffers all the punishments that come with that admittance. Why? Do we really believe this man, that has chosen alcohol over the relationships of anyone close to him–wife and son included–would choose this moment to come clean? Presumably to protect the honor of a dead woman he had a casual sexual relationship with? I’m sorry, but this would never happen in real life. Alcoholics are incredibly selfish people and I really believe that 100% of alcoholics in that situation would choose to lie and protect their freedom. Perhaps the close call with extensive jail time would be enough to spark a change, but Whip Whitaker doesn’t take the fall there. Ever.


Mission: Impossible – Quitting Nicotine – Day 1

August 17, 2010

The Premise: Nicotine addiction is a bitch and quitting usage is extremely hard. I’ve decided to blog about my attempt to quit chewing tobacco.

The Inspiration: I’m currently reading David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed In Flames and skipped ahead when I discovered he wrote extensively about his attempt to quit smoking cigarettes for good. Sedaris is a great–possibly my favorite–writer, so I knew an entire section devoted to the cessation of his favorite vice would be a great read. Needless to say, “The Smoking Section” has motivated me to mirror his efforts and blog about my own attempt to rid my life of nicotine use. People often say that in order to quit a habit, you need to replace it with a new one, so the goal here is to replace chewing with regular writing about quitting. I’m hoping I can become as obsessed with blogging about it as I am about actually using it. Sedaris decided to move to Japan for several months in order to quit smoking. I don’t have the financial–or legal–freedom to make such a move, so I’m planning on using the old-fashioned cold turkey method.

My History & Current Usage: My parents were chain-smokers when I was growing up and I adapted a hatred of cigarettes that has never died to this day. I’m 28 years old and I’ve never smoked a full cigarette in my life. In fact, my entire smoking history can be summed up in a single drag, taken after the first time I ever drank hard liquor. We’re talking about a 110 pound 9th grader that just took nine shots of vodka in less than thirty minutes. I was belligerently drunk, barely even conscious, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve simply never smoked a cigarette.

Chewing tobacco has been a different story. I had no preconceived bias against chew, no built-in hatred, and the second-hand affects of chewing didn’t seem nearly as obnoxious or intrusive as someone smoking near you. I grew up playing baseball and sometime in my mid-teens I chewed tobacco for the first time with some of my teammates. I don’t remember loving or hating it, and even though I would dabble with it at times over the years, it never became a habit. Not until I was 24 and moved back home to Bremerton. I just got a job at a restaurant and my co-workers had a regular poker game that I started to frequent. A couple of the guys chewed and I would borrow until, eventually, I was providing for myself and a habit was born.

For the past four years, I have been chewing tobacco regularly. My usage can only be described as disgusting. I can think of very few situations where I do not have a dip in my mouth: when I’m sleeping, when I’m eating, when I’m working, and when I’m with or about to meet a woman I think I might be kissing relatively soon. THAT’S IT. I chew when I take a shower. I chew when I’m shaving, which can be difficult depending on the size of the wad in my mouth. I’m chewing RIGHT NOW. When I’m writing, laying in bed, on the computer, playing poker, driving, playing softball, watching TV. ALL THE TIME. Fuck brushing my teeth, it’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before bed. I chew when I’m sick, even if it seems to be making me worse. I’ve skipped meals in favor of keeping a dip in my mouth. In fact, I almost never eat breakfast because I don’t give myself enough time in the morning to eat AND chew, and you know what’s getting crossed off the list if I have to choose between the two.

I’ve never developed the ability to swallow the spit created by chewing tobacco. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. While it’s immensely gross to swallow the vile liquid leftover from dipping, swallowing also makes the habit easier to hide and less visible to those around you. Because I’m a spitter, I have to carry some type of cup or bottle with me everywhere I go. If someone were to walk into my room at any given time without warning, they are liable to find a number of 20 ounce bottles filled with viscous, brown spit and drained wads of chew. As the user this doesn’t bother me much, but I can only imagine the affect it has on the uninitiated. I can’t even count how many times I’ve accidentally knocked over such a bottle and watched in horror as it spilled all over my carpet. I’ve also had the displeasure of spitting into a certain bottle and drinking soda or beer from a similar one only to get them mixed up and take a sip of freshly expectorated, tobacco-tainted saliva. I don’t recommend that beverage to anyone. I also keep a spitter in my car at all times, and unlike my house/room where visitors are usually announced, I don’t always know ahead of time when someone might get in my car. It’s very unsightly.

Why I Need To Quit: There are lots of obvious health reasons to quit, but I really feel that few people stop for those exact reasons. Most younger smokers and chewers don’t care too much about the health complications: “Hey, I’m fine today. I can always quit later.” Older users starting to experience the consequences of their years of substance abuse often decide that’s it’s too late anyways: “Fuck it.” We all know what could happen if we smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco. We simply don’t care. It’s not an immediate concern… and though important, it’s not why I want to quit either.

I never understood why my parents would waste such substantial amounts of money on a habit they should have been able to shut off at any moment. By the time I graduated high school and school started to cost money, I’d often say they could have put me through college with all the money they spent on cigarettes over the years. It seemed like a fair statement and after racking up $30,000 in student loans that are now my responsibility to pay back, it was easy to feel resentful towards them. Even as an alcoholic and someone that has struggled deeply with my own demons, I couldn’t relate. My problems with alcohol have never been of the chemically dependent variety. I’ve never gone through withdrawals and even at the height of my problem, I might go a week without realizing it had been that long since I last drank. I get cravings for alcohol at times during a dry period, but I’ve never felt an overpowering urge to drink. Even when I relapsed after nearly two years of sobriety, it was because I wanted to, not because I felt compelled to.

It wasn’t until I first thought about quitting chewing that I understood that nicotine is an entirely different beast. Since it became habit-forming, the longest I have gone without dipping was for two months, the result of a period in my life when I was ridiculously focused on bettering myself. I had just gone through a breakup and I wanted to focus my energy on anything else and quitting chewing happened to fit the bill. Ultimately, I thought a new and improved me would help me get back with my ex and, after a brief period of success, when that failed to happen I went right back to chewing regularly.

In my experience, the hardest part about quitting nicotine is the first drive home after you’ve decided to quit. I’ve decided I’m done a number of times only to find myself stopping at the gas station before I get home. If you can make it home without stopping and get through the first night, you actually have a decent shot of sticking to the plan. The next day is still really tough, but if you make it through that, you have a real good shot. Most addicts associate their habits with various behaviors… For instance, a smoker might wake up and have a cigarette and coffee first thing every morning. If they eliminate the cigarette and continue the same behavior, the craving will almost certainly be overwhelming. This is a big problem for me because I associate chewing with virtually everything that I do. It’s hard for me to find the appropriate moment to quit. Maybe I want to quit during my work week since I have to go numerous hours during the day without chewing anyways. Well, the first thing I do as soon as all my tables leave is pop a dip in, so maybe I’ll wait until my days off to quit. Okay, I play softball on my days off and there is no way I’m not going to chew when I’m playing ball, so I guess I’ll wait for my work week. It’s a vicious cycle.

Even after I decided to create this blog idea, I went out and bought a can of chew. If I’m going to stop there’s no way my last can is going to be a brand I don’t really prefer. I had to get my favorite kind and go out with a blast, inevitably prolonging the process. It seems trivial, but to a regular dipper, there is a very noticeable difference between brands and I feel like I’d be doing myself a disservice if my last can was Copenhagen Straight Long Cut. I need Cope Straight Long Cut. Same company, nearly the same name, very different taste!

I really do plan to quit though (I promise!) and I’m hoping blogging about it will benefit my trial. Ultimately, I’m quitting because it’s an unnecessary expense, it’s disgusting and unattractive, and it obstructs my ability to carry out a normal day. I probably chew between 4-5 cans a week and at $6 a can that comes out to $100-$120 a month and $1200-$1450 a year. Those are some obscene figures for someone who is constantly living check-to-check. It’s also very undesirable to a woman, and even though I think I hide it well, it would be great not to have to worry about it at all. So my quest begins… and even though it will be a few days before I’m completely out of product, I’m looking forward to sharing my adventure with you.