Alcohol is Not a Truth Serum: Mel Gibson and Alcoholism

Not being much of a drinker, I’ve never come awake in a motel room staring into the bloodshot eyes of a bloody naked stranger; nevertheless, I’ve heard the stories of those who have, (both genders), and it’s never a pretty tale. My friend, Joe, swears he wasn’t secretly attracted to the 300 pound toothless bag lady Lesbian with the chin hairs (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and I heard that she really wasn’t too hot about him the morning after either. Were they both drunk the night before? Let’s hope so. Did the bottle reveal their true personalities? Decidedly not. Before we send Mel Gibson to the woodshed forever, we owe him an honest look at the disease of alcoholism, which is a quite a lot more complicated than simply drinking too much. And Mel, we agree, as does he, is an alcoholic.

Who am I to expound on such a weighty topic? If you were ever inclined to do a google search for me (few are), you’d verify that I’m not a fundamental Christian (not that there’s anything wrong with that), nor am I an admirer of PASSION OF THE CHRIST, (in my opinion, there is definitely something wrong there). Finally, no one would ever mistake me for a Republican (no comment). But I am a lover of rational arguments and I’m also the daughter of an alcoholic who spent way too many years thinking her father was the monster she saw when he was drunk and not the delightful human being she had adored so much as a child. It wasn’t until after my father had died of cirrhosis of the liver that I learned the truth. A real pity, that. (Fortunately, I believe, perhaps irrationally, that relationships continue after death; I’m happy to report that my dad and I have things all worked out now.)

When the Mel Gibson story broke, I did think, Ah ha! I knew it! But as I’ve listened to the media coverage of the event, I’ve become frustrated, dismayed and heartily disgusted – to the point of writing this piece and hoping someone will read it. Over and over again the yappers yap – Mel wouldn’t have said “it” if he hadn’t meant “it,” they spout over and over. Why? Because what a person says when he/she is drunk is what he/she truly believes, right? No. Myth, myth, myth. And a dangerous one, at that.

My personal epiphany came over a decade ago when I happened upon a talking head on television (a rare wise one on this occasion) who was discussing the book,UNDER THE INFLUENCE by James R. Milam (no relation) and Katherine Ketcham. Although the book had come out over twenty-five years ago, this was the first I’d heard of it. As the authors state, “Myth is, in fact, reality for many people; to suggest that another reality exists is to turn their world upside down. But if the truth about alcoholism is ever to be understood, the myths must be attacked and destroyed. Only facts can destroy myths; and facts are the backbone of this book.” Germane to the discussion about alcohol as a truth serum is one particular myth. Referencing the authors once again:

MYTH: When the alcoholic is drinking, he reveals his true personality.

REALITY: Alcohol’s effect on the brain causes severe psychological and emotional distortions of the normal personality. Sobriety reveals the alcoholic’s true personality. (Chapters 3 and 9).*

Mel Gibson, as we say, has some explaining to do and I’m sure between Bill O’Reilly, E! and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, we’ll hear it all, if we chose to listen. If Mel is overly disenchanted with the Jews, he will have to come to turns with the bigotry of his blanket condemnation, but one thing is for certain: If he does believe what he said, it is something he believes when he is sober as well. If he doesn’t believe it, he still might have said it while under the influence because alcohol is not now and has never been a truth serum. If it were, why would we ever need a charming place like Gitmo?

* Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism by James R. Milam and Katherine Ketcham

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