By Bette Dewing
Now this is pretty “out of the box,” but the greatest good to come out of the Olympic Games could be if all-out attention were paid to how just one night of excessive drinking got three champion U.S. swimmers in a whole lot of trouble, especially Ryan Lochte. Ignored too long is how what is euphemistically called “partying” has the potential for so much risky, reckless and regrettable behaviors — behaviors which would never occur sober. Except for drunk driving, the alcohol factor is seldom indicted even when present in violent disputes, assaults and other serious crimes. Also suicide. But all that deserves another column or volume.
As you know — all too well — maybe it wasn’t the Olympian swimmers’ drunkenness that caused the worldwide “scandal” (maybe it should), but the false claim to media that the swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint on Rio de Janeiro’s late-night streets. That’s what Lochte originally told his mother for fear his girlfriend would learn about his all-night “partying” (with maybe some women?). Concerned mother tells media and her son then has to back her up. Did I get that right?
Well, you know what really happened was the drunken trio had trashed a gas station, even breaking down the restroom door. Police were called. Ah, but what needs remembering most is the Brazil police chief’s heart-of-the-matter assessment – how their violence and trashing the gas station happened “because they were intoxicated.”
Indeed his words should have been headlined and “prime-timed’ with follow-up editorials and columns about how often reckless, anti-social and even violent behavior is caused by being “intoxicated.” And how we must stop giving overdrinking a pass.
But it turns out Lochte has a record of similar incidents at home — public urination, drunk and disorderly conduct — and just maybe has a problem. And the greatest good he could do is very, very publicly seek treatment — get help. High profile celebs can be powerful role models for others and especially young people who might then think, “If Lochte admits having a problem, I should also admit mine.”
I might add that Alcoholic Anonymous group phone numbers are often and most commendably listed in small town newspapers. The New York City number is 212-647-1680. And to stay with the need to raise public awareness about the alcohol and things you’d never do or say sober link, the open AA meetings “before and after” true stories really need to be heard. Elected official and wannabees should attend. Every policy maker should. So should we all.
There’s also intervention (thank you, Betty Ford!), which is too seldom utilized. This too needs a’ changin’. Unfortunately, only extreme alcohol/drug cases were portrayed in the TV Intervention series, which no longer airs in New York. The most well-known local intervention center is the Freedom Institute at 212-838-0044. Unlike 12-step groups, there’s a fee.
But if only the Olympic scandal story hadn’t drawn attention away from the unimaginable hardships and heartaches wrought by the historic Louisiana flooding and the devastating California fires. All involved in the high-risk and traumatic rescue and recovery efforts and now the arduous endless rebuilding are truly Olympian people. How can we help? Give what we can, and work for a more connected society where neighbors and relatives habitually help one another. Also remember that 12-step recovery groups’ high success rate comes from members helping each other. In Manhattan apartment houses’ staff members are the primary helpers. Maybe they should give lessons, and get medals.
Yup, it can be done if enough of us try. And, hey, also remember to smile.