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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

10-04-18 | By

What Kavanaugh’s Hearing Teaches Us About Society’s Stance On Alcohol


Photo Via Esquire

Last Thursday, the world watched the extremely controversial Supreme Court nomination hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

We heard many things. One of them being the climactic testimony of sexual-assault survivor, Professor Christine Blasey Ford. And no matter what side you take, it was extremely brave of the 51-year-old to stand in front of a panel of Senators and press to share her personal matters of what happened to her.

However, once her testimony was over and Kavanaugh started to give his own testimony and defend himself, the questions that I heard about his drinking seemed eerily familiar. As an alcoholic myself, along with alcoholism taking precedence over the backbone of my family tree, I could only relate what was going on in that courtroom to my own experience.

Beer.

We heard it mentioned 30 times, and there’s one fact that we’ve got straight. Brett Kavanaugh likes beer. While there’s been much discussion about his drinking consumption in decades past, there has been very little discussion about his drinking in the present day. He not only mentioned that he drank back in his younger days, but using present tense, said, “I like beer” a handful of times, meaning he still drinks today.

His defiance running rampant, I think I lost count of how many times he stated that he “like’s beer,” and with numerous deflections about his drinking, one was that he mentioned his friend who has a “real” problem. Another deflections consisted of  turning the question back to the questioner— tactics I’ve seen used by a person who abuses alcohol or who has alcoholism that is cornered, or someone who is in extreme denial of their alcohol issues.

He turned the tables and asked two senators what they like to drink – being now and not when they were in high school. When pressed during the hearing about whether he drank to excess in the past, Kavanaugh avoided the question altogether, and instead listed off his accomplishments: Went to Yale, Yale Law School, was a federal judge for 12 years. However, a high achieving status doesn’t actually tell us anything about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, now or in the past. Going to Yale is not an assurance of sobriety, however it doesn’t rule out that he was at the time, a problem drinker.

I’ve seen this scene before, whether that be in a living room, kitchen, or a driveway – but I never thought I’d see it on the floor of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“He Was Often Belligerent And Aggressive”

Photo Via Youtube

Charles Ludington, one of Kavanaugh’s college classmates, released a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by Kavanaugh’s “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking at Yale. “For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker,” Ludington said. “I know because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw
him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.”

Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend has written about his own high school drinking and in one of his books referenced a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” throwing up and passing out in a car.

Others have backed up Kavanaugh’s account. The New York Times notes that Chris Dudley, who was involved in a bar fight with Kavanaugh in 1985, has spoken out in support of the judge and said he didn’t drink excessively.

For Those Who Have Lived It

While this may or may not give us a hint of information about the 53-year-old’s past drinking habits while in college, we cannot assume that he continues to drink this way. However, the way he responded to the questions about his past drinking does make it a relevant question for those of us who have once lived it.

If someone talked about drinking this much in a job interview, how soon would the employer urge them to seek outside help?

Photo Via NPR

While we have continuously shifted our views in other matters such as the devastating opioid crisis, we’ve come to terms and have altered our perspectives with those being addicted as functioning members of society and not just panhandling people on the side of the road. With that being said, we must continue to modify our understanding of alcoholism and problem drinking alike. These so-called problem drinkers and alcoholics are not just bums under a bridge chugging booze or someone you see buying a 40 early in the morning at the gas station before work.

According to the The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States, and with this controversial hearing brushing over the questioning of Kavanaugh’s drinking in the present day, what does this say for people who are continuing to struggle with alcoholism and alcohol abuse?

We must broaden our views and focus on even the people who don’t drink daily, but continue to have a hard time limiting their alcohol consumption once they start. These are the people we’re not talking about – the people who black out and act in inconsistent ways when drunk versus sober.

Why Wasn’t He Questioned?

With all the questioning about his high school and college drinking days, why, in one the most contraversial Senate Committee hearings was no one willing to ask about his current drinking habits, even though alcohol was one of the most touched on subjects?

Photo Via Vox

Senator Whitehouse looked down while questioning Kavanaugh, a clear sign that he was fearful of asking the question. Senator Klobuchar seemed nervous, even after stating her father was in recovery. However, both times the senators attempted to questioned the nominee, it was ignored due to the deflection and defiance of Kavanaugh.

When hot-topic subjects like alcohol consumption present itself, especially surrounding friends, family members, or even public officials, we have a duty to ask these hard questions, no matter how fearful we may be. I can guarantee you, we will be helping the person, as well as society by breaking this stigma in the long run.

It is clear that even with important topics like abortion, gender-equality, and gender-identify and others taking precedence in the spotlight, our society still doesn’t know how to talk about drinking. While not saying that Kavanaugh is a true alcoholic or abuser, there is plenty of debate over the scope of the FBI investigation. However as someone in recovery who has recounted this situation with myself as well as friends and family members, it may be wise to assess Kavanaugh’s drinking behavior not when he was in high school or college, but right now.

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