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FRIDAY, AUGUST 4, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Gibson arrest says much about power of alcoholism

The hoopla around Mel Gibson's alcohol-induced crash and burn should focus more on alcohol and less on the man who failed to control it.

Arrested and charged with drunk driving last week, the actor and director harangued the sheriff's deputy, asking whether he was a Jew.

"The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," he said, according to the arrest report.

Mr. Gibson has already been trying to rebuff claims that his "The Passion of The Christ" reflected personal anti-Semitism, and he was in the midst of working on a mini-series set during the Holocaust for ABC.

One of the things about the incident that excites so much attention is that it follows the always-popular theme of "the mighty laid low." Despite enormous talent and endless money, Mr. Gibson can't hold his liquor. He's no different from the dozens of Decatur folk arrested every month. Whatever willpower he possesses, it's not always enough to overcome his craving for alcohol.

And that, finally, is the lesson to people with drinking problems, and to those who love them. To those with the problem: You cannot beat this on your own. For the alcoholic, alcohol is insidious. It twists the firmest resolve, convinces its victim beyond all reason that the next drink will have no consequences. You can be one of the richest and most talented people in the world, and you can enjoy a life that lacks for nothing, but you can still come up the loser to alcohol.

For those who love people with alcoholism, Mr. Gibson's incident is a reminder that alcoholism is not a sign of weakness. It is a disease that defies rational decisions and circumvents willpower. Alcoholics, rich or poor, famous or humble, need help. Your help.

Statistics suggest that few of those who need help confronting alcoholism are getting it. Mr. Gibson's voluntary entry into a treatment clinic is a reminder that even the most privileged need an assist when the foe is alcohol.

Rather than using Mr. Gibson's public embarrassment as the subject of a chuckle, maybe we should use it as a trigger for introspection. Is alcohol abuse affecting us, either directly or through a loved one?

If so, let's do something about it.

Where to find help? Locally, a good start is Quest Recovery, a state-approved facility that provides treatment at sliding fees that reflect the patient's income. You can reach Quest at 353-9116. There is also the Alcoholics Anonymous 24-hour hotline at 800-905-8666.


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