Crystal Clear: Alcohol abuse nothing to joke about
July 15, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- It's not often that a colonel gets called out for being late. And when it does happen, I doubt anyone laughs - not aloud, anyway.
But that very scenario drew laughs from the Solomon Center crowd at Tuesday's Happy Hour Comedy Show, which featured comedian Bernie McGrenahan in what he calls "comedy with a twist."
Some of those in attendance - myself included -weren't exactly smiling when they arrived at what the comedian himself called "mandatory fun."
But by the time we all filed out, we were left with not only several good laughs, but life lessons garnered from the comedian's own experiences.
On the way over to the show, my husband briefed me on what the show was about, courtesy of an exhaustive Google search on his part.
"It's 30 minutes of comedy and 30 minutes of inspirational speaking," he said.
I'd read the op-order; I was not swayed. Until McGrenahan started his routine, that is.
The jokes started immediately. From Speedos, to toilet paper, to his hoopty, he had the group at the 1 p.m. show I attended doubled over with laughter.
McGrenahan seamlessly transitioned from an all-out comedy show to something much more serious. The energetic comedian had more than jokes; he also had a drinking problem.
McGrenahan started drinking as a teen, and he soon had two DUI convictions. He shared with us how his drinking, which began with just a few beers on the weekend, soon turned into multiple drinks and drugs.
He shared with us how his cologne and mouthwash failed to cover the stench of alcohol on his body, causing him to lose his job. After moving back in with his mother and siblings, he realized his brother was traveling the same path as he had. Drinking too much, missing class, not doing the right thing. And though he tried to intervene, it seemed it came too late; after an argument, his brother killed himself.
Afterward, McGrenahan coped the way he always had; by getting drunk, which soon landed him his third DUI. This time, he didn't get off with a fine. The judge gave him six months jail time.
Though his story may seem extreme, I think many of us can look within our own families for similarities. How many of us have had too many drinks and driven home, thinking we would be OK' How many of us have stood by as our family members drank too much, with us wondering if we should intervene, but deciding against it for fear of hurting his or her feelings'
Though the comedian has never served in the military, he made one great point: All of the on-post resources for anyone who suspects he or she may have a drinking problem are not to hurt the Soldier; they are there to help the Soldier. Seeking help will not hurt your career, but getting a DUI will.
I went into the show thinking I would snap a few photos of what would probably be an unremarkable routine. But as I watched the Soldiers walk over to speak with the comedian, who has now been 21 years sober, I knew I wasn't the only one touched by his routine. Not only did they snap photos with him, some shared stories of what drinking has done within their own families.
Fort Jackson's Safety Center and the Army Substance Abuse Program put together a great show to offer a type of "training" that, I think, served as not only a fun time, but a reality check.
For me, it was a wake-up call that there is always someone looking at me - whether it is a sibling, a child or even a friend - for whom I am setting an example. And I hope that despite what happens in my life, that I can be a role model for him or her, because McGrenahan's routine reminded me that sometimes doing the right thing means seeking help.