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A man is passed out face down on a couch with one arm drooping to the floor. There are several empty alcohol bottles and glasses on the floor.

Alcoholism: From the Perspective of the Alcoholic, Interview 1

addiction alcohol alcoholism Jan 18, 2024

By Kidra Avery, a CSUCI Service Learning student.

This interview was conducted on Zoom on Tuesday September 29th, 2020. Jonathan and I have known each other since he got out of rehab the second time, and have remained friends since. Our interview was very casual, much like two friends speaking openly, with the awkward recognition that we were being recorded. This is his story.

What if you woke up one morning and you were an alcoholic? What if every time you wanted to take the edge off of a hard day, you instead woke up the next morning with no recollection of how you got into bed? Or why there’s a person next to you that you’ve never seen before. You look down and there’s a half empty bottle of vodka in your hand. You think to yourself: But I thought I only had a couple beers… When did I get out the vodka? 

Jonathan went to rehab the first time when he was 29 years old. He’s 33 now, and that’s when he felt like his life had “become unmanageable.” He’d woken up one morning after not drinking and had delirium tremens, which is basically night terrors, sweats, and shaking, among other symptoms. Drinking upwards of a ½ gallon of vodka per day had become the norm, and without it, those tremens would come back. Jonathan’s drinking started at the ripe age of 14 with his 2 best friends. The first bottle they were able to get their hands on together was Evan Williams bourbon, which has an alcohol content of 43%. Needless to say, they got drunk quickly. Each of the boys vowed never to do it again, but then the next opportunity presented itself. 

It’s common knowledge in the U.S. that cigarettes are bad for you; according to the University of Washington, children are 2 times as likely to pick up smoking if they have a parent who smokes. There is a similarity in alcohol abusers according to a study done by the University of Utah. “Male children of male alcoholics are 90 percent more likely to become alcoholics as adults. Even if the babies of alcoholic parents are adopted into homes where there is no drinking at all, the babies have the same risk of becoming alcoholics in their own adult lives than if they had remained with their original parents.” Jonathan’s father and grandfathers on both his mother and father’s side are alcoholics, which is why his mother decided to move to Virginia with Jonathan when he was 4. So he was not only predisposed to alcoholism, he also saw it firsthand during some of the most important years in life, his childhood.  

I next asked, what is an alcoholic, what does one look like? And how has that definition changed for you over time? He responded with the idea that it’s a person who drinks in excess amounts to the point they feel like they physically need it. They also can’t go to a bar and have just 1 or 2 beers and walk away after. They need 4, 5, 6, and more. His original definition that came prior to rehab was that an alcoholic had to be hammered constantly. Interesting how the definition changed after he came to terms with his reality. I wish I had asked him to expound on that a bit and ask whether or not his dad was that type of alcoholic. Defining alcoholism led us into talking about the different types of alcoholics. 

He stated that there are many types of alcoholics such as: the functioning alcoholic, people who have gone so far that they can’t function without it, the stereotypical shaking bum that we see on the street, and rich alcoholics who go to work everyday and drink because work affects them so much mentally and physically but the drinking doesn’t seem to be an issue to them. Then we got to his first experience in rehab, which happened just a few years ago at the age of 29. 

He had been living at home with his mother and stepfather when they all got in a huge argument about his drinking. He’d go to bars and come home drunk; his mother hated it, so much so that she told him to move out. When he did, he moved in with an older woman whom he of course met at a bar. She was also an alcoholic, so she easily started using Jonathan; he paid the bills, bought the booze, and then he finally realized that he was being used, so he moved out and rented a room from someone else. Drinking got worse, because it got easier to do it with no one paying attention to it. “I’m fine,” he said to himself often, until he woke up that one morning with the delirium tremens from not drinking. He then admitted himself into a rehab facility in Southern California. His thought was, if he had to go through rehab, it may as well be somewhere pretty. After rehab he went to a sober living facility, quickly followed by moving out before he was truly ready. One evening he decided to go to a bar with the intention of watching a football game and having a couple of beers. A couple of beers quickly turned into multiple drinks, drunk dialing friends, drunk driving to Malibu to see a friend from rehab, drinking with her, then her kicking him out for being too intoxicated… followed by the DUI. The officer had gotten a call, pulled him over, told him to take a breathalyzer test after he failed the sobriety test, and he blew a .18. The legal limit in California is 0.08. 

“Strip down completely naked, bend over and spread your butt cheeks and cough to make sure you’re not concealing anything; — and that’s really degrading,” said Jonathan. Because he didn’t have a California state license he had to stay in jail for 3 days while they processed his paperwork. He stated that he felt like his life was over at that point; his relationship with his mother had gone to hell, he had lost most of his friends, owed the state thousands of dollars, and of course had to learn how to live life as a sober recovering alcoholic. 

Every alcoholic thinks, “It won’t happen to me; I’ll never get a DUI; I can drive home just fine.” But no one is the exception to the rule. He stated at the end of the interview, “If you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid. You’re not the only one. Reach out. There’s a million other people out there just like us and there are people out there willing to help, so don’t be afraid.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, visit for resources in Ventura County. 


  • Alcoholics Anonymous. (2014). Alcoholics Anonymous: Big book reference edition for addiction treatment. 

  • Editorial Staff. (2020, July 2). Children of Alcoholics. American Addiction Centers.

  • Schwarz, J. S. (2015, September 28). Children whose parents smoked are twice as likely to begin smoking between ages 13 and 21 as offspring of nonsmokers. UW News.