Alcohol problems too common in society



Column by Austin Hill

Actor Rip Torn used to be the scariest guy in the world to me growing up.

I would sit on my Lone Ranger rocking horse and watch “Beast Master” when I was a kid. With his weird hair, gravely voice, and pirate style earrings dangling around, he looked like what I imagined the devil would resemble.

As an adult I find him far less scary, but still as equally disturbing at times. There are moments where I find Torn to be downright hilarious and endearing — this past weekend was not one of those moments.

Torn left a watering hole Friday night and headed in the wrong direction from his home. Torn was apparently suffering from a blackout, a name given to one’s condition when they have had so much to drink they are essentially sleep walking.

Torn found himself knocking on a strange window believing he was home.

Actually, he was at a local bank branch, but in his impaired state he believed he had been locked out of his house. He broke the window and let himself inside. When officers arrived, they found Torn walking around the teller area with a handgun, talking incoherently.

He was arrested and charged with carrying a firearm without a permit, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal trespassing and third-degree criminal mischief and now faces possible felony jail time.

This is not Torn’s first offense. He was found not guilty of drunken driving in 2004 despite being taped belligerently drunk fighting his arresting officers during his intake at the jail. In 2007 and 2008 he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Torn was not driving this time, but the issue remains that he is an alcoholic. Many see Torn as a rock star who got so loaded he walked into a bank with a revolver while others laugh at the guy and think he couldn’t handle his booze.

Truth be told, this kind of thing happens all the time, give or take the severity of the bank being involved.

A few years ago in Masterson Station, a woman shot an intruder who was crawling through her window. It was her intoxicated neighbor who thought he was locked out of the wrong house.

I have heard a hundred stories of people urinating in closets or someone who wakes up to find their roommate at the foot of their bed thinking they are in the bathroom.

When someone says, “Whoa, I got wrecked last night, but I don’t remember much,” and then has a hundred things rattled off that they spend the next week apologizing for, that’s a blackout.

It is nothing anyone plans for and much like Rip Torn and anyone else who has ever been arrested for an alcohol related crime, myself included, everyone thought they could control their drinking or could predict what would happen.

When you factor all the variables, how much food someone has had, strength of the drinks, how much sleep are you on, etc; there are too many things that even when monitored create a different response to alcohol.

Torn could have learned years ago how bad his problem was, but as his addiction was in the drivers seat, he also was encouraged by his lack of punishment and  another instance of celebrity status heightened by alcohol.

It is no different than Henry “James Brown” Earle. The guy gets over 1,000 alcohol intoxication citations and we want to reward him by trying to put him on television in admiration. We wonder why rehab doesn’t work for him.

Torn turns 79 this weekend and will be spending his birthday in rehab wondering if he will do prison time for this accident.

No matter that he was walking instead of driving, no matter that he only had a few, he handed the keys to his life over to his addiction. I wonder if I can guess what wish he makes when he blows out his candles.