"Oh yes, there are the angry explosions. Someone or something sets me off, always someone very close to me, and I just fly off. I often break things—it's usually a watch or a clock or my glasses. I don't hit people, but I scream and yell. It scares the hell out of everybody. Then I feel awful and try to apologize."
Dr. Smith never gave much of a reaction, neither a smile nor a frown, just his undivided attention, eyes occasionally tightening. When he was done with his questions, he took a long moment to scan the form on his clipboard and looked sharply at me. "I can't believe you're not in therapy. First off, you don't have a drinking problem. It's much worse: you're a class-A alcoholic. You've got every symptom of a really serious drinker—uncontrolled emotions, frequent blackouts, drinking only to get drunk, periods of proud abstinence before another fall."
I was dumbfounded. I tried to keep the inner trembling from showing. "It's really that serious?"
"So serious that I'm going to tell you what you have to do. You need to go to a rehabilitation center. I mean right now. You must stay there for a month, not just to dry out and begin to get healthy, but also to get a grip on your life. And then you are going to have to join an AA program to stay straight."
I rubbed my forehead in disbelief. "But I'm running a major institution. I've got a board meeting in two weeks. We're barely balancing the budget. Then I've got to go to Hong Kong, where we're opening a new center that I've been working on for years. I can't just take off for a month. What could I possibly say to the trustees?"
Smith stood up and looked down with a gentle firmness that tended to close options. "You can pretend it's just a little problem and continue for a while. But what you have is deadly. It will surely kill you, probably sooner than you think. It's also devastating to others—maybe you'll avoid killing someone with an automobile, but you're doing terrible psychological damage to those around you. You're not alone, you know. There are lots of so-called successful people who are classic alcoholics and no one really knows. Most of them don't have the guts to deal with their disease."
After Dr. Smith waited for it to settle in, he made it concrete. "I can make a call right now to a good friend, former alcoholic himself, now runs the famous Edgehill Center in Newport, Rhode Island. Maybe he can make room for you. What do you say?" I closed my eyes, trembling inside as I pondered the consequences, then looked back at Dr. Smith, who hadn't moved an inch. "Okay"—I sighed—"make the call." Twenty minutes later, he called me back into the office. "It's all arranged. You are to arrive tonight before midnight."
I nodded with resignation. "One more thing," Dr. Smith added. "I want to see you when you get back. Not just for the alcoholism. You're a rather rare bird psychologically, you know. You're a male hysteric. You need treatment."
My mind was spinning as I drove back home. Had I done the right thing? Can I get out of it? No, I'd made the decision, now let's be organized. Got to call my office and my board chairman. No alternative but to be honest. What the hell is a male hysteric anyway? Oh damn, why me, why am I so bad?