Let me start my post about Joe Brennan's DUI by telling you about myself. I'm a drunk. I just can't handle booze, no matter how small the amount. I refused to recognize that until I destroyed my legal career, my marriage and let down many people who were counting on me. It nearly killed me.
I'm one of the lucky ones.
My uncle Artie, who like me was a title searcher, was another drunk. It killed him when he was still a young man, with three children to support.
One of those kids, my cousin Eddie, never recovered. Like his Dad, he began to drink, too.
Eddie was smart, with a gift for taking things apart and putting them back together again. He found work in the HVAC biz, but lost job after job because of booze or because his DUIs prevented him from driving vans. Who's going to take a chance on a 50 year-old guy with multiple DUIs? Those who did take him on took advantage of him.
It cost him meaningful relationships. He never married. To my knowledge, he never even dated much. He was a loner.
Booze finally killed him. After trying to quit, and succeeding for nearly a year, he was picked up for another DUI. He never told a soul. Not his mother. Nobody.
He just hung himself.
At his viewing last November, the two pictures his mom selected were of his cat.
It was a small crowd.
The cat never showed.
Alcoholism runs deep in our family. It afflicted my dad, grandfather, two uncles, and an even aunt who happened to be a nun. But they were not the only ones who suffered. Every person around them suffered, too.
Including me. I may have stopped drinking, but I'm still emotionally scarred, and am very slow to form deep relationships with most other people. I'm moody, too.
All of this gives me a quirky outlook and helps in the writing department, but it makes me a difficult person.
Ask my friends.
Both of them.
After going to daily AA meetings for a year, and watching what goes on at the courthouse, I know my family is by no means unusual. Alcoholism hits nearly every one of us, rich or poor, black or white, although those of us who are Irish tend to be more prevalent.
In fact, when I read that State Rep. Joe Brennan had a 0.16 BAC, my first reaction was, "Is that all? Irishmen are born with a 0.16 BAC."
Joe Brennan is a State Representative, but he's also a human being. He's subject to the same shortcomings that afflict us all. Fortunately, a police officer stopped him before he got involved in an accident. If he hurt anyone, I know he'd never forgive himself.
I've known Joe for many years. You'll be hard put to find a more pleasant or quick-witted person. He's in public office because he really cares about people, especially those with nothing. I know he adores his kids, too, and that dreary drive to and from Harrisburg on a near daily basis, has to be a grind.
But Joe has battled alcohol all his life. He's mostly been successful. Better than my dad, grandfather, aunt or cousin.
He has a problem. There's no bribery or public corruption. He fortunately did not hurt anyone. He is by no means the only person who has ever had a DUI or who is plagued by alcohol. He feels terrible about what has happened.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Here's his statement, in its entirety.
"When the House finished its business Wednesday afternoon, I returned to Bethlehem. I consumed alcohol and then drove in my personal vehicle to my district office after 8 p.m. intending to answer some constituent letters and e-mails. I was approached by Bethlehem police outside my office on suspicion of DUI and consented to both a breath test and blood test which confirmed a BAC over the legal limit.
"I take full responsibility for this serious mistake and offer my heartfelt apology to my family and my constituents. I clearly should not have been driving in that condition. It was a serious error in judgment. I am grateful that nobody was injured as a result of the dangerous decision I made.
"I’ve had a long and personal struggle with alcohol throughout my adult life. I am working toward recovery and will do my best to prevent another mistake like this.
"I deeply regret yesterday’s incident and will fully cooperate as the matter is handled through the normal procedures of the legal system.
"At my request, I am on leave from today’s House session but continue working on budget and education-related issues and to meet my responsibilities as an elected official to people across Pennsylvania."