Those ringing holiday bells do more good than you think |

Those ringing holiday bells do more good than you think

Special to the DailyAndrew Gmerek

My father’s favorite Christmas tune was always “Silver Bells.” You know the song that goes, “Silver bells, silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city.”My Dad loved this song. He loved being in and working in the city before the holiday, because, he said, it was the most exciting place to be.And because of his love I also developed a fondness for the song and, in turn, the actual ringing bells in this season of good will. Every time I walk out of a store and hear the bells and see the bucket, it reminds me of Christmas when I was a kid. But in recent years, I’ve discovered a different reason to smile at the sound of the bells. I’ve seen firsthand the good those bells do.I have a friend who, after years of living the Summit County party lifestyle, finally descended into trouble. When most people are growing older and moving away from alcohol, this friend of mine seemed to get stuck in that college drinking rut until, unfortunately, the drinking got the better of him.

When I finally ran across him after he dropped out of sight for about a year, he was drinking a gallon of vodka a day. He’d basically stopped eating anything even remotely nutritious and his hands shook so hard buttoning his shirt was next to impossible. It was only his high alcohol tolerance that probably kept him somewhat functioning instead of passed out in a snowbank somewhere.Being a good friend I did the hardest thing a person can do to one in such a state. I started working on finding him help.Unfortunately, finding a way out was not as easy as I thought it would be. Since I’m a solutions kind of guy, when I have a problem I go straight for the solution. I don’t want philosophy, and I don’t want endless discussion. I just want it fixed.Little did I know, however, that when it comes to alcoholism, any kind of straight fix is hard to uncover. I made dozens of calls on his behalf and mostly what I received was trite advice like, “Keep his hands busy,” and “He has to help himself. You can’t do it for him.” (I wouldn’t have been making the effort if my friend weren’t asking for help.)

The other thing I was told was that I could send him to a 30-day celebrity treatment center that only costs $1,000 a day.Yeah. Right.This guy had been drinking heavily for a year, lost his job and was about as close to living on the street as you can get without setting up a sleeping bag on someone’s doorstep. So how was he going to afford “star treatment?”With this kind of runaround, I personally thought that if I were an alcoholic looking for a lifeline, I would have ended up throwing up my hands before grabbing the nearest bottle.Finally, my dear, sweet, intelligent wife hit on a plan. She said that if you’re looking for help for someone in that much trouble, you should talk to the people used to working with those with hard-core drinking problems. So she called a rescue mission in Denver and finally we had a plan of action.My friend eventually ended up in Denver where he spent four days drying out in a hospital drunk tank. From there he found a realistic, six-month alcohol treatment program where he could work off his bill by helping others.

The Salvation Army runs the program.Yep, those same folks that are standing outside in the cold, wet, ice and snow every holiday season ringing those bells.My friend eventually graduated from the program, has been sober for several years and is back on his feet and doing great.Of course he wanted to change, but without the Salvation Army he probably never would have broken out of his pattern of behavior.So for me, when I hear those bells ringing at Christmas time I no longer think of just the song. I think of my friend and how those bells and the coins and bills in the bucket helped him to survive and thrive, and I say keep them ringing.

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