For what it’s worth, I had a conversation with a very kind and intelligent young woman sitting next to me on the flight to Dallas. She is married, from the look of it in her early 30s, and a mother. She is also a Christian. She struck up a conversation with me after spotting the St. Benedict medal sticker on my laptop.
She mentioned that she grew more serious about her faith after she gained sobriety at age 26. Listening to her talk about her life before sobriety, and after, really impressed me about her maturity, especially her humility.
I told her that I had never become an alcoholic, but that I definitely had a preoccupation with drinking from about age 17 until I moved away from south Louisiana in my mid-20s. It was just part of the culture back then. I was convicted at age 18 of drunk driving, as a college freshman, and after that just walked to the bar to hang with my buddies and get hammered.
This wasn’t just a male thing. It was high school and college women too. The drinking age here in the 1980s was 18, and most people drank. A lot. And we did what teenagers do when they get hammered: had sex, or made fools of ourselves trying.
I asked my seatmate what she thought of the Kavanaugh thing, in light of her drinking experience.
She told me that she supported him. She told me that she behaved with enormous personal recklessness when she was that age, because of her drinking. Today it pains her to think about how she lived, but she believes that she has to own that as part of her recovery. She told me that when it comes to sex, teenagers have bad judgment even when sober. Add heavy drinking to the mix, and bad things are bound to happen.
“I would hate to be judged now for the things I did when I was 17 and drunk,” she said. The experience of hitting bottom, finding sobriety, and growing in the love of her supportive husband, taught her a lot about mercy, she explained.
Her experience has caused her and her husband to rethink how they are going to raise their children to think about alcohol, sex, and social settings. She said, for example, that based on their experience, they don’t want their sons being part of college fraternities — this, because of the heavy drinking and the sex. These were costly lessons to learn, she said, but she added that she’s glad she learned them, and came through to the light.
I offer that for what it’s worth. I mentioned recently in this space that I watched “National Lampoon’s Animal House” with my college freshman son just before we moved him in to the dorm. I hadn’t seen it since I was in college, and boy, was I shocked by a scene in which one of the frat guys gets in bed with a naked drunk girl, who passes out before they have sex. He struggles to figure out whether or not he should have sex with her, even though she’s out cold. This is played for laughs, with a devil sitting on one shoulder, and an angel on the other.
It’s not funny. But in 1978, when the movie came out, that was hilarious. I was in college from 1985-89, and the general cultural sensibility was far more like “Animal House” than it is like today. High school and college kids who got loaded did it mostly to get rid of our inhibitions and have sex. You’d better believe that my memories of drinking culture back then has strongly affected the way I am raising my kids. Things have changed, and changed mostly for the better.
I could have killed somebody driving drunk at age 18. I spent the night in jail, and man, did that ever rock my world. The only thing that set me apart from most of my friends back then was that I got caught, and they didn’t. Maybe that conviction — which was expunged from my record after I completed all the stuff the judge required me to do — should have disqualified me from a judgeship, or the Supreme Court. I don’t think so. One of my good friends from back then is a judge now, and I can tell you that she partied as hard as any of us. I’m sure she’s a great judge. I would not be surprised if her experiences from those days taught her something about justice, mercy, and how to find the balance between them.
I’m not saying this to dismiss the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. My point is that it’s not as cut-and-dried as many people seem to think. A recovering alcoholic young woman a generation behind me is more unconflicted in her support of him than I am, because she was a 17-year-old drunk who changed, and she sees no evidence that Brett Kavanaugh, even if he is guilty of that teenage sexual assault, went on to do it again.
I just want to add that to the mix. Strong takes welcome, but be civil.