Alcoholism is both a psychiatric and medical disease but remains widely misunderstood by those not personally affected
Moving .6 of a mile away for Roger Grant proved more difficult than for most. Grant, who has lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky for 17 years, transported all of his belongings on bicycle, pedalling up and down the hilly half-mile, hauling Kroger bags filled with Taylor Swift posters and other knick knacks he has collected from the streets over the years. Grant was being kicked out of the only house he had lived in since living in his Halfway House, where he was court-ordered to reside in 1999, and conveniently found a three-room apartment only a few blocks away.
But now he lives alone. Being 63 years old, having lived a previous life with a wife and daughter, having been a trucker and having seen the states through a windshield, and now seeing his Hello Kitty bicycle with pink streamers, he is not the man he once was. He wears yoga pants with purple cheetah print most days, matched with a shirt that reads “Pimp.” Grant prefers Pimp to Roger or even Mr. Grant, “even the Sheriff’s Department callin’ me that now,” he said. Roger Grant gets printed on his jail and hospital bracelets, but the whole town knows him as Pimp.
Before Bowling Green had Pimp, Liberty, Kentucky had Roger Grant. Pimp reminisces of Casey County, “I always lookin’ for tags from Casey County, but ain’t no one come through here too much.” Pimp lived there his whole life prior to the halfway house, and drinking was a problem 40 years ago, too. “I found a half pint and downed that at 13 and man I was drunk… I just got hooked on it.” Pimp has been sent to prisons and addiction centers in Hopkinsville, Greensburg, Columbia, Prestonsburg and finally to his halfway house, a place where people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities can be reintegrated into society together, in Bowling Green.
There are four addicts’ halfway houses in Warren County, and only one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting place, the 13th Street Clubhouse, to address any alcohol addictions that could belong to any of the 220,000 county residents. The 13th Street Clubhouse serves as a meeting place for everyone affected by alcoholism, from children to those who have been sober for decades. One of the long time members is Sharron Haynes, who has remained sober for 21 years with help from the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Haynes has worked with Pimp, unsuccessfully, but many others who have been able to retain their sobriety through the 13th Street Clubhouse also. Haynes reflects on how difficult starting and maintaining a resistance against the addiction is, “A few months before I got sober I was looking in my mirror in the bathroom and I said to myself what would I be like if I didn’t drink and smoke cigarettes. What would I be like?” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to make a week, but I knew there was help when I got here.”
The 13th Street Clubhouse has multiple meetings a day for alcoholics, but also meetings for families of alcoholics, and even specific meetings for spouses, and children of alcoholics of different age groups. Children are a main focus for a lot of people who understand alcoholism because of how easy the disease can be passed to those who watch their parents and imitate the same actions. Pimp hasn’t seen his daughter in four or five years, “She called me up over near Christmas and all she says is ‘I’m just makin sure daddy’s alive’ and she hung up. And man that hurt me,” he said.
Haynes said she turned to drinking because her father was an alcoholic, as much as her grandfather was, on down to her own son. “There was a tear in his eyes, a tear in his voice, and I really felt bad about how I treated him. It’s not as bad as some people do but still. Verbally, you can hurt more, verbally, I never hit him or nothin,” she said, “And I never thought a thing about it being a role model for him. Never thought a thing about that.”
Pimp and his ex-wife filed for divorce before leaving for the halfway house. “It got to being physical and I told her we gotta leave before this gets too bad. We don’t need no relationship like that,” he said. He also hasn’t been able to leave Bowling Green since moving here for the halfway house, primarily because he can’t get a license. “I wish I could still drive. Here I am, 63 in Bowling Green, and I can’t go nowhere,” he said. He talks about having tried to bike his way to Liberty, Kentucky, where his daughter and grandson live, but via the Cumberland Parkway, Liberty is 113 miles from Bowling Green, and doesn’t allow bicycles, and would take too long.
Haynes says Pimp won’t commit himself to sobriety and shows up to AA meetings drunk. “You just have to take it 24 hours at a time,” she said. Pimp rarely goes 24 hours without alcohol, biking from bar to bar most nights.
But most bars recognize him and don’t even let him in, but he is recognized at the Jr Food Store that he bought his beer from one February Friday night, “Have a good night, Pimp,” the cashier said. Pimp spends the money he gets from strangers who think he is homeless, which happens quite often, on beer. This particular night, Pimp bought a six pack of beer and had plans to go out and see his friend Spoons afterwards, but drank to the point of blacking out in his apartment.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the intense binge drinking that results in a blackout interferes with the ability to form long-term memories, damage increasing with the amount of alcohol consumed. “It seems like time is flying, I couldn’t sleep last night,” Pimp said after another night of drinking. Pimp says he doesn’t dream anymore. Most nights he sleeps on the heat vent on the floor of his apartment, for a few hours at a time. He craves alcohol day in and day out, overshadowing all other pursuits, from remaining sober long enough to bike to Liberty, from not saving up the money he collects to find a ride to his remaining family, from not holding up to the promises he makes to his 13th Street Clubhouse family, from getting a job, from biking downtown to see friends, from living beyond blackout to blackout.