Joe McCall, a senior lecturer in the history department, shared his personal story about drug and alcohol abuse at a meeting with Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity.
McCall said he was a prominent high school student in New York, planning to study pre-med at Yale as a student athlete.
“My life was as good as it could be,” McCall said during a meeting Feb. 18 at the Arboretum.
Things took a turn when, during his senior year, his mother committed suicide, dying of an alcohol and prescription drug overdose. McCall later discovered his father was also an alcoholic.
McCall said he started drinking alcohol as a young teenager and later used other drugs. It devastated his life.
He withdrew from boarding school and was turned down by Yale, but he managed to enroll at Emory University at the age of 17 without a high school diploma, just months after his mother’s death.
He withdrew from Emory after two quarters and did not finish his education until many years later.
He also stressed how being an alcoholic can control a person without that person noticing.
“Alcohol affects your brain and your short-term memory,” McCall said. “It will also help you to come up with reasons to rationalize any behavior.”
According to McCall, out of 10 people drinking, there normally will be one or two who will likely misuse it or become alcoholics.
“It’s not the people who once in a while go party, drink and act foolishly that worries me the most, but those who drink a lot without seeming to be affected by alcohol at all,” McCall said.
McCall said alcohol tolerance is something that builds over time. Alcoholics generally can drink more and more alcohol before becoming drunk.
It is usually in the later stages that their tolerance begins to decrease and consequences begin to build up. As with any disease, the sooner alcoholism is treated, the more likely one can recover.
“It is important for all of us to try and help those with a drinking problem and direct them to where they can get help,” McCall said.
McCall said he hoped that through meetings like this, he could give students, who are more vulnerable because of drinking parties and peer pressure, more knowledge about alcoholism and addiction.
He also hoped they can use the knowledge to help someone they know who is struggling with this problem.
“If I have any carry-aways from this meeting, it would be that one of the students would have the heart, soul and mind to tell a friend they are concerned about their drinking and that they are willing to help by going to seek help together,” McCall said.
According to McCall, Troy University is trying to create a healthier environment for students by increasing its alcohol and drug prevention programming on campus in the coming months.
Robert Furlong, a senior history major from Prattville and the president of TKE, said the fraternity tries to invite someone with expertise in the subject to speak every semester so that brothers know the dangers of abusing alcohol.
“From this, I don’t hope brothers would not drink at all, but I do hope that if they would, they would do it responsibly for themselves and for surrounding others,” Furlong said.
Furlong said McCall took the right approach by sharing his life story first so people would know he had been through everything and he can be a person of trust on this sensitive matter.
“We have this information session for new members, especially those who join the fraternity in the first place for the party atmosphere of the Greek system, to make sure that they are properly educated,” Furlong said.
Steven Fowler, a freshman business major from Fort Benning, Georgia, said after the talk, he learned the consequences of alcoholism for himself and also learned how to discern unusual demeanor in others to help them.
“We now know what to be watching out for and what actually is alcoholic,” Fowler said. “And if we do see someone with the problem, we also need to make sure to talk to them.”
An informal Drug and Alcohol Support Group meets in McCartha Hall, Room 200, from 5 to 5:45 p.m. on Thursdays when school is in session.
The group is open to all students, faculty and staff who feel they may have a problem with their own use or that of a family member or friend.
Any students in need of counseling can contact the Troy University Student Counseling Center at (334) 670-3700.
McCall is also willing to share his experiences, in confidence, with concerned members of the Troy community at his office located in room 200-A of McCartha Hall or via email at email@example.com.