What do you say when someone asks “am I an alcoholic?”
ROESCH (con’t): So Sam is recanting this wild story super-fast and then suddenly she stops, quite abruptly, and says, “Does that make me an alcoholic??” Which is not an easy question to answer at any time! Hence my eloquent response, “Ummm…”
The truth is, the only person who can decide that I’m an alcoholic is me, the only person who can decide that she’s an alcoholic is her. We get to make that determination for ourselves. There may be alcohol or drug related consequences going on in someone’s life, but that’s not what makes someone an alcoholic. What makes someone an alcoholic is when they choose to say the words, “I’m an alcoholic.”
Sam Jay opens up about her own drinking and drug use
SUNTRA: Where did you shoot the interview?
JOHN ROESCH: The spot they chose to shoot was Larry’s Pub. It was especially interesting because 2 years prior I was working on an intervention for a guy who was really struggling with alcohol, and I literally staked out that pub. My job was to find this guy and convince him to get help. His family said he drinks at Larry’s Pub, a very old-school neighborhood pub.
Larry’s is the kind of “old salt” bar that I grew up in, where I got my “alcohol education” as they say. So I’m sitting at the bar, not drinking, staking out this guy and waiting for him to leave the pub. The guy gets drunk, exits the bar, and promptly breaks his collarbone by falling face-first on the sidewalk. An ambulance came and they breathalyzed him, and his BAC [Blood Alcohol Content] was .4 something – like 5x over the legal limit. We managed to get him into detox and he’s ok, thank God. The doctors said that at that blood alcohol level, he’s lucky to be alive.
NYC alcohol intervention recalled in PAUSE interview
Then I have this second connection to Larry’s Pub, which comes from my next door neighbor in Astoria [Queens]. My neighbor is an actor named Sam. He starred in this mini-series on EPIX called Bridge and Tunnel, which was shot in Larry’s Pub.
Sam’s interviewing me in this very familiar pub, where I have these personal memories. And I’m thinking, “for a guy who doesn’t drink anymore, I sure do have a lot of memories in this bar!”
PAUSE with Sam Jay interview about addiction and recovery
SUNTRA: Did she ask you any questions that stumped you? Or any off-the-wall funny questions that threw you for a loop?
JOHN ROESCH: Sam didn’t ask any off the wall questions – but her introspective questions showed me she’s really thought about this topic [addiction] a lot. She asked how to tell if she has a drinking problem or addictive tendencies. That’s always such a hard question because it’s different for everyone.
She did bring up an interesting subject, where she admitted, on-camera, to buying way too many pairs of sneakers when she’s been drinking too heavily. Then trying to figure out how to get them into the house without her wife noticing. Drunk shopping is actually a really common “enough is enough” moment. People who’ve spent thousands of dollars in blackouts. Waking up with no rent money, that kind of thing.
“My nephew says he’s addicted to jerking off. Is that a thing?” Sam asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said. “Being addicted to masturbation is a really common issue that affects a lot of people.”
“It sounds like you’re speaking from experience,” she said. It was a pretty funny moment. She’s a really funny, authentic person.
Can a recovery coach help me stop drunk shopping?
JOHN ROESCH: I did tell her a bit. In my job, I often have to share the experiences that make me qualified to help people with addiction. I shared a bit about my own personal struggles with addiction, alcohol, and drugs. How I would pick up and use with anyone who was willing. The connection was there, another person to drink and get high with. That’s what I needed, was someone to share the misery with.
SUNTRA: Did you tell your story? Should we expect to see a show called the Sober Sommelier on HBO sometime next year?
Eventually my addiction got so big and eclipsing, that I just ended up using in solitude. That’s the big thing. The solitude. That’s another issue that comes up over and over in Recovery Coaching. Being alone, miserable, not knowing what to do or how to get help. That’s probably the most important thing, having a support system, not doing it alone. That’s why we’re here, so nobody has to do it alone.
— John Roesch and Suntra Modern Recovery
See the full John Roesch interview with PAUSE with Sam Jay on HBO Max airing in June 2022.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and needs help, contact Suntra Modern Recovery and schedule a free consultation. Visit our homepage or call toll free: 866-218-0059