At 6:45 each morning, David leaves his fashionable Northeast townhouse and jogs through Capitol Hill. By 8:30 he has showered, dressed, slipped his paperwork into an Italian leather briefcase and is off to the Metro and his job as a high-level government statistician.
His nights are a whirl of movies, concerts and dinners out. Except for Tuesdays. On Tuesday, he attends his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
David is black, which, according to D.C.'s Office of Health Planning and Development (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Planning Division), puts him among 80 percent of the District's alcoholics.
Alcoholics Anonymous is among the best known of the treatment programs, but, AA spokesmen and others say, blacks are reluctant to join AA because they believe it is a white-oriented organization. AA has a wide variety of groups throughout the city, however, and they are made up of people from different racial backgrounds and income levels. Information is available from AA's General Information Headquarters, 4530 Connecticut Ave. NW, by phoning 244-2274.
The Washington Area Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WACADA), a volunteer agency that works to reduce alcoholism and other drug-abuse problems, operates an information and referral service and a 24-hour hotline (783-1300) for people with alcohol or other drug-related problems.
The D.C. Women's Task Force on Alcoholism (546-1631) identifies special programs for women. It also has information about the treatment program at St. Elizabeths Hospital, and a program for teen-aged girls, called Choices, which uses preventive education to curb alcohol abuse among young women.
Mary I. Kidd, executive director of WACADA, says low-income D.C. residents have a number of alcoholism treatment programs available to them. "The problem is getting people to take part, to demonstrate an interest," she says. "People are still ashamed of alcoholism. We haven't been able to educate them that it's a physical problem which sometimes requires long-term help and counseling.
"There is a tendency to think, 'Oh, if I go one day without a drink, then I've solved the problem.' What they forget to add is -- 'until tomorrow.'"
Kidd sees the available detoxification programs as "one good way to take care of the initial problem," but they aren't long-term solutions, she says.
Another flaw in the treatment process, she says "is that many people have not been trained to deal with blacks."
marvin Dawkins, a Johns Hopkins University professor who has done extensive study of alcohol and alcoholism in D.C., agrees.
"Blacks," he says, "are less likely to accept heavy drinking as problematic and this is what interferes with getting them into treatment.
Part of the problem is rooted in black culture, Dawkins says, adding that it may be hard for many black people to participate in any type of treatment program that requires them to admit they are alcoholics.
"The upwardly mobile black has a particular dilemma," Dawkins said. "He or she is probably under trememdous pressure, and drinking has traditionally been one way of dealing with that. But when these same people realize that they have a problem, they are terrfied at the thought of being identified with a public alcoholism treatment program."
Howard University's Frederick Harper, whose studies have examined the problem in depth, says treatment programs available to alcoholics in the District "are too fragmented because treatment is a political issue -- every social welfare program is tied to something else.
"There are, of course, the detox centers; there's D.C. General, the Veteran's Hospital -- but I haven't seen any strong effort to inform people that heavy drinking -- alcoholism -- is an illness which can and should be treated."
David accepted treatment much more easily than acknowledging that he was an alcoholic. He turned to AA 18 months ago, after his fiancee told him she would end their relationship if he did not seek help.
"I knew that I drank too much, but the word 'alcoholic' never came to mind.I just kept telling myself that I could stop whenever I felt like it. m
Trouble was, I never felt like it. That is, not until Niece gave me back my ring and said she was moving out."
Having grown up in a middle-class environment in Albany, N.Y., where drinking "was always done with moderation," he did not start drinking heavily until he began graduate work in math at New York University.
"It was tough, you know? So I'd go out with the guys for a drink and just relax and forget it all. After the first year, I started going out alone, and then it got so I didn't even bother to go out . . . but since I was never falling-down drunk, I never thought of myself as an alcoholic."
He now plans to marry next Christmas.
"Look," he says, taking a small bottle of Perrier from his refrigerator, "these experts can theorize all they want. As a recovering alcoholic, I can tell you that it all has to come from within.
"They can dry you out, tell you that you're killing yourself, point out the evils of drink . . . whatever. But nothing helps until you wake up one day and know that you're sick and you've got to help yourself."