On December 13, 1994, Terry McGovern was found frozen to death in a snowdrift in Madison, Wisconsin. She was forty-five years old. Madison was covered with seven inches of snow that night, and the temperature was well below freezing. Intoxicated with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, Terry had left a bar, then simply stumbled and fell.

Terry had been an alcoholic for most of her adult life. As a pretty, fun-loving youngster growing up in affluent Montgomery County, Maryland, she got in with a fast crowd and started drinking occasionally at age thirteen. Throughout her teens she was the life of the party, and her drinking behavior was considered fairly typical for the times and culture, when most homes in the neighborhood had their own bars, and cocktail parties were regular social events. In the permissive 1960’s, Terry experimented with drugs—LSD, marijuana, amphetamines—but this behavior also was not seen as particularly unusual. Between the ages of twenty and thirty, however, Terry was getting drunk much too often by anyone’s standards, and every day (by her own account) she was consuming between five and six beers, or three to four shots of liquor, or a bottle of wine. The rest of her life was a constant struggle, as it is for alcoholics everywhere. Her parents financed a succession of rehabilitation programs, many of which seemed to take hold, but eventually Terry always started drinking again.

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