InDepthNH.org launched Breaking the Chains for alcoholics and drug addicts to anonymously share how they found recovery.
There Comes A Time…
I knew from the first drink I took, that it hit me differently than anyone else. As the years went by, I thought I would never stop.
I began drinking at 14, with a 4 back of Bud 16 ouncers bought from an older cousin of a girl I liked. Warm, I drank it all, lapsing into the foggy dizziness which numbed the pain of dad’s leaving. After that, I appropriated a half gallon of vodka, inartfully hidden under the kitchen sink by my mother, who was not dealing well with her abandonment.
My good buddy Teddy and I took the vodka, a glass, and a jar of Tang to a little shack in the woods, where Teddy mixed the Tang into the vodka as I tasted the mixture. It wasn’t until much later that I realized Tang merely flavors what it’s mixed with, it doesn’t dilute it. I’d drunk most of a glassful of pure Vodka and punched out the shack’s plate glass window. Why, I don’t know. I have the scar on the back of my hand to this day.
The next year brought a very cute blonde woman into my life, who had an affection for methamphetamines and hashish, more so than me, although I gave it the old high school try to keep up with her. Then weed, more beer, and during a larcenous after-hours trip to a country club bar, a bottle of Justerini and Brooks scotch. I knew right then I’d be a lawyer.
One can drink and drug and still function. I floundered through high school, bright enough to pass without doing any appreciable work, even succeeding as a track star, then enlisted. The week I enlisted, the Air Force needed firefighters. During tech school, the powers that be allowed 3.2 beer for the boys, and I proved that despite the sheer volume required, one could nonetheless get a buzz.
In the military we all drank. But I was the one who always got sloppy drunk. Transferred to England, I became an American star on a Brit pub dart team, the only sport one can play well drunk. The toughest thing I did there was driving drunk on the wrong side of the road.
Me and my drinking problem returned to the States and set up shop at Loring AFB in Maine. Twenty-four hours on duty, 24 off. I was the life of the party, unless your wife was alone. Then I would make a lasting impression.
Finally out, miraculously with an honorable discharge, I went to work as a telephone lineman. After one hot July overtime day, without having taken a lunch, I was invited to a friend’s house where the appetizer was Tequila. Twelve shots, a beer and a pizza and on the way home there were four double yellow lines. No problem! I covered one eye. Now only two!
That same month after a sweltering morning putting in a line along a dirt road which followed a cool brook, the foreman told me to take the pickup and go into town for some beer. I brought back two cases for the three of us, and we kicked off our stinky boots and cooled our feet in the stream. Didn’t get another thing done that day. I didn’t have any trouble driving that 5-ton line truck back to the shop until it was time to back it into the garage, when I missed the door and ran it right into the support beam.
Climbing tall poles was interesting for awhile, but for me there was more. I went to college nights, surprised myself with good grades, and the next year quit and went full time. Joined a fraternity, same one as my father. Learned the truth of Animal House. Kept up with the best of them. Got a summer job – can you guess? – bartending. Met a waitress, and on the strength of a six-week acquaintance, decided to marry her. Bartended in three bars.
Learned how to begin my own drinking just before closing. You know the song? That smiling Mona Lisa, loading up your Visa, then took the bartender home. That was me. My wife was the married one.
Yes, I succeeded. Graduated Dean’s List, decided that wasn’t enough education, went to law school. Drove an hour south to Boston every day. First year: close to the top of the class. Graduation: near the bottom. Well, you see, if you leave Boston there’s a package store in Stoneham, not far from 93. And I’d buy two quarts of beer for the drive.
I stopped drinking to take the bar exam and passed, and me and all my insecurities and my drinking problem got a job an hour north, where I learned that if you bought two six packs on the way home, drank one, then walked into the house holding the opened second with a beer in your hand, you could pass it off as your first six pack.
Dad died that year. He had a stroke on his 61st birthday, lasted two weeks. Among the causes of death: cirrhosis. Count em up and it comes out this way. Grandfather, superintendent of schools, dead at 54. Great grandfather dead at 52. Uncle dead at 46. I’m now 33.
Marital problems. Solution: counseling. Counseled; didn’t work. Someone suggested maybe I ought to look at my drinking. I looked at it. It looked, well, if not fine then manageable. I managed to cut down. But when I drank, I drank it all. At the end, dad had been putting away a bottle of whiskey a night. I swore I’d never be like that, and I never was. I drank a bottle of rum a night. I’d buy it, then buy a bottle of orange juice, and alternate sips on the way home.
Got elected to local boards. Drank after meetings. Got a job with the State. Drank on the way home. Put that woman through hell. She finally had enough. I could hear it in her voice, this time I really had to do something about it, or her and the two kids were gone. So I did.
Who doesn’t know about AA? Professionally, I knew all about it. But go to a meeting?
It was December. Dark afternoon, after work, I went to my first meeting. Church basement. Smell of coffee. Store bought cookies. And friendly smiles. We read from a big book, some story about someone who couldn’t stop drinking.
From December to March I went, and when I left each meeting I drank. In March, I had a business trip to Maine. Alone, I bought two six packs. Drank most of one, and the next day on the drive home pulled over three times and puked. That was March 8, 2000.
I didn’t trust myself to take the first chip, the “white chip,” for 24 hours sober. And I was shaky when I took the 30-day chip, but I earned it. I found that although I didn’t always want to go to a meeting, every time I did, I got stronger.
That first year, I noticed that I was growing emotionally. It was like I’d matured 25 years in one. People throw the word miracle around, sometimes too often, but things happened to me that I can’t explain.
If you have a day or so, I’d be happy to go over it with you.
This story has gone on too long. There is much to add, as life has tumbled me through it sober for over 17 years now.
But none of the tumbling has caused me to drink. I have my sobriety, my sanity, my strength, and my success now all because of the people, the friends I have, in AA.
Breaking the Chains provides information about where to seek help whether your drug is alcohol or heroin. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell your story. We honor the tradition of anonymity.
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