I am writing this story to help others understand how brutal and unforgiving the disease of Alcoholism can be. I want people who read my story to evaluate their drinking and use my story to enlighten their knowledge habits of the perils and losses associated with Alcoholism in their family unit. No one forced me to drink or become an Alcoholic. The genes were there from my past. Once I diluted them with alcohol in 1962 the process was started and did not stop until I said “ Enough of this Crap”!
My high school drinking began with two Pabst Blue Ribbon Beers on a country road in Fertile, Minnesota around September of 1962. The feeling was wonderful! My indulging friends and I immediately drove into town to impress the girls that we had become big men and were having a great time. I loved the feeling of medication and also the false delusion that all girls we bragged to were impressed by our slurred speech. Little did we know that many of the girls would have been very happy just to hear us say something kind and polite. Every weekend was a challenge to acquire something to drink and organize parties that were against the law. Our group was usually composed of people who were acting stupid and using a vocabulary composed of insignificant words not found in Webster’s Dictionary. Little did we know, consumed in our stupor, the time wasted drinking and organizing could have been put to use in some other vocation or significant adventure. We tried to drink every weekend if we could master the art of finding someone to buy our beer. We had very little interest in girls or sex as I remember the process and spent our time focused on becoming men who acted like idiots and relished a hangover in lieu of a soft affordable date with the farmer’s daughter.
My college years were composed of joining fraternities who specialized in parties with women and alcohol. My priority was having fun and meeting new people who loved the fun life as much as I did. When I met people who did not focus on the party scene like me I simply passed them by and found replacements in a very short period of time. I majored in Industrial Education and enjoyed the subjects required but have long since forgotten the other subjects which did not tickle my playboy flavor. School work was serious and so were grades. There was a more serious subject not offered in the college catalog: that of getting drunk and getting laid. More drunks, parties, and sexual pleasures were the top priority by me and my buddies which lead to a final graduation party. I am at a loss for words when I think of the good things I could have learned instead of how to acquire liquor and remove all the girls’ bras. I was drinking every weekend now but not using liquor during the week unless my buddies recommended it. Women were a commodity that I had no experience being nice to and the magnitude of learning that passed me by can not measured.
My service in the U.S. Navy was a drinking adventure from day one until my discharge. All social events were arranged and preoccupied with alcohol at the various sponsored clubs. All social events and unsocial events were held at the clubs with liquor flowing fluently. Liquor was always served when the clubs were open: no time schedule. If the clubs were open for breakfast liquor was available with your cheerios and toast. Finding a depressed drinking partner in the military was far too simple. Everyone was trying to escape reality and dream of home with their mom’s home cooking. Love was nonexistent in the military and was replaced with lust and incest. Married men in the Navy were doomed and very often a jealous husband would shoot both lovers in his alcoholic rage. Because of the social focus of the military it was not a good idea to experiment in the private/public sector unless you met someone who wanted to hook up for a good time. The sadness of the military was not using those four years for something significant rather than putting in time processing alcohol with your liver.
I did finish my Master’s degree in the Navy but had a very hard time remaining sober to study and make it to class. I was drinking six days a week when I got out but I do remember walking down the sidewalk to the Long Branch Saloon in Millington, Tennessee one evening and thinking to myself “ This is getting to be a problem”! I latter spoke with some of my enablers and they convinced me that it was very normal to drink in the Navy: what else would you do? All female relationships in the Navy were based on sex, no commitment, and leaving soon. I have had the thought of looking up old buddies from the Navy but they wouldn’t even know me without a beer can in my hand.
My marriage to an Icelandic lady was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life. I was a father of my oldest daughter and a husband all in one swipe. The marriage was blessed with alcohol control also. Our marriage night was accommodated with my wife throwing up on herself and me blown out of my mind at a dance in Crookston, Minnesota. The marriage grew stronger and our love to go out drink and dance set the weekend priorities. We moved often so I could make more money to live on. It seemed every move we made the cash flow decreased and the indebtedness increased. I just kept drinking about three to four nights per week and my wife would drink on weekends with me. If there was no money in the checking account I would bounce a check to get my beer and hide it from my wife. After my youngest daughter was born I got fired from my job in Iowa and for the first time in my life I had to get my act together after the military. We moved to North Dakota and I thought all was well in my pursuit of a big career and beer consumption. I fit in well in North Dakota because everyone out there was a beer drinker. I began to notice things were not well in my marriage and drank a little bit more to make the reality go away. My wife was sick of sleeping next to a drunk and set out to leave and move to Seattle near her mom and dad. We split up and got back together and moved to Portland, Oregon where the marriage finally ended. My ex-wife drank in Seattle and I drank in Portland. I was drinking a little bit every day now and spent my time in a vicious circle between my Apartment, the Wooden Chicken Bar, and Work.
My divorce was final in 1979 and my drinking really got serious when my Dad died from cancer in 1983. My self-esteem was low and I covered it by becoming a workaholic. Beer, Work, Wild Women, and Child Support was my life style. Single and drinking I fit in at every bar in Portland and also in Minneapolis where I was later transferred in 1983. By now I was also questioning my drinking because I had been confronted by many people but not by anyone I loved. Finally in 1984 at a lake cabin near Balm Lake, Minnesota my Mother confronted me and I went off to treatment. I was drinking every day and consuming a twelve pack daily and often more. Sundays were a very lonely day where I blitzed the consumption and suffered the Monday hangover to get on with work. I was all by myself and made the decision to fix my life as I had promised my Mom and youngest daughter. It was time to rid myself of this damn “Devil’s Nectar”!
My appointment at treatment was very blessed and I promised my youngest daughter and my Mother that I would get help. I went to New Beginnings Treatment Center in Waverly, Minnesota where I knew the results would get this “Devil’s Nectar” off my back. I spent two days in an I.C.U. for my blood pressure and began the transformation back into reality. I was checked for all diseases and given blue pills along with vitamin B+ to keep my system in check while the alcohol was burning out. As I got sober I went to group where we worked on the gut wrenching items that had caused me to drink so very hard that it became a disease. I talked about my Dad, my Wife, my Job, and my Jealousy over other men. I realized in the end that I only drank because it was easier than facing reality and doing something constructive. After thirty days of talking to others and seeing if our stories matched I was discharged. I went back to work embarrassed and was very successful. I couldn’t talk to my Dad because he had died one year earlier. I did have my youngest daughter and my Mom who were great support and never had a doubt that I would make the required changes. The change from old habits to a new life was really a challenge. Going to weddings and not drinking, going on a date with no drinks, and dancing without alcohol. I wanted to succeed and I put everything I had into recovery and met people who were winners and not losers wanting to go back to drinking. I was on the way to recovery. Two meetings of AA per week and social events with recovering alcoholics.
After 25 years of drinking, I realized that my body does something different with alcohol than a normal person’s. Once I have one drink I need twenty to get drunk and a normal person has one drink and sets the glass aside and movers on. My drinking was a pre-occupation with getting high and nothing less. Normal people have a drink for the taste and comforting effect. Not me: I drank to get drunk everyday.
My new reality today is led by Jesus who showed up again in my life just in time to lead me to the good life. I cringe at drunks and look at others who have a problem with alcohol. I am so thankful I quit and lived longer but I feel for those who are still struggling with the denial that a problem exists and holds them clasped by the drinking disease. The disease does not just attack one person in the family it leaves scars and looks for victims in the remainder of the family unit.
My Father liked to drink on Saturday night but had no problem not drinking during the week. He did get into a couple of confrontations due to alcohol and possibly could have been a great alcoholic if he had abused the bottle.
My Mom never drank much and always complained about getting warm and sick after two drinks.
My Sister is a non drinker also. Her New Years Eve warm up is usually followed by 12 months of sobriety.
My Brother uses alcohol and drinks when he wishes.
My youngest Daughter got a D.W.I. in 2005 and was on her way to confront her ex-husband’s girl friend. The officer who stopped her, saved her life and also some more pain. My youngest daughter now knows and respects the power of alcohol. She knows she could be like me with very little effort: the genes are there.
My Oldest Daughter is a recovering alcoholic in Seattle.
My ex-wife drinks wine and does not talk to anyone about quitting.
There it is: all my associates, family, and friends are affected by alcohol. In my family we have a 75% affliction from the deadly disease. Not only was I doomed to be an alcoholic but 75% of my family have stepped in the path of potential addiction. I am an alcoholic. The others in my family will have to deal with their confrontation with alcohol on an individual basis with their continence and their Lord.
I wish there were a medical means by which an accurate test could tell people their probability to become an alcoholic if they abuse the liquid. Cancer in ones family is a risk factor and so should alcoholism be from ones ancestors. I wish to see an accurate test which will tell people the hard facts at an early age in the same breath that a person receives the results from a paternity test.
I also want to see our schools do more than textbook Yahoo and a big DARE Program. I want them to bring in undertakers and some movies/pictures with some punch. Young kids feel they are infallible and immune to alcoholism but reality teaches better than a text book. One night working in a substance abuse emergency ward or a week in a detox ward will teach and open your eyes much quicker than the words of a college degreed teacher.
I am thankful to be alive and I thank God every day for my Recovery. I cannot imagine life without my Lord in it today. I wasted so many years drunk and all those chances to participate in my children’s growth are gone forever. My life now embraces the good times and I love life and Reality as it is! I will drink no more forever! Amen.