I have an old friend who’s dying. We called him “The Fool.” He was hysterically funny and would do anything for a laugh. We partied hard together for a while but we haven’t been close in a long time. It still sucks though. Alcohol ruined him and his liver has failed. He’s comatose and will die any day. What a waste. I feel like he never really lived.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast drinking at first. Parties, concerts, boozy trips. I really did have fun. But it turned on me. I loved it too much, too frequently. In the sober part of my life, I’ve done some profoundly cool things. I’ve had children, been (and stayed) married to one beautiful woman. I’ve started businesses, made a bunch of friends, and helped some people. I’ve traveled the nation with my family, bought a boat, and had lots of fun. But best of all, I did it sober. I remember everything, with little or no drama. No getting arrested, no drunk driving, no inebriated arguments, no impropriety, no hangovers, no crazy bar/mini bar tabs, no shame. Just easy wholesome fun. I also try to be a force for good in the world. I add to the woodpile. I give a damn about others. This disease of self removes the ability to genuinely care about anyone else. Recovery gives it back.
My Grandpa was a drunk. He ruined his and his family’s lives the entire time he spent on this earth. He convinced himself he wasn’t an alcoholic because he only drank beer. All-day long, every day. He alienated his daughter (my Mom) and everyone who cared about him. At one point, when I was a teen, he tried to improve his relationship with me. We didn’t have one, but he did try. He had married well and gotten a place by a lake and a boat. He said, “We’re going to fish and I’ll teach you to waterski!” We drove to Texas (against my Mom’s better judgment) and watched my Grandpa drink Old Milwaukee in his double-wide every day for most of a week, then we left. Aside from one very short fishing excursion (with a cooler full of beers), he just sat and drank every day. Everything else, including us, simply impeded his ability to drink. We left early and I swore I was never going to be like that. Yeah, right.
Grandpa eventually died of alcohol-related diabetes, alone. In the hospital, they had cut off at least one of his feet and there was no one there to hold his hand. Alcoholics tend to push away everyone who loves them, and then drink because they’re lonely. That’s what my Grandpa did.
When I was about 33 or 34 I became pretty convinced that my fate was sealed. In a trailer, alone except for maybe a dog, I would die an alcoholic death like Grandpa. That really didn’t sound too bad, in fact, the thought provided some relief. At least I wouldn’t have to keep trying and failing. Life’s pretty cheap when you hate yourself.
My wife and higher power had different ideas, thankfully. They intervened (with the help of Al-Anon and a professional interventionist) and I was struck sober. Not immediately, bumpy starts are pretty common, but sooner than I ever could have imagined. Why I got to stay sober is by the grace of my higher power (who I call God) and by continuing to do what works. I just keep doing it. Kinda like how I drank. I am profoundly grateful for this life, and this gift of recovery. I hope to share it with as many people who suffer as I am able.
Never forgetting my Grandpa and my friend never had the chance.