Book Excerpts

IS ANYBODY THERE?

Memoir of a “Functional Alcoholic”

EricHofferFinalist

WELCOME TO MY STORY…

Here are two excerpts to “chew on”…enjoy!

 I Really Am Sorry…Right

What is that old saying, “If I had a dime for every time you said ______, I’d be a millionaire.”  For us alcoholics and addicts, just place the words I’m sorry on the blank line and that person would be a bazillionaire ten times over.  If you, the reader, have kids, doesn’t it just piss you off to no end that your children think that they can light your sofa on fire, spill shit over your newly purchased or recently cleaned carpets in the family room, drop and break the picture frame that was handed down through four generations of your family, and then rear end an immovable 18-wheeler, crushing the front-end of your car and simply say, “I’m sorry” thinking that makes it AOK.

They cannot understand your anger.  Then, after you’re finally finished with your rant and at least got some of it off your chest and you ask the final parental pointed question, “Do you have anything else to say for yourself, Alice?”  And she looks at you like you are fucking from outer space and says, “I already said I’m sorry.”  And you want to knock Alice to the moon!  That is how I think the non-alcoholic person feels when dealing with an active alky.  It is like dealing with a kid; a kid who has no bloody idea at the devastation that they caused.

In the rooms, many heads will nod in affirmation when the speaker or person sharing says, “I picked up my first drink when I was 16 years of age.  When I put the drink down at age 45, I realized I was still 16 years of age.  I had not grown, changed or matured at all.”  Some folks in recovery still hold on to some pride and won’t admit this, but if they hang around long enough and keep coming back, they will.  It’s a fact.

Think about it.  How do most people truly grow and change throughout their lives?  How do most people attain wisdom?  How do we gain the knowledge and fortitude to keep fighting the good fight of life when times get tough?

It’s only my opinion, yet, now that I’m sober these many years; I gained this wisdom through my failures.  I have learned 95 percent of all that I know about life and how to live it through my failures.  Maybe I have learned the other 5 percent through my successes, and that may be a stretch.

So how, may  I ask you, can an alcoholic who has been slamming them down for 20, 25, or 30 years, know the first thing about dealing with the real pain of life, when all they really know is how to anesthetize that pain?

We had a guy in my home group in Central Bucks County, Leopold.  His old man and old lady must have really hated his guts to have given him a name like that.  Anyway, Leopold came into Alcoholic Anonymous at age 73.  He started drinking at 14.  I suck at math but that still comes out to 59 years of hard drinking.  When he told his story, he related that he finally “gave up” the fight of wanting to drink until he died, when his adult daughter, age of 45, visited him at his retirement village.  She had visited her Dad to have a nice dinner with him and some of his friends at the village.  The other four elderly gentlemen were nicely dressed, courteous, kind, welcoming and sober.  Leopold, on the other hand, was shitfaced.

At one point, he closed his eyes while chewing his food and did a swan dive into his Caesar salad and started snoring!  When he told us this at our meeting everyone erupted in contagious laughter.  And it wasn’t that we were laughing at Leopold, it was more like we were laughing with him.  Some of us had done just that or had come close more than once.

Well his daughter waited until the staff got Leopold back to his room, showered him down and started an IV of extra strength Maxwell House coffee.  When he was finished one cup, his daughter instructed the staff member to pour him another.  Leopold told us that his daughter had every intention of staying and saying what she had to say, and he better understand the consequences of her sermon.

He then related the following, “My daughter, who is a soft spoken, quiet, humble and lovely girl looked at me with daggers in her eyes when I was finally coherent.  For the first time in my life, I knew I had crossed the line.

I mouthed the words, I’m sorry and she held her hand up.  I awaited the onslaught.  Yet, in her youthful wisdom, she looked directly into my eyes without blinking and simply said, ‘Dad, I am ashamed to be your daughter.  Get sober or die alone.’”  She got up and left.

No one in that meeting was laughing now.  We all knew that fear, the fear of dying alone.  A few days later, Leopold walked in to AA and has been there ever since.  And he agreed that on that night when he dove into his Caesar salad he was still 14 years old.  He had never grown up.  Was he sorry? Sure.  But 59 years of “I’m sorry” gets pretty redundant.  He said if his daughter had said anything else to him but what she said, he’d still be drinking.  The fact that she was ashamed to be related to him and then told him to basically keep drinking and die alone, well that got his attention.  It took a long time, but Leopold is sober today and has his daughter’s love.  I think that story is so cool.  It also proves, regardless of your age, you can learn and the doors of sobriety are open for you, too.

Travelin’ Man

I will now tell you a true story of what happened to me when I was three-weeks sober. I had just asked Chuck to be my sponsor.  I still had my big-bucks job, still traveling and had to go to a sales convention in Las Vegas.  I was terrified, scared shitless.  Three weeks without a drink may not seem like a long time to you, but to me it was an eternity.  The guys in my AA home group gave me a list of meetings that were in Vegas.  Some of them gave me their phone numbers as did my new sponsor, Chuck.  They told me to call them if I got jammed up.  Shit, I hadn’t even taken off and I was already jammed up.

I arrived at Philly’s airport, boarded the plane and took the aisle seat that the travel agent booked for me four weeks in advance.

Yep, four weeks ago I was still drinking.  Now the guys in my AA group gave me a copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s pretty thick.

I pull it out and in huge gold lettering on the spine of the book it says, “A-L-C-O-H-O-L-I-C-S A-N-O-N-Y-M-O-U-S.  Real subtle, eh?  On top of that…I am afraid.  I am afraid of the go cart that will be coming by shortly, I am afraid of taking a drink, I am afraid of being alone, I am afraid of what will happen when I get to Vegas.

I bury my head and eyes into the Big Book to avoid all contact with my fellow passengers.  Fortunately, I love to read, so I accomplished this task without much consternation.  The pilot makes his first broadcast as we level off and begin cruising at 33,000 feet.  Suddenly, the guy across the aisle from me taps me on shoulder.  I jump out of my skin.  He apologizes for the intrusion.  He nods to this monstrosity of a book I have in my lap and asks, “Are you a friend of Bill Wilson’s?”  I reply in a not so subtle voice, “Who the fuck is Bill Wilson?  Is he from Philly?”

“No,” he replies, “I think he is from Vermont.”  When I share this in the rooms of sobriety this usually brings down the house. Why?  Bill Wilson is the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous along with another boozer named Dr. Bob Smith.  They began AA in 1935.  And I had no friggin’ idea at three weeks sober who the hell he was.

This guy sitting across from me was sober 21 years.  Without trying to sound blasphemous, he turned out to be my bloody guardian angel.  Of course he did not shut up for the five or six-hour flight.  He told me the history of AA, its founders, the groups he belonged to in the Philly area, and the meetings he attended around the country.  He told me he still remembers when he was three-weeks sober, which I believed was complete horse shit.  Told me he still remembered his last drunk.  In AA terminology, this angel “twelve stepped” me across the country.  He was helping another alcoholic and practicing these principles in all his affairs.  He was taking care of his sobriety.

The go cart must have gone up and down that aisle six times.  I never saw it.  Before I knew it we were descending into Sin City, but I was no longer afraid.  Do I think for a moment that it was a coincidence that this man, this drunk in recovery, was sitting across the aisle from me?  Hell no!  When it comes to my faith and sobriety, there are no coincidences.

We parted ways at the baggage claim, and I never saw him again.  This God, whom I did not believe cared one iota for me, had sent me a gift in the guise of another drunk in recovery.  I am sure Bill Wilson probably broke into a smile, too.  They kept telling me in the rooms that more would be revealed.  This was the first inkling of that.  I am sure this Good Samaritan told me his name, but it is gone from my memory banks.  Maybe that is why they call it Anonymous.

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GEORGE’S NEXT BOOK:

Spring 2018

REMEMBERING 201 CATHOLIC KIDS & THE 1960’S

 

One Response to Book Excerpts

  1. Mary Lou Vaskus says:

    Hi George,

    I just read the beginning of your story. Very compelling so far and parallels to my husband’s story. Only his addiction went on for a very, very long time. I lost count of the rehabs he has been in, he was in sales as well.

    So you left me hanging here George, like soap operas do, now I need to get this book to see how you did it, how your life turned around, you are obviously still alive, so there is somewhat of a happy ending, I am guessing as you look happy in your picture. 😉

    I have a million questions George, like – did you lose your wife, your job, your friends, your house? (I hope not)! Did you go to rehab? AA meetings?

    George, I am embarrassed to admit did I do not remember you. I don’t recognise your name like I do the other boys in that class. So I am guessing you were one of the well-behaved boys that the nuns didn’t have to yell at all the time, using both their first and last names over and over again.

    Congratulations again for 18 years of sobriety, that is quite a feat, you should be extremely proud of yourself!

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