Kevin F, New Jersey
My father was an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver at 62. My mom is not an alcoholic. Her brother is an alcoholic and an Alcoholics Anonymous member with five years of sobriety this time.
I remember beginning to drink regularly when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Getting booze or beer was never a problem. I got my driverís license when I was 17 and started driving drunk right away.
I was a good student and was able to get by without much work. I did everything I could to stay out of my house because of the constant tension, which I can now attribute to my fatherís drinking and the way my mom handled the situation. Since I was generally a good kid, never really in trouble, and made good grades, I guess my mom really didnít feel like she had much leverage, or reason, to keep me home at night. I pretty much went where I wanted and did what I wanted. And we drank more than I can believe as I sit here and write this. Beer, Southern Comfort with 7-Up, and pints of blackberry brandy were our drinks of choice throughout high school.
My grades got me into a very good university. We couldnít really afford it. I remember, not many years before, being sent to the store with food stamps. But I got some help. My step dad was great -- my folks finally split when I was about 15 Ė and there were student loans. I was on my own in a manner of speaking. College was a blur. I immediately gravitated to rugby. During the first week of school the rugby club had an orientation meeting that was advertised only as ďFree Beer, Loyola 303, 8 p.m. Wednesday.Ē Naturally, I was there. I played for a long time.
Somehow, I graduated in 1981 and got a job in a major New York bank in downtown Manhattan. I hooked up with the other new guys and some of the veterans in the international department where I worked. For a year and a half, dinner was the free hors díoeurves at the bars in the area.
Either living on my own or with buddies, I lived to party. I saved nothing and dated no one in particular. All of my friends, some of whom are still friends today, drank.† We drank two or three nights during the week and all weekend, starting Saturday morning.
In late 1982, I moved to Miami to pursue a terrific job offer. The job worked out great, I still had my old friends, who would fly to Miami to party, and I made new friends for those occasions when I had no visitors. I went dry for periods of time during my thirty years of drinking. I went through periods when, in order to delude myself completely, I drank what I thought would look sophisticated when drinking. I would smoke cigars while drinking. I would do things that I thought would make it okay to be drinking. But I was always drinking.
During the 1980s, when I was single and living in a pretty nice place with a pretty good job, I'd stop on my way home from work twice a week to stock up on gin, tonic, and limes. Rarely food. I'd get home and work out. In those days, I usually didn't drink during the day on weekdays; daytime drinking was fine on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays though. On weeknights I would run and work up a good sweat. Then I'd come home and fix a tall gin and tonic and carry it into the bathroom where I'd gulp it down before my shower. Then I'd shower, change, make another drink, and sit myself down in front of the television. During the commercials I'd do sit-ups to earn my next drink. In the course of a night I'd do hundreds of them, especially on Thursdays when Magnum PI was on. Living in South Florida watching Magnum suck down those beers while wearing the Hawaiian shirts, paddling around on his surf board, and hopping into the Ferrari made it seem okay for me to sit there sucking down gin. Between sit-up sessions I'd drink. On most nights Iíd be good and buzzed by eight. I'd be making phone calls by nine. I'd be bombed by ten and stumbling by eleven. I'd pass out sometime between twelve and one. On other nights I'd get behind the wheel and drive down to the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale, about eight miles from where I lived. Sometimes I'd stop to drink in one of the bars. If I wasn't watching television I was reading the Travis Magee series of books by John D. MacDonald, many of which take place in and around the area where I lived. The main character was a heavy drinking, exercising he-man tough-guy knight-in-shining-armor. Just like me. And during that period of my life I never once thought I was an alcoholic
This went on for six years with little variety. I drove more miles drunk than sober. I began to travel frequently for work. Whole new drinking vistas opened. I drank before going to the airport. I drank at the airport. I knew where the all the bars were in Miami International. Iíd get to the airport very early and go to the first bar. Iíd order a drink with a double shot for $1 more. Two at the first bar, then on to the second. Then the third. Then the Admirals Club, where Iíd get two vouchers for free drinks. Iíd be pretty drunk by the time the flight left. Then Iíd drink more on the plane. Apparently I managed it well. I never had trouble on a plane. I was never arrested for driving under the influence. I never lost a job because of drinking.
From time to time Iíd think about my drinking. I realized I was an alcoholic but saw no reason to stop. I hadnít faced any real troubling consequences. Of course I did things that I regret, that Iím ashamed of, that almost got me killed, but nothing that cost me in immediate terms. My health was good and I was making good money, getting promotions. Clients loved me overseas. When I was in town, everyone partied.
I met my wife on a trip home to New York. We fell in love very quickly. We met at a party thrown by a group of old friends (our parents and two other couples) who wanted their children to meet each other. There was lots of drinking, much of it by me, very little by her. I suppose she didnít detect much of a problem because for the first nine months we knew each other we lived in different cities. When I went to New York City, it was a whirlwind. Drinking was usual. Sheíd even meet me at the airport with a bottle of champagne in the car. I did the same when she came to Florida.
We married in 1989. I was thirty. On our honeymoon I was drunk almost from the moment the plane took off.† There was an episode on a sailing excursion with some couples we met. I spilled a huge glass of red wine all over the white top and sweater of another woman. A bad omen.
Married life started out great, with my only occasionally making a fool of myself. Iíd repent and stop drinking for a while, then find an excuse after a few months to drink again and behave myself enough to stay out of trouble. Of course my travel meant I could drink out of the country with impunity. This went on for years. A nasty cycle of drunken episode, remorse, promises, dry spell, drinking while traveling, drinking at home, drunken episode. By now I knew that I was a common drunk. I even went to an AA meeting and got a white chip. I didn't go back because I thought, "Whew, that was easy. They were nice." I took some pamphlets home. My wife was impressed. I stayed dry for a while, then, like always, started up again. I hid it by only drinking while on the road. Eventually it bled back into home drinking, though, and we returned to the old ways.
We moved back to New York in 1999 to be closer to our families because of a health problem my wife developed. I was able to get a great job. But nothing else changed. The cycle continued.
In March 2002 I lost my job. It was not directly drinking related, but Iíll never know what I could have handled differently without the drinking. By this time, though, I had really begun to think about seeking help. I took overseas trips that were really unnecessary so that I could drink. I was looking for and finding reasons to run errands so I could sneak a pint of vodka into me before coming home to drink a glass or two of wine. My wife couldnít understand how I got drunk on so little. She didnít realize, though, that when I drank I was consuming more than ever. My wife was really worn down by my behavior and her illness.
I had many great moments after losing my job, one time coming home drunk after a night out in the city with a prospective partner in a new venture. I had driven home from Manhattan but couldnít even walk into our bedroom without walking into the doorway. That evening I promised I would quit. But I wasnít done. A few nights later I passed out at the table during a dinner party at some friendsí house. That did it for me. The utter despair on her face, and what she told me was the terror on our daughtersí faces as she tried to get me into the car that night, was enough finally for me to pick up the phone the next day and call A.A.
My experience with A.A. was very good. I called the AA number in the telephone book and was referred to a meeting held in a church at the entrance to our housing development. I was reluctant to go there, not so much for fear of whom I might run into (after all, even then I assumed that everyone there is there for the same reason) but for fear of people seeing the car. We live in a small town, and I didn't want my problem to become my kidsí problem.
I was greeted warmly, and after a few meetings I shared sparingly. I began to talk with a few of the people I recognized as regulars; I heard and saw a lot of things I liked. All in all, I found it helpful and time well spent.
Shortly after that time I found online A.A. at e-aa.org. I don't remember clearly exactly when, but it couldn't have been much more than a month or so into my sobriety.
While all of this was going on, I was newly unemployed and had the ability to attend local meetings generally unrestricted by other commitments. I took my last drink in May of 2002, and the kids were in school until the end of June. I was spending most of my time at home, so both A.A. venues worked well together for a while.
Eventually, I started to go into the city for consulting projects on which I was working, and I got out of some of the routines I was in, including the local meetings. Also, the kids were home from school and I couldn't just take off for an hour and leave them hanging.
I hadn't discussed my alcoholism with my daughters. I still haven't. It was never on the table with them. There were only a couple of episodes where I got drunk around the kids. Most of the detritus of my drinking was the burden of my wife.
I began working again, leaving home early and returning late. My wife works two jobs (a saint!) and we try to be there for the kids as much as possible.
I would like to attend local meetings again and become involved in service. Travel makes many commitments difficult for me, including coaching and other activities with and for my kids. With this in mind, I've asked my wife to read the Big Book [Alcoholics Anonymous] for and with me so that she can get a better understanding of what the program is and how it really works. At present what she knows is anecdotal, and probably not very accurate. She probably thinks that I have finally found the willpower to avoid drinking. I know that she has an incomplete understanding of A.A. I donít want to pressure her. She gets very tired and essentially falls asleep as soon as we have things wrapped up in the evening.
†I really want to cause as little disruption for my wife as possible. She has lupus, the more serious of the two types, and she works very hard. We need her income. She didn't have to work for most of our marriage, and I hope that will be the case again some day, but for now I really can't ask her for more. Leaving the house for an hour and a half or more in the evening would be a major disruption. And I don't want to make the kids pay for the fact that their dad is an alcoholic. One day when they are a little older I will talk with them. Hopefully by then the things I did will be faded memories and they won't know what it's like to see dad drunk.
Right now I'm blessed and grateful. I have no desire to drink. I am able to think about consequences when the old thoughts start to creep in. I pray often. I read the Big Book. I read all of the email that comes through from the e-AA Groupís New Beginning meeting.
My wife knows I check the email at very odd times. She knows generally about the e-AA Group and its New Beginning email meeting, but we don't talk about it a lot. She a very strong lady and has her illness to deal with.
Online A.A. has been a lifesaver for me. That is why I feel so strongly about the e-AA Group. I know what it has meant to me. I would not be sober right now if it weren't for the grace of God and this group.