When most folk leave their houses for an evening out they have a good idea of where they'll be and who they'll be with. They can even approximate for the babysitter their arrival time back home, and are certain they'll be lost in a peaceful dreamland come 3:00 a.m. If they leave for a business appointment there's no doubt they'll be back to participate in the next scheduled family dinner, child's birthday or upcoming holiday season.
I envied them for those abilities for many years. My drinking life had become increasingly unpredictable, and the surprises were becoming more bizarre. It might all go very badly indeed, and I could never tell when. As Tolkien wrote "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door."
I left home one morning especially pleased with myself. Because the financial office I oversaw was achieving profit levels never before seen in their 30 year history, the company was giving me a nice promotion including a new title, more responsibility and effectively tripling my income. My wife at the time was pleased with me as were my parents and girlfriends. Life was good. I'd been very drunk the night before but I didn't look bad enough that morning to require dipping into my wife's cosmetics.
I drove a few hours to arrive in the area office and signed the contracts over breakfast with my boss. I'd developed a nervous condition which meant I shook out little splashes of coffee here and there during breakfast, and the saucer would give off an annoying ring when I tried very carefully to set my cup down. That morning I learned if I put the napkin in the saucer to absorb the spills it also deadened the ringing, which I think made everyone more comfortable.
I'd had some earlier troubles with the police because they didn't understand that my capacity for alcohol was far different than people who don't drink a whole lot quite often. Not wanting to bother them I decided to avoid the main highway and take a smaller road back home that would have less traffic, and I could enjoy a little problem-free drinking to celebrate my success and this clear validation of my wonderfulness.
Being careful to obey all traffic laws, I stopped completely at a flashing red light and assumed the cross traffic also would stop, but they had only a caution light. A moment later I could see the terrified family inside the big sedan I'd hit. It looked like trouble, and after counting up my DUIs I backed away from the wreck and sped off. An off-duty policeman with his family in the car was behind me and kept up with me. Eventually I pulled over into a farming operation and a sherif picked me up from there to take me to his little jail.
It was his last day on that small town force, and we talked about how hard it was to change jobs and towns. Coincidentally, he would be working in the town I grew up in and we had some laughs about that. After booking me for the hit-and-run, he was nice enough to drive me back to my vehicle, and I wished him well on his new life. We exchanged some good-natured joking about my need to shape up and fly right in the future, and I assured him I'd learned many deep and permanent lessons from this unfortunate mishap.
There were a few beers left in the vehicle, so I finished them off on the remaining miles back home, and rehearsed the story to be told to my wife. As I approached town I knew my story needed more work so I stopped into a nice sports bar for inspiration. A girlfriend happened to be there and after a while we went to her place.
Entirely too early the next morning she told me my wife was on the phone and that I had to deal with her. So that meant not getting the sleep I needed and having to manage the flow of information (emphasize the good, obscure the bad) when I was hungover and in great pain. I really didn't appreciate my wife burdening me with stress and difficulties I truly didn't need following such a terrible night.
During the years I drank, going out my door was always a dangerous business. The mystery of why that was so was solved early on in sobriety. I found out what was causing my incredibly consistent string of misfortunes and bad breaks, and was presented with a clear plan of varied actions which promised to radically alter the source of my difficulties for the better.
The steps have given me clarity about who I was, who I am now, and ideals to strive for in my actions with others.