He was raised in Evarts. His dad drank; his uncles drank; the men in his neighborhood drank. They all, however, worked, and that was important. It was something real men did, drink and work.
And when he was in college, his trips to the Hilltop in Jellico were infrequent — money was a problem — and it was always just a few beers.
As a young married man, he indicates that the fifth of whiskey would stay in the refrigerator for months on end. It was there because he felt that was something a good host provided, a drink if a visitor wanted one.
His life was coming together well: he had finally gotten a handle on education and had earned his degrees; he always had a job, a variety of jobs; and there was that brick house, built in 1860 with potential but needing a lot of work. He says of the house, “It was like living in the middle of a construction site for ten years: a new floor for an enormous living room, a new kitchen, a Florida room and other renovations.”
And there were parties, parties with 100 plus guests, and everyone seemed to be drinking.
“Boredom got me to drinking,” he says, “and everyone was doing it.” Then the drinking at parties flowed over into workdays. He indicates, “It’s one of those things that you get caught up in before you know it.”
For him, he says, “Drinking made things come alive. It’s hard to explain. And drinking gave me the energy to do all that construction work the house needed.”
He began to have car wrecks. The one that “really shook me up was when I was driving a Ford Pinto wagon. I was in a community theatre production at the time and ran into the back of a gal who had two kids in her car.”
She and her children were not injured, and he says, “I always walked away from those wrecks, nine, I believe, and most of the time I was drinking. They say God takes care of fools and drunks, and there must be some truth to that.”
He maintains that when he became an alcoholic, “I went from sanity to insanity.”
Sobriety lasted for years at a time, but it started up again one day when he was coming home from work and stopped for cigarettes, at a liquor store. And he bought a fifth of vodka.
He went to treatment four times. “Those short-time treatments don’t get it. You must stop drinking and get to AA meetings to learn the tools necessary to stay sober.”
He drank for the next 17 years. “Eventually I got so I couldn’t walk. I was using two canes. If the phone rang, I’d crawl to answer it.”
The neighbors, he says, were “on my case,” and he was “driving to Cumberland two or three times a week on a liquor run.” Preachers were dropping by his house and encouraging him to attend church. And often he was drinking vodka as they talked of their own days of wild indulgence.
He maintains as an alcoholic, he was a liar, lying about everything. “I had become the type person I hated most. I was worshipping my god of choice, booze. My addiction had taken over my entire being.”
What made him ready to get sober? He needed a notary and the person doing the notarizing was a woman he had known since they were children. He had an appointment but couldn’t make it, so she brought a witness and came to his house. When the work was done, he was unable to get up from the dining room table. He says, “She jumped my a_ _ about drinking.”
The following day he went to Evarts to get his oil changed. An old friend who is now his sponsor walked up to him and said, “Are you ready?” When he nodded yes, the friend said, “I’ll be up to get you tonight.” That was February 14, 2008.
How has being sober changed his life? “I have had to forgive myself. I’ve harmed others, have done a number on them. I pay my bills on time; I’m responsible. I have become very honest. If people don’t want a straight answer, they shouldn’t ask me the question. I don’t care what people think about my past: they know anyway. I feel so much better about myself, and I have a tendency to want to help people more.”
In conclusion, he says, “In recovery, the times when there is a temptation to drink again become further and further apart. I’ve picked up the tools in my AA program to fight. I know where I’ve been, and I don’t want to go back.”
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