Nine years ago, I had one of these. Around 4 in the afternoon, as soon as I could after getting out of work. I know I probably had two before going home for about 1/2 hour and then taking off with the excuse that I had correcting to do. My school basketball team was in the state tournament the next day. It was St. Paddies day. I remember because that was the day that I had my last drink, at about the time of this writing. I left my favorite watering hole after finishing a martini. See I had made the transition to martinis because that was the natural progression necessary to be a full blown alcoholic. That night I slept on a thin mattress with a metal frame nailed to the floor. Unfortunately, I virtually remember everything about that experience.
I recall sitting in the bar knowing it was midnight, and thinking I could get to the next tavern on time for last call, and then I would just have a quiet road to get myself home unscathed. I got into my car, pulled out, followed the avenue with one eye on the rearview mirror scanning for any cops. I pulled up to a left turn lane with a red arrow and waited for all of about 30 seconds before I decided to make the turn without a green. The lights went on just out the right corner of my windshield and then followed the back of my car for about 150 feet until I pulled over to the side of the road, in plain view of the next bar I was heading to. I could have parked the car and run in, but I probably would have created a scene. Instead, I became the scenery.
The officer that arrested me was an extremely gracious man. I waived my right to walk a straight line as my body careened against the side of my car as I was being escorted to the back. He read my rights, and I was soon in the back of a squad car, another patrol intervened to record the entire arrest. My common phrase at the time was, ‘my life is over’ almost a chant that lasted for a couple of hours, audibly to no one who would listen. After processing I told the officer he would hear from me in six months, that I’d had my last drink. I hadn’t a clue how often that guy probably heard the same thing but never got the calls.
I remember my head spinning as I was walked out to another squad to be transferred to jail. I was basically put into a drunk tank and told I would be processed in the morning. That would be a Friday, and my team would be playing that evening. I suddenly thought of Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers, but the glamour didn’t stay with me, and I soon passed out. Have you ever woken up and suddenly felt something was terribly wrong? Or, did you ever have that instance of wondering if everything that seemed to be drifting in your mind actually revealed at truth? When the officer woke me, I asked if I could call my wife. He told me I needed to get my jail clothes first, and soon afterward I was wearing pajamas and brought up to the actual jail, where I later met a gentleman named Bubba.
The room was painted white with a heavy metal phone, and a small fuzzy tv in the middle of a wall. There were around a dozen beds in the room, all seemingly filled with patrons. I was relegated to the top bunk. Imagine climbing up a secured ladder, while hung over and feeling the embarrassment and shame with each step. I got to the top and laid down, only to realize I had to use the bathroom. As I crawled down, I looked at the metal caged wire across the thin basement like windows that showed no scenery but only allowed white light to encompass the frame, the only light of day I would see for many hours. I walked into the bathroom, and found a metal toilet, a metal basin, a metal shower head with no curtain, and I began to weep. I knew I wouldn’t last a day in this place and I hoped I could be released before the weekend kept me for three days.
On the outside, my wife was scrambling to get bail together. We were in the middle of a winter storm, she was forced to drive across the city in weather no one in their right mind would attempt. I have thanked her many times for that gesture, and I think I will probably thank her again before I go to bed tonight, in my home, in my bed, with a comfortable mattress, pillow I love, and a beautiful woman that I can hold while my final waking moments drift into a peaceful reality.
Today, I celebrate nine years of sobriety. I chose this to save my marriage, but more importantly to save my life. Had I not quit drinking it would not have had an opportunity to kill me before I took my own life. So I am a fortunate man. I have my family, I have my peace of mind, I have my home and all the responsibilities that go along with being a father, a husband, a teacher, a director, a positive member of our society. What I do not have is an urge to return to the events that lead to this story, and for that I am grateful.
A scotch on the rocks was my drink of choice. I loved to roll it in the cubes of a cocktail glass, imagining myself to be that suave guy at the end of the bar that attracted attention for his debonair personality. The reality was, I was simply a drunk that created no positive persona in my community of alcoholics. Nine years ago I was given an opportunity, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I am not reminded of how fortunate I am.
Here’s to you and yours and may the spirit of our Lord be with us to carry our load in all of our endeavors. I am a grateful human being.