"Have a drink?"
"Come over on the
next stool I'm lonesome. Hell of a world."
"You said it, brother,-hell
of a world."
"You taking rye? Mine's
gin. God, I'm up against it now!"
"Oh, same old hell-hell-hell.
She's going to leave me now!"
"Yeah. How am I going
to live? Can't go home like this; too damn drunk to stay
out. Can't land in jail-will if I stay out-ruin my business-business
going anyway-break her heart. Where is she you ask? She's
at the store, working I guess, probably eating her heart
out waiting for me. What time is it? Seven o'clock? Store's
been closed an hour. She's gone home by now. Well, what
the hell. Have one more-then I'll go."
That is a hazy recollection
of my last debauch. Several years ago now. By the time
my new "bar fly friend" and I had soaked up several more,
I was shedding tears and he, in the tender throes of drunken
sympathy, was working out a guaranteed plan whereby my
would greet me with great joy and out-spread arms as soon
as "we" got home.
Yes "we" were going
to my home. He was the finest fixer in the world. He knew
all about how to handle wives. He admitted that!
So, two drunks, now
lifetime buddies, stumbled out arm in arm headed up the
hill towards home.
A draft of cool air
cleared some of the fog away from my befuddled brain.
"Wait a minute, what's this so-and-so-plan of yours? I
got to know about it," I said. "I got to know what you're
going to say and what I say."
The plan was a honey!
All he had to do was to lead me up to the apartment, ring
the bell, ask my wife if I was her husband, and then tell
her he had found me down at the river about to jump from
the bridge and had saved my life.
"That's all there
is to it," he kept mumbling over and over, "works every
On up the hill we
staggered, then my "life saver" got a better idea that
would clinch the deal. He'd have to go home first and
put on clean linen. Couldn't let the nice lady see a dirty
That sounded all right.
Maybe he'd have a bottle at his home. So we stumbled up
to his place, a dreary third floor back room, on a third
I have a hazy recollection
of that place, but have never been able to find it since.
There was a photograph of a quite pretty girl on his dresser.
He told me it was a picture of his wife and that she had
kicked him out because he was drunk. "You know how women
are," he said.
He did put on a clean
shirt all right and then reached into a drawer and pulled
out a .38 calibre revolver. That gave me quite a sobering
shock. I reached for the gun realizing in a hazy way that
here was trouble.
He began to pull the
trigger and every moment I expected to hear an explosion,
but the gun was empty. He proved it!
Then he got a new
idea. To reconcile my wife and make her happy, he would
tell her the gun was mine, that I stood on the bridge,
with the gun at my head and that he snatched it away just
in time to save my life.
God Almighty must
have, at that moment, granted me a flash of sanity. I
quickly excused myself while he was completing his toilet
and, on the pretext of phoning my wife, rushed noisily
down the stairs and ran down the street with all my might.
Some blocks away I
came to a drug store, bought a pint of gin, and drank
half it in several large gulps, staggered on up to my
apartment, and tumbled into bed, fully dressed and dead
This wasn't any new
terror for my wife. This sort of thing had been going
on for several years, only I was getting worse and worse
with each drunken spree and more difficult to handle.
Only the previous
day I had been in an accident. A Good Samaritan saw my
condition and got me away quickly, before the police came,
and drove me back to my home.
I was dreadfully drunk
that day and my wife consulted a lawyer as preliminary
to entering divorce ac-
I swore to her that I wouldn't drink again and within
24 hours, here I was in bed dead drunk.
Several months previously
I had spent a week in a New York hospital for alcoholics
and came out feeling that everything would be all right.
Then I began to think that I had the thing licked. I could
practice a little controlled drinking. I knew I couldn't
take much but just one drink before dinner. That went
all right, too. Sure I had it licked now! The next step
was to take one quick one at noon and cover it up with
a milk shake. To make it doubly sure, I'd have ice cream
put into the milk shake, and the n, so help me, I don't
know what the next step down was, but I surely landed
at the bottom with an awful, heartbreaking thud.
The next morning was
June 7th. I recall the date so well because the sixth
is my daughter's birthday. And that, by the grace of God,
was my last spree.
That morning I was
afraid to open my eyes, surely my wife would have kept
her promise and left me. I loved my wife. It is a paradox
I know, but I did and do.
When I did stir, there
she was sitting at my bedside.
"Come on," she said,
"get up, bathe, shave and dress. We're going to New York
"New York!" I said,
"To the hospital?"
"I haven't any money
to pay a hospital."
"I know you haven't,"
she said, "but I arranged it all last night over long
distance and I'm going to give you that one chance, once
again. If you let me down this time, that's all there
Well, I went into
that hospital again feeling like a
cur. My wife pleaded with the doctor to please do something
to save her husband, to save her home, to save our business,
and our self-respect.
The doctor assured
us that he really had something for me this time that
would work and with that faint hope, we separated; she
to hurry back home, 150 miles away, and carry on the work
of two people and I to sit trembling and fearful there
in what seemed to me, a shameful place.
Four days later a
man called on me and seemed interested to know how I was
coming along. He told me that he, too, had been there
several times but had now found relief.
That night another
man came. He, too, had suffered the same trouble and told
how he and the other fellow and several more had been
released from alcohol.
Then the next day
a fine fellow came, and in a halting but effective way,
told how he had placed himself in God's hand and keeping.
Almost before I knew it, I was asking God to clean me
I suppose there are
many who feel a strong resentment against such a spiritual
approach. Some of Alcoholics Anonymous whom I have met
since that day tell me they had difficulty in accepting
a simple, day to day, plan of faith. In my case I was
ripe for such an opportunity, perhaps because of early
religious training. I have always, it seems, had a keen
sense of the fact and presence of God.
That, too, like loving
my wife and at the same time hurting her so dreadfully,
is paradoxical, but it's a fact.
knew that God, was there with infinite love and yet, somehow,
I kept on drifting further and further away. But now I
do feel that my heart an d mind are "tuned in" and by
His grace there will be no more alcoholic "static."
After making this
final agreement (not just another resolution) to let God
to be first in my life, the whole outlook and horizon
brightened up in a manner which I am unable to describe
except to say that it was "glorious."
The following day
was Monday and my non-drinking friend insisted that I
check out from the hospital and come over to his home
in 'Jersey. I did that and there I found a lovely wife
and children all so "happy about the whole thing."
The next night I was
taken to a meeting, at the home of an ex-problem drinker
in Brooklyn, where to my surprise, there were more than
30 men like myself, telling of a liberty of living unmatched
by anything I had ever seen.
Since returning to
my home, life has been so different. I have paid off the
old debts, have money enough now for decent clothes and
some to use in helping others, a thing which I enjoy doing
but didn't do when I had to contribute so generously to
I am trying to help
other alcoholics. At this writing there are four of us
working, all of whom have been kicked around dreadfully.
There is no "cocky"
feeling about this for me. I know I am an alcoholic and
while I used to call on God to help me, my conclusion
is that I was simply asking
to help me drink alcohol without its hurting me which
is a far different thing than asking hi m to help me not
to drink at all.
So here I stand, living
day to day, in His presence, and it is wonderful-This
prodigal came home.
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