My drinking started with me alone, no one but me. It
was my private way of coping with the world around
me. It was a way of handling the stress and anxiety
that was attached to so many of my days. I was sick
and alcohol made me sicker. Alcohol also dimmed
my view of how sick I really was becoming. So drink
and drink and drink is what I continued to do for many
years. I was oblivious to my situation, my future or the
world around me. I could be charming and I could also
be very, very mean. I had no feelings. My agenda was
to get drunk and stay drunk for as long as I possibly
After years of drinking and going nowhere in life I
found my anger growing at a rapid pace. What was
once my private thing was quickly clashing with the
etiquette and laws of society. My life and drunken
tendencies were being recognized by others. And
that in turn angered me even more. What I did in the
darkness was now being seen in the light of day. My
personal way of coping would forever be public.
One afternoon I was in desperate need of a decent
meal. I called my favorite aunt and we decided to meet
at a local restaurant for lunch. She always had a way of
comforting me with her kind words and soft demeanor.
She rarely preached or judged. I had leaned on her
for years. Her own husband who was deceased was a
tragic alcoholic. He died way before his time and the
bottle was to blame. Even her father, my grandfather
lived a sad life and died way too early, also because of
We both met at the restaurant promptly at two. We
were quickly seated. We carefully looked over the
menu and ordered. For the next few minutes it appeared
as though my aunt was studying me. She
looked puzzled and somewhat sad. It seemed as
though she wanted to say something but remained
silent. Occasionally we made small talk but I felt that
she had so much more to say.
While we were eating she started talking about her
father. Her voice was broken and weak as she talked
about the kind of father he was to her. She told me
one specific story that moved me, opened my eyes
and changed me forever. I listened very closely as she
softly spoke about her years of pain.
My grandfather was a lifelong drunk. As he aged his
drinking increased along with his meanness. When my
aunt was ten years old my grandfather came home after
an entire day of drinking. He was broke, out of work
and he was feeling bad about himself. He was also
very drunk. He stomped into the house very angry.
The first one he saw was my aunt, a helpless, fragile ten
year old girl in the path of a tornado.
All she wanted to do was tell him about her day in
school. She was playing quietly and neatly and just
wanted to show him a picture she was coloring. She
got what no ten year old deserves. And while he
wasn’t a violent man he could be quite verbally abusive.
He could be this way quite often for no apparent
reason at all. She caught a painful earful that evening
that lodged in her soul and would stick with her for life.
As we finished our meal I noticed tears were streaming
down her face. Here was an eighty year old woman
in pain over something that happened seventy years
ago. My grandfather had passed away nearly thirty
years ago and yet his drunken words still caused tears
to stream down his daughter’s cheeks. She told me she
has cried over that incident many, many times during
the past seven decades.
As a lifelong drunk myself I understood the pain that
my grandfather must have felt. It is pain that takes so
many of us to the bottle in the first place. And I now
understood just where my life was headed and where
all of that pain inside of me would end up. It would
forever become part of the future of those who loved
me most. For a guy like me, just one drink mattered
very much. Brick by brick, drink by drink I was building
a future of pain, anger, poor health and disgrace. And
over time I would pass all of that on to whoever I could.
It was time to finally sober up. No matter what it took
and how uncomfortable it might be.