I have always known I was different. Close friends were few as I rebelled against the thought of “fitting in”. Driven by a powerful thirst for truth and some answers to my extreme curiosity about human nature, I began to wear a mask of denial at a young age. On the outside, I was an all American boy destined to a proud pillar of the community. On the inside, a militant activist with a conscious was developing.
I found comfort in music. A child of the “Woodstock” era, I was drawn to the radical lyrics and musical expression of artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Kansas, Bob Marley, and Grand Funk Railroad. The messages of peace, love, and “doing my own thing” flooded my senses. The more I learned about the way our society was organized, the less I wanted to be a part of it. Social injustice and civil rights violations became the focus of my anger. Instead of developing an attitude of national pride and support, I lashed out at the hypocrisy of our governmental and religious institutions. How could we be living in the “land of the free” when human beings were being treated like animals in Birmingham Alabama? How could we justify fighting a war in Vietnam to liberate complete strangers when millions of people in our own country were oppressed? How could we explain spending billions of dollars to fight communism in other countries, when American citizens were starving and homeless? These powerful thoughts shaped the man I was to become.
My parents are loyal members of The United Methodist Church. They did everything in their power to insure I was exposed to a solid Christian ethic and raised in a religious environment. I remember the warm sense of family I received from my church experience as a boy. One of the early messages that burned in my mind about God was to fear Him. I grew up believing in a “Get Ya” God. I was taught that I would burn in hell for eternity if I sinned. Being the realist I was in my youth, I figured I was doomed already and what was the point of even trying to save my soul. As I grew and began to understand the financial and political influence the church has over our society, I began to sense an evil presence buried in the pietistic institution that was driven by lust and greed. The lyrics to a U2 song entitled “Bullet the Blue Sky” says “Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister”. This became my anthem as my opinion of organized religion shifted to a more skeptical nature. About this time in my life, I discovered how to self medicate and ease the pain and sooth my anger. I experimented with alcohol and illegal drugs as a way to cope with my frustration.
I met the God I know today, the loving, compassionate, healing, gentle, precious Savior Jesus Christ, in a 12 step meeting. When I was 13 years old, I had my first drink. I polished off a bottle of cheap wine, got extremely drunk, passed out, and woke up the next day in a pool of vomit. I felt miserable and swore I would never do that again. Two days later, the compulsive obsession of alcoholism took over my life. I began my journey into the hell of addiction, fueled by my anger and my rebellious spirit. By the time I reached age 43, after 30 years of increased alcohol consumption on a daily basis, I found myself at the bottom. I had managed to drink my way through 2 failed marriages, 2 bankruptcies, and total destruction of my self esteem. Suicidal and despondent, I decided to visit a local group in Huntsville, Alabama dedicated to recovery. I managed to stay “dry” for 6 months out of sheer desperation. The “pink cloud” of euphoria offered temporary relief from the fierce cravings my body was suffering as a result of withdrawal. I eventually gave in to my powerful disease and drank again. That last relapse changed my life forever.
I do not remember all of the details from that last drunk. All I recall is the foreboding blackness. The numbing effect of the vodka that had been my lover for so many years finally turned on me. The more I drank, the worse I felt. My head felt like a screwdriver was boring into my skull at the base of my neck. I could not eat, I could not sleep. My body shook violently from convulsions. A cold, chilling sweat penetrated my bones. I truly thought I was dying and longed for the grim reaper to hurry it up. I had wild hallucinations of detailed conversations with my children only to discover I was completely alone in my apartment. It was then I finally realized I was defeated. The gig was up. I had reached that “jumping off place” that 12 step books teach about. I knew then that I either had to die or I had to get better. Considering the full bottle of Valium I had to take with a liter bottle of booze, my sick mind focused on the cowardly way out. As I pondered suicide, I had a vision of my youngest son finding me dead in my apartment from an overdose. In a state of hysteria, I dropped to my knees a broken man. I was at the end of my rope. I cried out to God “If you are there, please help me!” I cannot live like this any more”. Please help me to die now or make me well”. That night I slept peacefully for the first time in several weeks. I awoke the next day a changed man. I felt the healing power of Christ inside of me. The insane controlling urge for a drink was gone completely. I was redeemed by the grace of Jesus. That was April 14th, 2002 and I have not had a drink since. I am a sober miracle. I am saved. He walks beside me always. He gives me strength and confidence. He sooths my restless spirit and showers me with abundant blessings. He is my best friend and my focus is to serve His purpose forever. He delivered me from the very edge of death for this reason. To share my story with those who still suffer.
Bill, thanks for your encouragement of my writing. Indeed, our experiences of addiction are remarkably akin. This is a superb start to your life story. I very much admire your writing, poetry and prose alike, powerful and beautiful, both artistically, and in terms of expression.