From the June 1987 magazine.

900 Days

Beside my favorite chair, there rests a small book filled with daily readings, thoughts, and prayers. Each morning I add a number to that of the previous day and mark it on the page for today. This morning I wrote the number 900 there, and I took a few moments to look again at some of the older numbers. The shaky number 1 is still there, triggering a flood of feelings and memories from a miserably unforgettable morning almost two and a half years ago. It marked the end of the first twenty-four hours in eighteen years that I had willingly, though unenthusiastically, refrained from drinking anything containing alcohol. A veritable lifetime, that twenty-four hours. Since that uncertain, fearful, number 1 morning, I have written a daily number nine hundred times, no longer counting off the days of my life but adding them up--and loving every moment of it. Each day adds more joy, new knowledge and an increased zest to a life already filled with the beautiful memories of nine hundred lifetimes.

An alcoholic's life is measured in small amounts, quite unlike his way of measuring drinks. My days revolved around recovering from the previous evening's drunk--and not just the usual hangover that most people have known. This daily recovery meant beginning the day with a throat so dry from dehydration that only a quart of coffee could begin to relieve it. The coffee dumped a constant case of caffeine jitters on top of skin that was already starting to crawl and itch from the absence of alcohol. Getting over this drunk was the reality of the sweats, diarrhea until I ached, a constant headache, a stomach that rebelled against anything until late afternoon, and enough aches, sorenesses, and pains to fill a large medical dictionary. By the time the physical retributions had begun to subside just a fraction, the next drunk--dark and big and certain--was already in sight, and I welcomed the thought of it. Did I have enough money? No problem; borrow some. Don't worry about paying it back. Where was the closest place to buy booze? Got a party; is there booze? No? No, thanks. Children, school, wife, friends, relatives? No time for them. Have a beer (unless I'm running low). In small amounts and minuscule deeds, I traded my shot at life for a shot of booze.

-- N. J.

Greenville, Texas

This is a preview. To view the full article, use the link below to begin a free 7-day trial!