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July 1965

My Name Is Russ

I WORKED hard for my sobriety; crawled until I learned how to walk, then walked straight on the white line of sobriety for two years. I washed dishes, swept floors, volunteered for anything that came up, even served as chairman, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

It started out by my being transferred from Detroit to Air Wing Eight at Oceana, Virginia. We moved on board the USS Forrestal four days after I reported and we left the States the next day, July tenth. I had been with my family for ten years before this transfer--of course, really only two years. In that time I had regained their love and affection.

I was away from my family and my three meetings a week, with a new job, new responsibilities, new personnel. Add pride, mix in plenty of self-pity and resentment and place them all in a hot oven and you have an active alcoholic who is just looking for a place to happen.

I started the same way as those who have walked the path before me. Just a few to see if it would bother me; then the stinking thinking started, "You can handle it."

We anchored in the harbor of Cannes on the twenty-first of December and I had leave papers to go to Zermatt, Switzerland, for six days. When I arrived in Nice I tried to get reservations for Zermatt; everything was filled due to the holidays. I tried to go to Auron or Valberg for the skiing. To get to either of these places meant taking a bus at eight the next morning. I put myself up in one of the most expensive hotels and left word to be called in time for my bus to Auron.

I started drinking that evening and really went at it, figuring it would only be for that one night. When I awakened my watch said 7:40. I dressed and ran down to the desk to catch the hotel limousine. It was dark in the lobby and only one man was on duty. He asked where I was going in such a hurry. I explained to him about my trip to the French Alps. He said that the bus wouldn't leave for another three and a half hours and told me that it was only 4:20 A.M. He added that they had tried every morning to get me up in time to catch my bus. The 'every morning' part puzzled me and I asked how long I had been there at the hotel. "Four days," he said, "and today is Christmas Eve." I left my bags at the desk and returned to my room. I tried desperately to remember where I had been and what I had done. I sat on the bed and shook until I sat on my hands, then I became violently sick. I walked up and down my room and the fear was so great I felt I would scream. The walls started playing tricks on me and I finally ran from the room and down to the lobby.

I paid my bill and walked out into the cold rain carrying my suitcase. I walked that morning--until about 8:15 and finally stopped in front of the USO in Nice. I was shaking badly and leaning against the building when an old man opened the door. He helped me in and sat me down on a couch; he couldn't speak a word of English, but he knew I was sick. Later, John, a friend of mine from the ship, walked in. He tried to feed me but I couldn't eat. I drank two Cokes that day and he took me to his hotel but I wouldn't lie down because I was afraid I would never get up.

That evening I learned they were having Christmas Eve services at an American church in Nice, and we went. Afterwards we returned to the hotel and talked. I told John all about my life before AA and about my sobriety, serenity and what I knew of the last four days. John helped me for the next three days and watched over me as if I was his own son. We came back to the ship on Sunday evening, the twenty-seventh, and I ate my first full meal.

It is now early January. I have not had a drink since that Christmas Eve morning. Not because of fear, but because I don't want a drink. My shakes are almost gone now and I feel that I do have a place in this world. My mind is still foggy and I have two or three cigarettes lit at once because I can't remember where I put the others, or if I even lit one. My hands are as wet as if they were submerged in water constantly. Yet, I know that God will help me if only I ask. My prayers are for my sobriety and to be able to help my fellow man who is suffering as I am.

I have told one person on this ship of 4,300 men and I will tell others. Our chaplain, who says the nightly prayer over the PA system, has said some familiar things that rang bells to me and I will talk to him tomorrow. I want him to know that I'm available to talk with or help anyone on the ship who may have a problem with his drinking. My fear of telling anyone that I'm in AA has passed. I want my sobriety more than anything else in this world.

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